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Nearing Full Implementation, EPA's Lean Management System Delivers Results on Brownfields Projects in Maine

11/12/2020
Contact Information: 
John Senn (senn.john@epa.gov)
(617) 918-1019

BOSTON (November 12, 2020) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that it has implemented the EPA Lean Management System (ELMS) to 83% of the agency across the U.S.

In EPA Region 1, the new system helped increase the number of sites brownfields sites that are now ready for redevelopment and improve management of Superfund site cleanups.

"EPA's Lean Management System is delivering demonstrable improvements for Brownfields and Superfund programs across New England," said EPA New England Regional Administrator Dennis Deziel. "In Maine alone, our process improvements have made a significant difference in the acreage of Brownfields that can be redeveloped, especially on Penobscot Indian Nation properties."

ELMS is an agency-wide systematic approach to continuous process improvement. It is based on lean principles used for years by the private sector and is comprised of six components: visual management, standard process, cascading performance measures, problem solving, business reviews & huddles, and leader behaviors. EPA implementation of each of these elements has allowed EPA to make significant improvements to the speed and quality at which it delivers its services to the American people.

EPA Office of Continuous Improvement – the team responsible for implementing ELMS – set a goal to deploy this system to 80% of agency personnel and use it to improve 250 processes by fiscal year 2020. Both goals were successfully met with the agency reporting over 500 processes improved and 83% of personnel using ELMS.

EPA's Region 1 has accounted for 72 of those process improvements using this system.

In Maine, EPA's New England regional office used ELMS to increase the number of contaminated brownfields sites that have been deemed "ready for anticipated use" this year by over 55% from the previous year. This improvement made over 500 acres of land available to Maine communities, including more than 300 acres across three Penobscot Indian Nation properties.

Additionally, ELMS was critical to increasing the implementation of institutional controls at Superfund site cleanups. Institutional controls are considered non-engineered instruments, such as administrative and legal controls, that help to minimize the potential for exposure to contamination and/or protect the integrity of a response action such as a site cleanup. This process improvement involved the use of problem-solving tools and visual management which helped EPA's Region 1 increase the number Notices of Activity and Use Limitation (NAUL), a type of institutional control, that are put in place from an average of 7 per year to 13 in fiscal year 2020 – an 85% increase.

As part of the new system, the executives in EPA's 23 national programs and regional offices monitor over 800 measures each month. If a measure's target is not met, problem solving is performed and a plan is created for getting back on track. In addition, over 10,000 of EPA's staff on the front line now huddle in small groups for 15 minutes each week to review electronic boards used to track the flow of their team's work and the metrics used to measure process performance.

"I'm extremely proud of this agency's embrace of lean principles and commitment to continuous improvement," said Henry Darwin, EPA's chief operating officer and visionary behind ELMS. "Setting numeric goals, tracking workflow and performance, and solving problems using data and evidence is how I believe this agency can better protect human health and the environment. ELMS has given EPA employees a new way to accomplish our mission and the results speak for themselves."

Some of the other most notable process improvements that have been made since the system was implemented included reducing the agency's backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests by almost 45%, increasing the number of inspections reports that are completed on-time and communicated to the regulated entity from around 49% to 82%, and a reduction in the number of backlogged new permit applications by almost 150.

ELMS has allowed teams across the agency to better measure their effectiveness in delivering the most crucial services.

For more information of EPA's continuous improvement efforts, please visit https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/about-office-continuous-improvement-oci.

For more on EPA's 50th Anniversary and how the agency is protecting America's waters, land and air, visit: https://www.epa.gov/50, or follow the agency on social media using #EPAat50.