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AFSO21 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. -- You can do more with less - if you have less waste in your process, said Bill Long, Fairchild's Air Force Smart Operations 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.

The program will take the Air Force forward in a journey of self-improvement, the secretary said.

Ongoing budget cuts and manpower reductions have created an environment where many Air Force and civil service members 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," said Mr. Long.

Improving processes is right down Mr. Long's alley. It has been a passion since he first reorganized his work station at an electronics assembly plant more than 12 years ago. His supervisors saw what he had done, and put him on a process improvement team to evaluate other processes in the same production area. This started him on a journey to help others do the same and it has been his "life long" passion ever since.

Today, he works for MainStream GS, LLC., a company hired by the Air Force to teach bases AFSO 21 techniques and applications.

No stranger to military life, this former Marine's face lights up when he discusses AFSO 21. "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.

"AFSO 21 is a set of tools that enable 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," said Mr. Long

His initial task at Fairchild is working with wing leadership 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.

"We want to measure the right things. For instance, how we are performing against Col. (Scott) Hanson's strategic plan is extremely important. This enables us to see how we're doing on a daily basis here at Fairchild."

The next step for Mr. Long will be training Team Fairchild to use AFSO 21 techniques. "We're identifying points of contact at the group level first. 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 examine the map for waste, or non-value added steps. "When evaluating a process, it helps to have a wide range of aptitudes to development 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," said Mr. Long.

"For example, Master Sgt. Marc Maschhoff with the 92nd Maintenance Squadron has an idea to reduce the inventory in the Wheel and Tire shop. 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," said Mr. Long.

When his company's contract is completed at Fairchild, Mr. Long will be instrumental in establishing a self-sustaining AFSO 21 program. "We'll leave behind a fully-trained, self-driven team of process improvement experts," he said.

Not a bad career path for a man who started out reorganizing an electronics work station.