What was the nature of this critical review?
DEC Division of Water conducted what is known as a “LEAN/Kaizen event” to review and improve the Integrated Report and the Report process.
What is a LEAN/Kaizen event?
An extremely efficient way to quickly improve a process. The true intent of a Kaizen Event (also known as LEAN event) is to hold small events attended by the owners and operators of a process to make improvements to that process which are within the scope of the process participants. LEAN is a set of principles and method of identifying and eliminating waste in a work process, resulting in producing a quality product in less time. It can identify and eliminate waste and improve process flow and reduce lead times. It fosters a culture of continuous improvement across all levels of an organization. A known and proven process that empowers staff. It is a method to simplify processes so that a product moves through the process faster.
Why was the IR chosen for LEAN?
EPA is required to report to Congress on the health of waters across the US. Alaska’s water quality information is used to represent progress in addressing pollution problems; the water quality information is also used in funding formulas. Problems with the existing process:
- Neither the 2012 nor the 2014/16 IR report were submitted on-time. The primary delay was due to difficulty reaching decisions on a couple of waters.
- Lack of an updated EPA-approved 303(d) list has permitting impacts.
- Much of the report may not be actually used or some function would be more effective using other mechanisms (e.g., descriptions of restoration actions).
What was the charter or goals of the IR LEAN effort?
- Issue the Integrated Report on–time
- Remove extraneous/duplicative information
- Streamline tough technical decisions
- Satisfy the customers’ needs: DEC management, EPA, & users of the decisions (permitting groups, other agencies, other stakeholders)
What will change in the IR process in the future?
Previously DEC would conduct a call for water quality data in the summer and in the following spring, April 1, submit the IR to EPA – a nine month process. The LEAN pocess identified a much longer report development process of two years which allows more time for staff to gather and analyze water quality data, and to develop supporting documentation on waterbody decisions.
Other key features of the new process:
- Easier access to data and status of waterbody health, greater transparency, and more consistent analysis of the data. Agree upfront on data evaluation methods and the data collection time period for each IR cycle.
- Eliminate the text parts of the Integrated Report (no more 100-page report) to reduce preparation and review time.
- Take advantage of new EPA electronic reporting system which will have the key information from the old paper report and will be more accessible.
- Set management briefing schedule at fixed points to identify problems early on in process.