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Mildenhall broadens AFSO 21 scope for base mission

by Tech. Sgt. Eric Petosky
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

2/19/2008 - ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England (AFPN) -- Royal Air Force Mildenhall Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century facilitators currently are broadening the spectrum of improvements to encompass the entire 100th Air Refueling Wing mission in 2008.

Base process improvements in 2007 focused mainly on operations and maintenance, resulting in raising the 100th Air Refueling Wing's mission task rate by 13 percent.

In using AFSO 21, RAF Mildenhall Airmen meet or exceeded all health-of-the-fleet metrics while reducing work hours for flightline members.

"Maintainers are working fewer hours, but producing more," said Lt. Col. Larry Walker, the 100th ARW AFSO 21 director. "That's the whole point of AFSO 21. But, sortie generation is only one part of the wing's mission. This year, we'll take a closer look at our other major mission -- deployment and all the support functions."

Leaders from across the wing are scheduled to convene in March to determine improvement targets for the 100th ARW over the next two years. Since the scope of those targets is much broader, the number of monthly process improvement events is expected to rise. AFSO 21 office facilitators walk participants through each of the weeklong improvement process events.

Currently there are five event facilitators who assist improvement teams to make their processes more effective and efficient. The process is first mapped step-by-step in minute detail, and then scrutinized extensively to identify wasteful or inefficient steps and eliminate or mitigate them. The end product is a concrete implementation tracked by a balanced "scorecard" measuring effects on human development and morale, costs in time and money, quality and delivery.

"It is very easy to increase productivity in minutes," said Senior Master Sgt. Ray Boone, the lead maintenance AFSO 21 facilitator. "You just tell everyone they are going to work 12-hour shifts. But that doesn't balance delivery with morale scores.

"The key is to find the root cause of the problems preventing improvement and ask, 'How do we fix it?'" he said. "We facilitate that in the context of a perfect world: Green grass, blue sky, endless budgets and limitless manpower to open people's minds. We then use the intellect of our Airmen, who definitely put the smart in AFSO 21, to create and implement practical, achievable solutions. We never forget that AFSO 21 is about action and improvements, not plans."

The process doesn't end with the implementation either. Teams take their results back to their units to undergo trials. Using data gathered throughout the process, improvements or decreases are numerically quantifiable. Facilitators continue to assist units to measure the results for six months or until the fixes are firmly in place.

"We use metrics so managers can see data instead of guessing," said Staff Sgt. Jon Anlauf, a 100th ARW AFSO 21 facilitator. "It validates any new processes. AFSO 21 isn't just window dressing; it's a culture. Our hope is that participants sustain that culture when they take the results back to their shops. Maybe they can do their own mini-events. AFSO 21 is a continuous process improvement."

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