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City of Chula Vista, Goodrich Aerostructures moving forward in continuous improvement

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It’s not news that the City of Chula Vista is enduring challenging financial times. Since the economic down turn in late 2007, it became clear the organization needed to be more cost effective in delivering services to its customers – the 245,000 taxpayers of San Diego County’s second largest city.

“We’ve had to cut a quarter of our work force, and yet in the last ten years the city has grown by 100,000 people with more areas to service and more needs,” said Chula Vista City Manager Jim Sandoval. “We know we can’t continue to do business as usual.”

This need turned into an opportunity of public/private partnership thanks to Goodrich Aerostructures. Beginning in 2007, the city and Goodrich started to collaborate on how Chula Vista could implement Continuous Improvement (CI) principles in every day business practices.

“Those discussions led to the idea of us allowing a small number of their employees to attend the two-week Continuous Improvement Foundation training that we hold several times a year for employees,” said Martin Lodge, vice president of manufacturing, supply chain and continuous improvement for Goodrich.

Since then, 75 Chula Vista employees -- including those in leadership roles such as the city manager, police and fire chiefs, and managers in departments across the organization -- have completed the intensive CI training.

However, the need for change was growing at a faster pace than Goodrich could offer. As a result, a Continuous Improvement Manager has been added to the City Manager’s staff. The new position will provide CI leadership, mentor staff, identify process improvements, increase operations and service performance based on CI methodology.

Also planned are several Kaizen events -- short-termed, intense efforts performed by a team to focus on improving a business process. It’s designed to achieve specific goals that will streamline procedures, create less waste and improve customer satisfaction.

“While it may take time to change the overall culture, I see individual pieces in this training we can apply quickly. We’ve already held one Kaizen event several months ago and shaved six to eight weeks off a three-month existing process,” Sandoval said.

Lodge added if there is one message he wanted the city management team to take back: consistency of purpose over time will make the most difference in their application of CI.

“I hope they’re able to pick up on the way we approached Continuous Improvement. It’s not a fad of the month. We’ve been using the same process, tools and words to tie it all together for the last 15-plus years,” he said. “They only need to look at what we’ve accomplished: between 1994 and today, we’ve been able to do twice as much in half the space with a third of resources in a quarter of the time. We believe a city government – if they really apply the tools and create the right culture – can get the same type of results.”

Jim Sandoval couldn’t agree more.

-Submitted by the City of Chula Vista

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