AFSO21 saves time, processes

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Siuta B. Ika
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Currently, U.S. Air Force bases around the world are feeling the effects of the Department of Defense's constrained budget, leading many organizations to search for a different commodity: time.

At Holloman, the 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron has saved plenty of time thanks to the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century initiative.

"AFSO21 is a lean management tool that we attack a lot of problems with," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Eddie Kemp, 49th LRS AFSO21 facilitator. "With the manning and budget we have, we can't expect our Airmen to keep doing the same processes with less money and get the same result. We have to improve our processes if we want to accomplish our mission."

As the only unit with a full-time AFSO21 office, improving squadron processes is what the program is all about, Kemp said.

"As the Air Force becomes leaner, the ever-growing demand on our time requires that we look at how we perform our daily assignments and improve upon them," he said. "It identifies performance gaps, allows Airmen to find innovative and effective ways to accomplish the mission, and brings everyone together to solve problems and maximize efficiencies. AFSO21 is all about improving our day-to-day work processes."

Since beginning AFSO21 initiatives in the squadron, seven different sections have been positively affected thanks to AFSO21's eight-step process.

"The first thing we do is clarify and validate the problem," Kemp said. "After that, we break down the problem and identify performance gaps, then set an improvement target. From there, we determine root causes and develop countermeasures. We then see the countermeasures through, confirm results, and standardize successful processes."

Thanks to the eight-step process, which normally takes five days to accomplish, an abundance of space has been made in the different sections, Kemp said.

"We've freed up more than 1,500 square feet of floor space and more than 550 square feet of shelf space," he said. "They have also enabled the discarding of more than 1,000 items totaling over 20,000 pounds. We also shredded over 2,000 pounds of documents utilizing the disposition instruction, freeing up countless amounts of file cabinet space."

For one section, more than 25,000 steps has been eliminated from their day-to-day routine, equating to two and a half hours saved every day, which is very important to the squadron as a whole, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Nathan McLeod-Hughes, 49th LRS director of operations.

"We have an extremely large and diverse organization where we reach out and touch almost every entity on base," he said. "We have a variety of processes we use to accomplish our day-to-day mission. AFSO21 is a great tool to allow us to flex and adjust our processes to take into account all of that while improving our services for our customers."

The vehicle maintenance flight has also seen the rewards of AFSO21.

"Just by doing a top-to-bottom clean of the facility -- eliminating excess, unwanted and outdated equipment, files and paperwork -- we've already seen a huge benefit right off the bat," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kevin Frese, 49th LRS Vehicle Maintenance Flight superintendent. "The vehicles are coming out of the shop a lot quicker, our rate of maintenance has gone up to positive, and we are much more successful in our repairs of vehicles. One of the reasons is because everything is standardized in the exact place throughout all of the facilities, so each of the mechanics and technicians know where each of the items are."

Although Kemp has helped out some sections in his squadron, he has plans to introduce the AFSO21 initiative to the entire squadron.

"We started in September and our plan right now is to help all of the sections in LRS by March of this year," he said. "Once completed, we will perform an AFSO21 initiative for each flight once a quarter. We have more than 400 personnel in the squadron, but the AFSO21 program here will get bigger. We're also helping (the 49th Civil Engineer Squadron) reengineer their processes."

The future for AFSO21 is bright, Kemp said.

"We're looking to do a Green Belt class in the next couple weeks to certify some of our candidates," he said. "The Green Belt class is a week-long training where you learn how to do the eight-step process. When personnel complete Green Belt training, they can go out and supervise projects with just a black belt overseeing them. To get your black belt, you have to go to AFSO21 Black Belt School where you get your deep immersion in AFSO21. After that there are just a couple more steps before you get your black belt and are fully-certified."

The 49th LRS DO asks that everyone -- even AFSO21 naysayers -- give it a try.

"There are a lot of people that still have the 'TQM (total quality management) mindset' when they hear AFSO21 -- they think it's just another set of initials," said McLeod-Hughes. "It takes a little work, but it really does work. It's not easy to do, however, when you look at the end result there are huge benefits. For the people that are doubters, hopefully they will realize it really can help each and every organization."