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‘Walk the Wall’ to an improved Air Logistics Complex

Mike Comfort, the 550th Commodities Maintenance Squadron’s Stock Record Account Number manager, briefs Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex Commander Brig. Gen. Gene Kirkland about the development of the Consolidated Engine Management System Training guide and how it has been an effective process improvement in their area. During General Kirkland’s “Walk the Wall” visit to the Cruise Missile Shop, other members of the 76th Commodities Maintenance Group also briefed the general about how they have implemented processes promoting the AFSC Way into their daily work routines and how it has positively impacted their workflow. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

Mike Comfort, the 550th Commodities Maintenance Squadron’s Stock Record Account Number manager, briefs Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex Commander Brig. Gen. Gene Kirkland about the development of the Consolidated Engine Management System Training guide and how it has been an effective process improvement in their area. During General Kirkland’s “Walk the Wall” visit to the Cruise Missile Shop, other members of the 76th Commodities Maintenance Group also briefed the general about how they have implemented processes promoting the AFSC Way into their daily work routines and how it has positively impacted their workflow. (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Since its inception in 2012, the Air Force Sustainment Center has been on a journey toward efficiency characterized by standardized business practices.

As part of this journey, the Sustainment Center developed a collection of sacred truths to guide the AFSC through its formative stages and help shape the center into the gold standard for the aerospace industry. This "AFSC Way," as it is known, is a guide to understanding the alignment of the greater Air Force goals with the AFSC methods of doing business, and is comprised of a variety of tools designed to allow all AFSC personnel -- both military and civilian -- to meet the AFSC mission.

As AFSC organizations and personnel have grown and matured within the AFSC Way, and subsequently introduced and incorporated the myriad tools provided them, the entire enterprise has seen remarkable cultural and productivity gains. To reinforce these important improvements and ensure actions stay on track, engaged leaders embark on showcasing events called "Walk the Wall" tours, to highlight a squadron or staff office that has undergone transformative improvements.

These tours explain how we do business and how we employ continuous process improvement efforts to execute our mission the AFSC way. Additionally, Walk the Walls benefit stakeholders by demonstrating how inter-related and inter-dependent their people, processes and resources are to ours in supporting the warfighter.

The 550th Commodities Maintenance Squadron is the maintenance and overhaul squadron for more than 1,200 weapon system component types with nine facilities across Tinker AFB. They are a prime example of a Sustainment Center organization striving to capture the essence of the AFSC Way.

Recently, the 550th CMMXS engaged in several world-class improvement efforts which they highlighted in their July Walk the Wall. This Walk the Wall, presented to Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex leadership, focused on the F107 Cruise Missile Engine Shop in Bldg. 214 and was a prime example of this organization's improvement efforts being tied to, and driven by the tools available within the AFSC Way. During the Walk the Wall, the organization employed storyboards to showcase the F107 Cruise Missile Engine Shop's improvement efforts that are leading to reductions in components in work, parts awaiting maintenance, and parts on backorder -- all translating to improved warfighter support.

As part of their improvement efforts, the F107 Cruise Missile Engine Shop initiated a modular flow process, examined and made improvements to mechanic touch time, defined release points and implemented standard work where piecemeal and batch processes were commonplace in the past.

Historically averaging 31 engine overhauls per quarter, the 550th CMMXS's introduction of these process improvements has established modules and buffers that didn't exist before and revealed opportunities to increase the speed (reduced flowtime) of parts through the shop. As the AFSC Way points out, with increased speed comes reduced work in process, and with reduced WIP comes reduced resource requirements -- less shop space, less equipment, less labor costs and less supporting overhead. Ultimately, as described in the recent Walk the Wall, the F107 Cruise Missile Engine Shop's improvement efforts will result in a reduction in WIP from 25 units down to 12 units, while fully supporting production demand. As the AFSC Way says, "Speed is Good!" Focusing on speed in the F107 Cruise Missile Engine Shop provides the mechanism to reduce costs and increase capabilities for the Air Force.

Another key area of improvement discussed during the Walk the Wall was the F107 Cruise Missile Engine Shop's processes of nondestructive inspection and bearing routing. Again, using the tools available in the AFSC Way, shop personnel were able to coordinate with supporting organizations to improve the important NDI and bearing routing processes; thereby, fulfilling two goals: improvements to their own process and synergy across the OC-ALC enterprise.

Additionally, the Walk the Wall highlighted several other aspects of the improvement efforts underway in this shop. Improving bit-piece kitting, introducing standardized material ordering processes, and establishing logbook-controlled staging areas for components awaiting parts were just a few of the areas of improvement covered during this comprehensive review.

But the work in the 550th CMMXS F107 Cruise Missile Engine Shop is far from complete. While the recent Walk the Wall was an opportunity to "show off" the outstanding efforts of the personnel in this shop, it has only served to whet their process improvement appetites. As the name makes abundantly clear, continuous process improvement is not a one-time event. It is an ever-enduring process that must become a part of the heartbeat of every AFSC organization. To that end, the F107 Cruise Missile Engine Shop is not resting on their laurels. They are already exploring future opportunities that include shadow board cut-outs for engine kits to expedite parts accountability, visual displays for real-time tracking of engine module flow as well as for identifying each module in the shop and a reorganization of tools by module. There is still much more work to be accomplished.

As you can see, a Walk the Wall illustrates an organization's process improvement initiatives from production and engineering to the enterprise stakeholders, with the ultimate goal of increasing speed and reducing cost. The AFSC is a $16 billion enterprise -- it is big business! And because it is such a big business it is sometimes easy to forget that it is comprised of hundreds of organizations, shops, and processes not unlike the F107 Cruise Missile Engine Shop. The recent Walk The Wall in this shop showcased "Art of the Possible" results and portrayed how this organization "finds their fit" within the AFSC Way.

In the long run, success in a vast, dynamic organization such as the AFSC will ultimately be measured by how well each of its sub-components, such as the F107 Cruise Missile Engine Shop, successfully understands, implements and benefits from the AFSC Way. This, in turn, creates a depot environment postured to deliver cost-effective readiness to the warfighter...positively influencing the future size of the Air Force and affecting the nation's ability to fight and win the next war.