Airmen learn how to LEAN

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Candy Knight
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley, along with 11 Airmen representing every major command in the Air Force, took a major step toward implementing Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century by visiting United Airlines administrative and maintenance offices at the San Francisco International Airport Oct. 20. 

The visit was part of a training course designed to teach the effectiveness of the LEAN concept and how it relates to AFSO 21. 

"LEAN is a process improvement concept that focuses on eliminating unnecessary steps in a project," said Senior Master Sgt. Jon Borden, event coordinator. "We are training the selected Airmen on how to be effective LEAN experts and then apply them to Air Force Smart Operations." 

During the two-day training program, the students visited different United Airlines work areas, including supply and engine repair, to see how the company has applied the LEAN concept. 

"During the training, we familiarized ourselves with the LEAN training tools," said Master Sgt. Natalie Bell, the military equal opportunity functional manager from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. 

The class also took part in exercises designed to make them use the LEAN tools they had acquired. 

"We went to different work areas and looked for things that were going well and things that needed improvement," Sergeant Bell said. "We then asked the employees what they wanted and how we can help make things smoother. After that, we presented our suggestions to the senior leadership." 

"What I've learned so far is how dynamic the LEAN process can change a person's mindset," said Master Sgt. Joseph Bellard, an NCO academy instructor from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. "I've seen how United has done more with less and I better understand how AFSO 21 is going to help the Air Force do the same. It is going to be demanding, but it will bring great benefits for everyone." 

According to Mr. Ron Ritter, special assistant to the secretary of the Air Force for AFSO-21, the reason United Airlines was chosen as an example was because of the success the company was having using the concept. 

"The company implemented the idea while under the intense pressure and stress," Mr. Ritter said. "Over time, it was fully endorsed by the employees and it helped make United a stronger airline." 

"The most difficult part was getting used to the different way of doing things," said Pete Ernst, United aircraft mechanic. "After being here for 30 years, its tough to do things a different way, but after seeing LEAN in action, I can honestly say it works." 

"LEAN has changed the way we think about ourselves and our work," said Bill Norman, senior vice-president for United Services. "It is also changing the way we work with each other." 

Mr. Ritter added that by visiting United, the students can also learn how the LEAN concept and its tools can help with AFSO 21. 

"The message we want the students to learn is that AFSO-21 is not about debilitating the Air Force, but making it stronger." 

Chief McKinley stated that he was very glad that he and the other Airmen had the opportunity to visit United and see how the LEAN concept has helped the company become more productive. He hopes that the same success will result from AFSO 21. 

"AFSO 21 is not a temporary, spur of the moment idea. It is going to help us see ways of doing things more efficiently, which helps the warfighter, saves money and makes the Air Force a better place to work," the chief said.