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Continuous improvements deliver success

  • Published
  • By Gen. Bruce Carlson
  • Commander, Air Force Materiel Command
As a large enterprise, Air Force Materiel Command faces large challenges. Consider that this command managed a fiscal 2006 budget of $44.7 billion and a total active-duty military and civilian work force of more than 78,000 people.

We're all responsible for being good stewards of the taxpayers' money and for improving ways in which AFMC supports the warfighter. But within an enterprise the size of AFMC, it's challenging to continuously, and honestly, look at all of the command's work processes and eliminate waste or steps with no value.

A few years ago we conceived a methodology under which strategic objectives came to life and were successfully incorporated into our daily lives through the processes we employ. We dreamed further that we would develop a means by which we would institutionalize a consistent, reliable and economical way to realize these strategic aims.

Today, we find ourselves with a firm foundation of strategic processes upon which to build. In turn, we're in a position to launch the next phase which will ensure we achieve the goals set by leadership.

One of the essential tools that will help AFMC get there is continued application of Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century, or AFSO21. By now you should have heard about AFSO21 and know that it is an overarching strategy to improve how we accomplish our daily tasks.

AFSO21 makes AFMC more efficient through continuous process improvement ... but it drives significant change. Many of us have sat in a briefing or classroom and heard how people are reluctant or resistant to change. But let's consider the command's latest success stories involving the application of AFSO21 principles.

Organizations at two air logistics centers recently were selected for Shingo Prizes, which promote awareness of Lean manufacturing concepts and recognize companies that achieve world-class manufacturing status. At Warner Robins ALC, Robins AFB, Ga., the C-5 Programmed Depot Maintenance unit earned a Gold Shingo Prize. The center's F-15 Programmed Depot Maintenance team and the F-15 Avionics Squadron earned Bronze Shingo Prizes. At Ogden ALC, Hill AFB, Utah, the 573rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron earned a Gold Shingo Prize.

These are outstanding accomplishments when you consider that the Shingo Prize is referred to in some circles as the "Nobel Prize in manufacturing" because it establishes a standard for world-class excellence.

It also demonstrates that AFMC is, in fact, a good steward of taxpayers' money. At the same time, it signifies AFMC's commitment to increasing the quality and availability of weapon systems to the warfighters who protect our country and our armed forces.

AFSO21 continues to help this command build upon successes that were obtained in previously uncharted territory. It's critical that everyone accept and embrace continuous process improvement and the resulting changes. By doing so, we will create an environment that inspires trust, innovation and a passion for achieving improved performance ... helping us become "One Materiel Command!"