Charleston Aerial Port Squadron 'Leans' forward

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Ben Gonzales
  • Air Force Print News
Members of the 437th Aerial Port Squadron here have leaned forward to streamline processes to save money while getting vital equipment to the warfighter faster. 

Using Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century, 437th APS officials re-evaluated several of their workflow processes and developed initiatives that can cut some pallet processing time by more than 50 percent. 

With more than 450 squadron members, the military and civilian members of the unit took an in-depth look at how they process cargo. After writing down exactly how business is conducted, they found ways to cut unnecessary steps and it resulted in better ways to operate. 

"We move up to 200 tons a day," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Clyde, a load planner for the 437th APS. "We want to get the cargo to the fight as fast as we can." 

To move the equipment in a timely manner, the squadron works closely with the Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott AFB, Ill., and bases the flow of cargo on its destination, port holding time, and priority. Timeliness is of the essence as the Navy and Marine Corps expect requests for items necessary for the war on terrorism to be fulfilled within 75 hours.  The Army and Air Force expect cargo within 120 hours. 

Charleston AFB is a hub for cargo being delivered in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Making sure the base can support TACC taskings to deliver the cargo to the warfighter is the job of Staff Sgt. Justin Halterman, a capability forecaster for the 437th APS. 

Applying AFSO 21 methods, Sergeant Halterman and 437th APS officials eliminated steps in cargo handling and reduced the time cargo sits in the squadron's warehouse.  The result - everything moves quicker to the military engaged in combat. 

One example of the port using Lean methods to save time and money is in the effort of moving explosives to the warfighter. In the past, explosives would be cleared and processed with a paper inventory hand carried through the cargo delivery process. 

"Before there were hiccups in the process that would keep (the paperwork) from immediately being run up to my office (for clearance)," said Sergeant Halterman. "Now what we've done is made that information electronic so you don't have to deliver it to me. It's there and available as soon as I'm ready to work it." 

This new way of handling explosives is projected to reduce non-value added time from 2,229 minutes to 982 minutes, and the flow time would drop from 5,220 minutes to 2,160 minutes. 

Another process that seemed to drag through approval involved weapons arriving into port. According to Sergeant Halterman, approximately 95 percent of all weapons do not need additional clearance to be airlifted. 

"Our previous process was to process every single weapon that came into the port and wait for one person to look at it to find out if it needed diplomatic clearance," he said. "So now we pushed that (approval authority) down to the in checker, so now when that guy gets a weapon in the port he looks at the foreign clearance guide and he says yeah or nay. Ninety-five percent of weapons just got handled immediately instead of a delay in the process. The process itself is now flowing 50 percent quicker and 50 percent more efficiently." 

In addition, 437th APS members can now power up C-17 Globemaster IIIs and load the aircraft with cargo instead of making arriving aircrew members load an aircraft or to pull a maintenance member away from fixing aircraft to prepare a plane to be loaded with cargo. With aerial port expediters preparing and loading a plane with cargo, aircrews are allowed to show up as much as 90 minutes later, reducing maintenance work hours. 

By adapting AFSO 21 methods, 437th APS officials improved the way they conduct business and move cargo.  It now gets to the warfighters better, cheaper and faster.