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Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Lean Process Improvement Initiative

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Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), partly in response to pressure from the regulated community, citizens, and state government, applied value stream mapping to the air “permit to install” (PTI) application review process in April 2004 and to a land and water management wetland permitting process in 2005. 

For the air permitting process, the following organizations and businesses conducted a pre-scoping exercise to identify customer needs and then used a VSM workshop to develop an implementation plan for process improvements to achieve a "future state" goal of having all applications reviewed and acted upon in less than six calendar months.

  • Michigan DEQ Air Quality Division (AQD)
  • General Motors
  • DaimlerChrysler
  • Ford
  • Michigan Manufacturer’s Association
  • Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Growth

The new process enables permit applicants to provide more complete and timely submittals and has allowed the AQD to perform technical analyses quickly and efficiently by eliminating rework and waiting.  Within one year of conducting the VSM process improvement, air permit processing time decreased by two-thirds (66 percent) to less than 60 days and the number of in-house applications was reduced by one half (50 percent).  While the results have not been as dramatic to date for the other VSM initiatives due to budget constraints and timing, the Michigan DEQ continues its commitment to improve its business processes.

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Process Improvement Activities


Improvement Activities

Air construction permitting

Conducted a value stream mapping (VSM) workshop on the Permit to Install (PTI) application review process (April 2004); results fully implemented in September 2004

Land and water management  wetland permitting

Conducted a VSM workshop on land and water management wetland permitting(2005); results implementation is on-going

Log letters (such as responses to constituent letters to Governor)

Conducted a VSM workshop on log letter response process (2006); results implementation on-going

Project Initiation and Key Drivers:

Industry considered Michigan’s air permitting program to be cumbersome, slow, and unresponsive to the needs of the regulated community.  General Motors, supported by other members of the regulated community, met with Michigan DEQ to discuss options for improving the Department air construction permitting process, and they recommended holding a VSM workshop. 

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External Involvement and Technical Assistance

Process Improvement Advisory Group:Participants in the VSM workshop included staff-level people from the Michigan DEQ AQD, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, and Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Growth.  The Advisory Group, made up of senior officials of these organizations, supported this Air Permitting Team throughout the VSM initiative.

General Motors:General Motors, one of the largest companies operating in Michigan, expressed specific interest in improving the air construction permitting process.

Facilitator: A General Motors facilitator with experience in value stream mapping was used.

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  • Based on the air permitting VSM workshop, the Michigan DEQ AQD has implemented a number of process changes, including:
  • Standardizing application information requirements for many source categories;
  • Initiating permit scoping meetings;
  • Creating “just in time” fast track permitting;
  • Providing preliminary draft conditions to begin discussions and ensure clear communication between the applicant and Michigan DEQ AQD;
  • Establishing interim deadlines throughout the process for both the applicant and Michigan DEQ AQD staff; and
  • Installing an Access database permit tracking system.

As a result of these process changes, Michigan DEQ AQD has seen:

  • Application process time for major permits reduced from 422 to 98 days;
  • Application process time for minor permits reduced from 143 to 50 days;
  • Application administrative completeness rise from 82 percent to 95 percent;
  • ADQ staff time more effectively allocated to “mission critical” work;
  • Improved relationships and communication with industry applicants and others; and
  • A significant increase in staff morale.

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Future Plans

  • Michigan DEQ AQD will continue to maintain and improve upon the “future state” goals for the air PTI process.
  • Michigan DEQ AQD has begun to survey applicants and staff to evaluate the effectiveness of the process and glean additional improvement ideas.
  • The Michigan DEQ Director is looking into broader VSM implementation within the Department.

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For More Information

Michigan DEQ Overview of PTI Application Process Improvement Exit

Lynn Fiedler (, Acting AQD Assistant Division Chief 
P.O. Box 30260 
Lansing, Michigan 48909

Bill Presson (, Acting AQD Permit Section Supervisor 
P.O. Box 30260 
Lansing, Michigan 48909

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