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City expects new processing model to save hundreds of thousands of dollars

As the city of El Paso tries to find ways to trim its budget, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez unveiled major results from his recently implemented “Lean Six Sigma” training program.

Lean Six Sigma is a business process meant to reduce waste and costs, save time and improve customer service. The process calls for city employees, rather than high level managers, to work together to analyze current workflows and find ways to be more efficient. It also involves regular El Pasoans who use city services and city employees brainstorming to find solutions.

For example, it used to take three weeks and $214 to get a permit to reserve a city park.

“At the max, 108 days and the average was 16 days for a person to get a permit to have their birthday party in a park and that was embarrassing so we knew we had to fix this problem,” said Paula Powell, the assistant director for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Using the Lean Six Sigma process, city employees and a taxpayer were able to lower the cost to process the permit to $13, and instead of taking three weeks it now takes half an hour to get the permit.

“The team consists of a front office clerk to a customer. These are not high level managers. These are people that now got the chance to make a difference on a process and not just be told the difference in a process,” Powell said.

Lean Six Sigma is a completely new way of doing things for the city, and Powell said it was a hard process and there were even some tears along the way.

“All of the people in the team, they’re proud of how they do their job and so we’re making a change in how they do their job and that’s always hard and there’s a little bit of animosity there. But again when we work through all of the five steps and when we work through all of this you’re going to see the results and they did,” Powell said during an interview Tuesday.

Another group of city employees who fix pot holes said it found a way to save the city $200,000 and increase productivity. Overall, the city has found a way to save $300,000 through Lean Six Sigma.

They plan to have this training through all city departments to save more, said Gonzalez.

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