In 1801, Eli Whitney disassembled 10muskets made from interchangeable parts, placed the parts in a big pile, and then reassembled ten muskets from parts picked at random, demonstrating the revolutionizing concept of interchangeable parts.
In 1913, Henry Ford combines existing technologies to extend the concept of interchangeable parts to the manufacturing process itself, using a moving assembly line to decrease production time for cars and ushering in the era of affordable automobiles for everyone.
In 2018, athletes and amateur exercisers rely on a host of tools to monitor their performance and guide their training. Compact, wrist-mounted fitness trackers leverage the continuous miniaturization of electronic components and put fitness tracking in reach for average consumers, changing the fitness habits of millions.
Despite spanning over two centuries, these achievements all have one thing in common: innovation derived through re-engineering. These innovators and entrepreneurs generally did not create the underlying technology for their products. Rather, they identified ways that existing technology could be employed or re-combined to produce better products at lower cost.
Business Process Re-engineering, or BPR, is defined by Army Regulation 5-1 as “a logical methodology for assessing process weaknesses, identifying capability gaps, and implementing innovation and optimization opportunities to achieve breakthrough improvements in operational performance.” BPR takes a holistic view of the current processes as well as the future state objectives by looking at the process in terms of of people, policy, process, and technology.
The U.S. Army must successfully navigate constant change to preserve its competitive edge against current and future adversaries. New technologies are essential, but their value is limited if we do not reexamine and revise our processes to employ them in the most effective ways. Our goals are best envisioned not as new technology but as new capabilities enabled by the technology.
Eli Whitney and his contemporaries could have used machine processes simply to make better, more durable parts, but it was their ability to make standardized parts that was truly revolutionary. While new advanced technology may help fill a capability gap, improved processes are necessary to fully realize its potential. Sometimes, new technology may not be the solution at all when improved processes using existing systems can achieve improvements at little or no cost. Without clearly-defined and value-added business processes to support it, new technology adds cost and complexity to the Army enterprise.
Conversely, understanding and innovating the business processes that support the Army and drive the technology can often deliver readiness more efficiently and at a much lower cost than a technology acquisition. The Army can leverage re-engineering to analyze current state business processes and re-imagine them — achieving the same or better results at reduced cost. The true innovation lies in the process we use to achieve the mission and will enable the Army to get the greatest value from the supporting technology.
Recognizing this opportunity, in 2016 the Army established the Business Process Re-engineering Center of Excellence, or BPR CoE, a partnership between the Office of Business Transformation and the Army Shared Services Center. The BPR CoE was established to develop a modernized version of BPR to meet the unique needs of the Army and design innovative solutions for capability gaps and business problems that exist across the Army enterprise. Our mission is to enable BPR throughout the enterprise through training, guidance, and execution.
Since its establishment, the BPR CoE has worked with Army organizations, including the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Cost and Economics, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), and the Logistics Innovation Agency to help solve big Army end-to-end process issues. BPR CoE has trained over 100 Army employees, preparing the workforce to become Army BPR practitioners who drive innovation within their own organizations.
On Oct. 9, 2018, at 2 p.m. Eastern time, the BPR CoE will be presenting at a Warriors Corner during the Association of the United States Army’s 2018 meeting. Stop by to learn more about how the Army will continue to innovate the enterprise through re-engineering.