Tinker’s transformation journey, a black belt’s perspective

  • Published
  • By Mark Harris
  • Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center Mission Control Center
Twenty-three years ago, a co-worker told me to back away from an obstacle I encountered, and just to accept things the way they are at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center.

But, I didn't take his advice.

As an eager young engineer working in the Aircraft Process Engineering Office, that thinking wasn't acceptable to me. Working here for more than two decades, I've stuck to my principles.

I currently serve as a "black belt," and my job is comprised of teaching the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, AFSO21, course material related to process improvement, mentoring new green belt students, facilitating Rapid Improvement Events and Value Stream Analyses and helping our office improve our processes. My job allows me to see transformation as it occurs from the senior level of leadership to the production floor.

From the bottom up and from the top down and across all organizations, our own people are working to spread the understanding of transformation. We must discontinue the practice of accepting the status quo -- working in our wasteful processes. To achieve this, we are training hundreds of green belt facilitators to become experts at helping teams eliminate waste from their processes. Our vision is that during the next few years, these hundreds will help thousands to eliminate waste and improve speed and quality while reducing work-in-process, cycle time and costs.

In a recent discussion with Don Doles, Air Force Materiel Command's senior process improvement consultant, he described the ALC's efforts as a flywheel that keeps moving faster and faster with each incremental "push" in the right direction. All of us participating in lean transformation are the ones pushing, and the resulting improvements represent the increasing mass of the flywheel. Intuitively, as we move forward, our goal is to add more and more of our work force to the transformation effort and fuel more process improvement. The idea is that this is a continually moving process whereby we eliminate waste to free up resources, providing for more capability to eliminate even more waste, freeing up even more resources -- resulting in significantly better value for our customer.

With all of our support, in the near future we will reach a tipping point whereby a significant majority of us will work together in processes that are relatively free of obstacles. Products and services can flow to the warfighter with superior quality, at an acceptable cost, when they are needed. Our culture will contain lean process improvement, and as such, will come naturally to the work we do.

And for the next generation, as well as for those that follow, that will be the way things are done here at Tinker.