BPM at Work: Improving Property Management Processes at a Large R&D Facility

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The Goddard Space Flight Center at NASA uses more than $525 million of technical and administrative accountable government property in the performance of its mission. The Logistics Management Division is responsible for establishing tracking controls for this property through its entire life cycle using bar code technology and the NASA Equipment Management System (NEMS) central database.  The database tracks newly purchased equipment; fabricated equipment; user account inventories; user transfers and loans; shipping controls; and equipment excess, reutilization, school donations and property sales.

The Division’s processes were not fully achieving established performance metrics nor meeting customer service expectations.  In some cases these deficiencies contributed to lost or unaccounted user equipment that must be surveyed. The Division established two BPM teams in November 2003 to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of these property control processes.  These teams along with the help of Trax International Corporation have identified and instituted numerous process improvements that have significantly improved customer service to the user community and improved property accountability controls.  Now, all associated performance metrics are achieving the Desired Quality Levels requirements.

Thomas White has over 17 years experience developing logistics concepts, strategies, policies and processes and managing large, complex logistics operations supporting NASA flight projects and associated institutional customer service requirements and ten years at various Navy Department headquarters commands in the Washington, D.C. area managing military logistics programs for combat weapons systems acquisition and logistics support operations.

The logistics management division of NASA develops, implements and directs comprehensive flight project and institutional logistics and administrative service programs to support the operations of the Goddard Space Flight Center.   The Logistics Management Division has four branches with 47 civil servants and 210 contract personnel. The customer base is 12,000 civil service and contractor personnel. The support services include:

  • Center mail services
  • Records and directives management
  • Motor pool and fleet vehicle maintenance and operations
  • Transportation pickup delivery services
  • Office supplies with JIT next-day delivery
  • Office moves, furniture and carpet, interior design
  • Property accountability, disposal and public sale
  • Central receiving and packing, crating,  and shipping services
  • Supplies and materials purchasing and warehousing
  • Export control program
  • Center travel services

Complete support including purchasing, storage and delivery is provided for flight parts during all phases of development and construction of instruments and spacecraft.

60,000 items costing over 500 million need to be acquired, used, tracked and disposed of. All the property needs to be barcode-tagged, transferred, loaned, shipped, and so on.  It is a big job. All of this material was kept on a 17 year old program on a mainframe. It was very labor intensive.

Observations proved that the documentation was incomplete and the standard operating procedures were out of date along with the performance metrics.  The recommendations were to change process controls, quality and workflow, update SOPs, modify performance metrics, change the NEMS support organization and train personnel in updated processes. 

The corrective actions were:

  • Conduct detailed reviews of all 25 processes and related workflows
  • Develop Visio drawing in real time by bringing specific workers into the team review sessions
  • Institute real-time training with employees during sessions
  • Propose revised performance metrics for management approval
  • Update equipment management and property disposal SOPs
  • Conduct follow-on training with NASA and Trax property staff
  • Share improvements with Center's customers and 300 property custodians

There was improvement across the board. The results are true continuous improvement that furthers participation of managers and working staff with immediate implementation of the process changes. Rolling updates of standard operation procedures and metrics make sure the results are captured and institutionalized. Extra steps have been eliminated along with new processes for labeling equipment.  They are continuing to monitor warehousing issues along with other issues including hazardous waste, donations to schools, grants, transfers, and sales. 

According to White, the final challenges include maintaining the momentum of the process improvement teams and institutionalizing the outstanding progress, successes and outcomes already achieved while continuing to offer world-class customer service throughout the workforce.

Thomas White recently spoke on this topic at BrainStorm’s Business Process Management Conference in New York.  For more information on this conference, visit www.BPMConference.com

To hear the archived audio file of this presentation, visit:


Jon HuntressSpecial Events Correspondent


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