Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts

LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts on Monday highlighted some recent successes of his administration’s process for attacking waste and improving performance.

The process uses Lean Six Sigma methods, borrowed from the private sector, to make state agencies more effective, efficient and customer-focused.

Ricketts said the goal is to support private-sector growth in the state by delivering better customer service and getting government out of the way of business.

According to his administration, coordinators at state agencies have completed 52 process improvement projects so far this year.

The efforts have eliminated more than 1,300 unnecessary steps and cut the time spent on those processes by 9,200 hours.

Among the recent projects:

» The State Department of Correctional Services has changed how its pharmacy staff packages medications for prison inmates, according to Heather Bell, a process improvement coordinator for the agency.

Technicians previously packaged each dose of an inmate’s medications separately, meaning that a drug taken multiple times a day required multiple packaging, she said.

Using the Lean Six Sigma methods, staff figured out that they could switch to using 30-day supply cards for medications.

Bell said the change cut packaging time by 87 percent, freeing up staff for more productive work.

» Corrections also will be launching a new electronic record system for sharing information with another state agency, said Takako Johnson, an entry-level records manager.

Corrections had been printing out and hand-correcting records to be shared, she said.

By switching to an electronic format that both agencies can use, she said the central records office expects to free up 20 to 30 hours per week of staff time.

» The Labor Department worked to streamline the application process for Work Opportunity Tax Credits, according to Andi Bridgmon, process improvement coordinator for that agency.

The federal credits are available to employers who hire from certain groups that typically have a harder time getting a job.

She said the agency focused on improving the application process because of a backlog of applications.

By eliminating unnecessary steps, staff were able to clear up the backlog, reduce application processing time by 87 percent and increase the number of applications processed to 2,500 per month, up from 1,000 per month earlier.

Ricketts unveiled the process a year ago, along with the Center for Operational Excellence in the Department of Administrative Services. The center was created to systematically support improvement efforts by other state agencies.

As part of the effort, all 14,000 or so state employees have gotten training on the basics of process improvement, which includes learning about eight types of waste, such as overproduction and not using talent.

Some employees got additional training, including those who now work as process improvement coordinators.

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Correction: The Nebraska Department of Labor has increased the number of applications it processes for a certain type of federal tax credit from 1,000 a month to 2,500 a month. The number of applications was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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