The Air Force Global Strike Command Office of Logistics and Engineering (AFGSC/A4) has a reputation for rapidly testing new ideas and driving innovation that takes AFGSC to the next level. One of the latest ways AFGSC/A4 is innovating, is by investing in the application of the Art of the Possible.
Based on a wealth of knowledge and experience from across the ranks of the Air Force, AOP is a concept which standardizes a process, identifies a system’s constraints, and helps users manage their process optimally; the concept has quickly become something leaders see value in adopting.
To lead AFGSC’s implementation of AOP, the A4 staff recruited expert William Tsao from Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, to lead the way.
“AOP is a game changer,” Tsao said. “It’s a constraint-based management system that I’ve seen lead to huge gains in productivity during my time at Robins, and the best part [about AOP] is the standardization, ownership, that shops have over the system.”
One AFGSC shop in particular that has seen success with AOP implementation was the Wheel and Tire shop from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.
When the Wheel and Tire shop began their AOP journey, there was a healthy level of skepticism, but innovation won in the end.
“It [skepticism] was totally understandable; as humans, we tend to be naturally resistant to change,” Tsao said. “The team at the 2nd MXS was very accommodating and interested in doing things differently because through the training, they too saw that AOP could be value added to the mission.”
One of the key principles behind AOP is limiting work-in-progress (WIP) so it does not overwhelm processes. Through AOP, the Wheel and Tire shop was able to determine an appropriate WIP level as well as break up their process into smaller, more manageable segments. The latter is better known as gating, and the grouping of similar work within a process machine’s overall flow helps a shop manage the process via smaller volumes of work.
“There were some growing pains much like any new effort,” Tsao said. “One of the technicians, Tech. Sgt. Keith Jackson, initially didn’t ‘buy’ the WIP the calculations [we] came up with. He even tried to beat the calculations only to later find that it took about 20 minutes longer doing it his way. After that experiment, Tech. Sgt. Jackson was sold and became one of the biggest advocates for AOP.”
The impact of AOP on the Wheel and Tire shop has allowed them to stabilize their work-flow, resulting in more than 1,900 man-hours saved per year and a 23 percent reduction in overall flow-time. Another positive effect found was an increase in process consciousness for the shop, which led to the identification of several Continuous Process Improvement initiatives to be tackled.
With hard numbers and the successes from the 2nd MXS, senior leadership was briefed and it was decided that the next stop for AOP implementation was north to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.
“It was a logical next step for us to spread the knowledge and to standardize shops within the command that supported the same mission,” Tsao said.
The Wheel and Tire shop within the 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Minot AFB was able to replicate the successes seen at Barksdale AFB. Tiffany Steele, Staff Sgt. Jacob Hatch and Tech Sgt. Jeston Jump were a few of the individuals who helped lead Minot AFB’s AOP implementation. Within a few weeks, the 5th MXS saw a 50 percent reduction in their flow-time.
The AFGSC 2022 Strategic Plan was recently released, and one of the lines of effort is modernization. AFGSC senior leadership is calling for creative, forward-thinking and outside-the-box ideas to improve the force. The implementation of AOP and the improvements it brings to the mission is exactly the type of innovation leaders envision will modernize the command for the battles of today and tomorrow.
“Innovation is a crucial part of our Modernize line of effort,” said Lt. Gen. Mark Weatherington, AFGSC deputy commander. “The command is committed to investing in Strikers’ innovative ideas and applying new concepts so that we can maintain our competitive edge.”
In the near future, an AOP handbook will be released to all AFGSC units to educate and inspire others to implement the concept within their own shops and work areas.
“My goal is to guide and help all of our leaders [to] be able to implement AOP in their operations because the best part of my job is seeing the lightbulb come on after they see the concept, the training and the scenarios in action,” Tsao said.