Airmen powered by innovation, continuous process improvement for 2016, beyond

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Employees of the Department of Defense, and more specifically the Air Force, must be accountable stewards of taxpayer dollars and ensure that the daily work processes supporting mission requirements, tactical and strategic goals, are effective and ultimately efficient in their execution and sustainment.
Focusing on innovation, strategic alignment, problem solving and improving the way daily work is conducted will ensure that accountability, through resource savings and improved mission performance.
To help Airmen pursue their innovative ideas, align an organization’s mission, vision, goals and culture with Air Force core values, solve problems, and become more effective and efficient with Air Force resources, the Air Force has established the Airmen Powered by Innovation and the Continuous Process Improvement programs.
The API program supports the submission, evaluation and implementation of innovative ideas as well as tracking and confirming resulting benefits. API is a way for Airmen to submit ideas that will improve the Air Force through cost savings, quality, productivity, process improvement and morale.
Ideas are evaluated and if approved for implementation and confirmed to have tangible benefits, intangible benefits or both, then the submitter may receive a monetary reward.
API benefits both the Air Force and Airmen. CPI drives superior performance and enhances combat capability using methodologies designed to improve and or redesign processes, enrich quality in products and information, and integrate continuous improvement in day-to-day operations. It can also help commanders ensure their organizational actions and resources align to drive their strategy, mission and vision.
The third core value of the U.S. Air Force is “Excellence in All We Do” and we must ask ourselves, are we excellent in all we do?
Do our processes effectively support our internal and external customers? Are we efficient in our daily work? Are we spending time on work that provides value to our customers? Do our organizations operate in a lean environment? And finally, are we developing a sustained passion for continuous innovation and improvement that propels us into an enduring, ascending path of success and performance? If your answer is no to any or all of the aforementioned questions then CPI can work for you and your organization.
The tools and methodologies of CPI have been proven in both public and private sectors to include the Air Force.
One particular approach is called lean thinking and we can apply it to almost every daily work process. Lean thinking examines the value of the work people accomplish and directly connects it to the quantity and quality of a particular service or product provided to the customer.
It is a business approach that focuses on value through persistent elimination of waste thereby allowing for the acceleration in the velocity of processes. Work that provides no customer value is identified and eliminated, thus reducing process complexity and allowing for process flow and resource allocation to value added activities. This increases capacity without adding resources or working harder.
Lean thinking has transformed wasteful inefficient organizations with unsatisfied employees to productive efficient organizations with motivated and proud employees. This transformation can be difficult for some who are used to doing things the same way for years; it’s a cultural change within an organization.
Some critics of CPI say, it will not work in the Air Force because we are service and not manufacturing based — the Air Force isn’t a widget making assembly line, adding a piece to a part every 15 seconds. Our processes vary, take time and are complex, are difficult to see, and every operation has multiple decision points, so CPI is a waste of our time. This statement is precisely why CPI can and will work for the U.S. Air Force.
A couple of tools CPI and lean offers are Value Stream Mapping and process mapping. VSM is a lean tool that helps individuals see and understand the flow of information or materials through a process (value stream) from its beginning through its end (customer receipt).
It’s a method for analyzing the current state of broken, ineffective and inefficacies of a process and designing an improved state. It identifies both value- added and non-value-added steps in a process that a customer is willing to pay for.
Process maps are visual representations of work flow either within a process or an entire operation. It helps to illustrate how a product or transaction is processed and the interactions of causes during the work flow.
The main differences between VSM’s and process maps are that a VSM identifies and displays a broader range of information than a process map, used at a higher level and tends to help an organization identify where to focus future projects and or process improvement events.
Mapping processes helps us visualize all the waste and unnecessary work people do on a daily basis that provides no value to the customer. CPI and lean can help organizations take a broken process and turn it into an effective and efficient standardized process that provides value to the customer.
If we’re not constantly pushing individuals’ critical thinking skills to improve processes, how can they effectively respond to increased levels of complex customer requests and interactions between multiple units using numerous systems?
Many skeptics today were around during the days of Total Quality Management in the 1990s, where many improvement initiatives failed, mostly due to lack of leadership focus, proper CPI know how, and implementation and sustainment of improvement efforts.
If CPI is appropriately applied, executed, sustained and includes strong leadership involvement, it can be successful. Companies such as Amazon, Raytheon, Dell, Maersk, Bank of America, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and government agencies such as the Department of Energy, U.S. Army, Department of Agriculture and numerous others have proven that success.
On the installation, many units are currently using CPI to improve processes and solve problems.
“In September 2014, we had discovered a process which had a large amount of duplications, inefficiencies and was simply outdated in getting contractors on base. The result was a 48 percent ‘completed correct the first time’ process in regards to getting these members on base for construction, cleaning, deliveries, product installation, performing maintenance, etc.
“After conducting a CPI project, we were able to improve the process within eight months and provide a 99 percent ‘completed correct the first time’ product to our customers. In the process, we removed duplication of work, saved man-hours and we transformed our paper based, hand carried product to an electronic product, transmitted in real time to a secondary office. This eliminated confusion between offices, saved time, and created a more organized and user friendly product which was easier to search for. What did this mean for the installation? Buildings were built and maintenance was conducted sooner or as scheduled, deliveries and pickups were made on time, products and systems were installed on time, and an entire ripple effect of efficiency across the installation was felt to the tune of 106,000 annual man-hours saved,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Spicher, 99th Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of Pass & ID.
CPI has also been instrumental in improvement for the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron.
“We initiated a Capitalization Rapid Improvement in December 2013, and implemented five corrective action plans and nine countermeasures the following March 2014. From January 2015 to January 2016, we increased total number of facilities capitalized from 2,172 to 2,523 and an approximate increase of plan replacement value of approximately $5 million (total Nellis, Creech, Nevada Test and Training Range plant replacement value.
“The main driver was obtaining missing DD1354s, getting DD1354s accurate and on time, and locating several facilities that had not been capitalized, then processing these missing facilities into our real property inventory. This translates into an increased sustainment budget to better maintain, repair, and update facilities, resulting in increased operation capability for our war fighter customers.
“These enhancements helped net the Installation Management Flight the Headquarters Air Combat Command Major General Robert Thompson Outstanding Resource Excellence Award,” said Dave Cruikshank, CES chief of asset accountability.
The aforementioned process improvements are just a few success stories for the installation CPI program. Many installation personnel have completed the Air Force Eight-Step Practical Problem Solving class and/or the Air Force Green Belt Academics course and have learned some of the CPI and Lean tools to help improve their units.
For more information, contact Sean McCully at 702-652-4999.

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