Airmen work smarter, not harder with Smart Ops 21

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Pamela Anderson
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

For some Airmen, Air Force Smart Ops 21 is a term just being introduced into the field, but for the 52nd Maintenance Group, it is quickly becoming the standard way of doing business.

Smart Ops 21 focuses on grouping things together, like tools and engine parts, to eliminate wasted motion and effort, said Lt. Col. Lawrence Gatti, 52nd MXG deputy commander. “It’s a way to do things smarter with the same amount of people and resources.”

Spangdahlem’s venture into Smart Ops 21, which is similar to the Lean initiative, was started with guidance from General Electric, who manufactures all of the aircraft engines operated here.

GE sent a team to the base to observe how the 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron propulsion flight performed its daily mission.

The team focused on everything from the maintainers to the location of the tools that were used, said 1st Lt. Brian Cooper, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron maintenance flight commander and Smart Ops 21 leader here.

“The best thing (the GE reps) kept asking is ‘Why?’” he said.

That question alone encouraged maintenance leaders to re-evaluate their setup and eliminate non-value added movement. The end result was rearranging the layout of the work area, moving toolboxes closer to maintainers and becoming an assembly line process. This cut down on time spent moving between what was being repaired and equipment being used.

“Before there was no real flow to it, no process to it,” Lieutenant Cooper said. “Now we have a new standard of how we do inspections.”

The new standard has increased productivity and cut time from the work day, which will benefit Airmen in the long run, Colonel Gatti said.

“When you finish the job quicker, it gives (Airmen) more time for training and to do other stuff,” he said. “You’re giving back time to those putting so much into their job.”

That’s a benefit that can be shared by the entire base populace once the program is fully operational, the colonel said.

“Anything with a process can be 'Lean'ed,” he said. “We just need to get everyone in the mindset of asking, ‘How can we fix this?’”

One basewide process being evaluated is vehicle registration.

Airmen can put about two miles on their car by driving from the registration office to the inspection office and back to registration, Colonel Gatti said. The idea is to eliminate that wasted time and mileage traveling back and forth between the two.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to get it all done in one day instead of a week?” he said.

The Smart Ops 21 process might include a solution that involves placing vehicle registration next to the inspection area, a viable option that wing leaders are looking into.

But like any process, the success of Smart Ops 21 depends on the people, Lieutenant Cooper said.

“You have to be open-minded,” he said. “Anytime you introduce a new idea or program, people tend to give an ‘it can’t be done attitude’.”

Colonel Gatti said if people can get past that attitude, the rest is easy.

“It’s self-initiating,” he said. “Once people start to see it take off they will accept it and get something out of it.”

(Courtesy of United States Air Forces in Europe News Service)