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AFSO 21 tools enable Air Force to improve process

Staff Sgt. Joseph Kokesh checks the tire inventory in the 92nd Maintenance Squadron's wheel and tire shop for KC-135 Stratotankers. An Air Force Smart Operations 21 initiative is under way in the shop to eliminate almost half of the current tire stock. The reduction should result in a significant cost avoidance for the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chad Watkins)

Staff Sgt. Joseph Kokesh checks the tire inventory in the 92nd Maintenance Squadron's wheel and tire shop for KC-135 Stratotankers. An Air Force Smart Operations 21 initiative is under way in the shop to eliminate almost half of the current tire stock. The reduction should result in a significant cost avoidance for the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chad Watkins)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. (AFPN) -- Using Air Force Smart Operations 21, Fairchild AFB members are on a journey of self-improvement as they work to save time and money.

"You can do more with less, if you have less waste in your process," said Bill Long, Fairchild AFB's AFSO 21 consultant.

AFSO 21 is an Air Force unique process-improvement program that uses the best parts of several civilian efficiency plans, said Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne at a conference at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., earlier this year.

Ongoing budget cuts and manpower reductions have created an environment where many Air Force and civil servicemembers are assigned tasks above and beyond their normal responsibilities. 

"This ever-growing demand on our time requires us to look at how we perform our daily assignments and improve upon them," Mr. Long said. 

"AFSO 21 is a set of tools that enables us to question everything and ask ourselves why we're doing it that way. Ultimately, these tools enable us to identify ways to do it faster, better and cheaper," he said.

Today, he works for MainStream GS, LLC., a company hired by the Air Force to teach AFSO 21 techniques and applications. Mr. Long has a history of improving processes dating back more than 12 years ago when he first reorganized his work station at an electronics assembly plant. After his supervisors saw what he had done, he was asked to evaluate other processes in the same production area and he has been improving processes since.

His initial task here is working with wing leaders to establish goals and objectives that are in line with the Air Force and Air Mobility Command goals and objectives.

"We needed to determine what is important; what is mission critical. If a process is mission critical, we look for ways to further improve it and reduce the amount of time it takes to do it," he said.

Establishing metrics to measure performance is an essential part of the process. "What you can't measure, you can't improve," Mr. Long pointed out. But he stressed that measuring for the sake of measuring only benefits the makers of measuring devices.

The next step for Mr. Long will be training the people here to use AFSO 21 techniques. 

"We're identifying points of contact at the group level first," he said. "Then we'll find key players at the squadron level who have a passion for process improvement."

Process improvement begins with mapping out the steps it takes to do a job, then examining the map for waste or non-value added steps. 

"When evaluating a process, it helps to have a wide range of aptitudes to develop something better. An office worker will see a maintenance process from a different perspective," said Mr. Long. 

That's when "out of the box" ideas are born, he noted.

"We are collecting ideas and prioritizing them. Some are 'just do it' improvements. Others will take more time to evaluate and implement," Mr. Long said. 

"You can do more with less, if you improve your process," he said. Whether it is putting a tire on a KC-135, processing paperwork, or even making a pizza.

"For example, Master Sgt. Marc Maschhoff with the 92nd Maintenance Squadron has an idea to reduce the inventory in the wheel and tire shop," Mr. Long said. "We've set some base lines, are gathering inventory figures, and believe we can cut the necessary inventory in half. That will produce a significant cost avoidance in their process."

When his company's contract is completed here, Mr. Long will have established a self-sustaining AFSO 21 program. 

"We'll leave behind a fully-trained, self-driven team of process improvement experts," he said.

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