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NEWS | Sept. 29, 2008

Air Force Smart Operations for 21 Century

By Chief Master Sgt. David Hobart 1st and 192nd Fighter Wing AFSO 21 superintendent

Have you heard the 1st Fighter Wing has a new Wing Staff Agency? It's the AFSO21 office. I know, you're probably thinking, we've all seen this before--"AFSO21" just another buzz word and "program of the week." Well AFSO21 is different; it's not just a program dreamed up by Headquarters. 

AFSO21 is simply a set of tools and the accompanying operational culture to identify and eliminate waste and improve work practices. Although the Air Force launched its initiative a few years ago, some Commands have been using these principles for years. What AFSO21 does is utilize practices that have been working in industry. These adopted principles are from Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma and Theory of Constraints models; an approach that most major manufacturers have been using to stay competitive by eliminating waste and finding better ways to get the job done. 

Everyone is aware the Air Force budgets are smaller and we have fewer people, but the mission demands, energy, and in general the cost of doing business has steadily increased. You might be thinking where do I fit in...what's in this for me? Can you imagine less time waiting in line, a work process that flows more smoothly, or having the right tools and equipment on hand to do the job faster? All these and more are things tackled using AFSO21 concepts.

We need every Airman thinking of ways they can eliminate waste, and to come up with a better way of doing the job that uses fewer resources, whether it's manpower or consumables or energy or even how we can generate less waste. It could be something as simple as turning off equipment and lights. AFSO21 starts with a mindset that looks for eliminating waste. 

Here are two things you can address at the work center level without having a full blown AFSO21 Rapid Improvement Event (RIE). The first is what's called a 6S (Sort, Shine, Straighten, Standardize, Sustain, and Safety), I call it a GI party on steroids. Simply put: Sort out the junk; Shine, clean up the place; Straighten up your work area, so everyone can find items; Standardize the way work is done; establish a method to sustain the way work is done so everyone does it the same way; incorporate Safety into your plan so no one gets hurt at work. Here's the second one, do a "waste walk." A waste walk is just going through your area and looking for waste, things like having two years of stock on hand, is someone killing time waiting for a part, the list could be endless. Then you have to ask yourself, what I can do, or what can I elevate to leadership to get rid of the waste. Just these two things can amount to huge savings.

So there you have it, AFSO21 in a nutshell. Visit the Air Force portal or check out the 1/192 FW AFSO21 CoP for a summary of AFSO21 events we've held in the Wing. As Brig. Gen. Mark Barrett said, "AFSO21 needs to involve every Airman; we need to harvest the great ideas that are in the work areas...people are waiting to be heard. We have to create a culture in the Wing where improving processes, saving resources and eliminating frustration and unnecessary steps that are part of our everyday business. The goal is to accomplish the mission while maximizing our most valuable assets, which are limited resources and our Airmen's time!"