Innovation keeps 86th AW moving forward

Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing solve a simulated problem during Problem Identification Training Jan. 12, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. PIT is available to all Airmen and gives them the opportunity to learn problem-solving skills and in turn, help them come up with innovative ways to better processes in their individual units. Wings across the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa are preparing for Innovation Madness 2016, which helps build an innovation culture year-round. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Larissa Greatwood)

Airmen from the 86th Airlift Wing solve a simulated problem during Problem Identification Training Jan. 12, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. PIT is available to all Airmen and gives them the opportunity to learn problem-solving skills and in turn, help them come up with innovative ways to better processes in their individual units. Wings across the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa are preparing for Innovation Madness 2016, which helps build an innovation culture year-round. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Larissa Greatwood)

Capt. Lindsey Miller, U.S. Air Forces in Europe A9 operations research analyst, teaches a class on problem-solving during Problem Identification Training Jan. 12, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The class consisted of a scenario and hands-on team problem-solving to give the Airmen the tools to think outside of the box when it comes to making processes more efficient. In March, Innovation Madness recognizes those Airmen with innovations and ideas improving their units and the Air Force as a whole.   (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Larissa Greatwood)

Capt. Lindsey Miller, U.S. Air Forces in Europe A9 operations research analyst, teaches a class on problem-solving during Problem Identification Training Jan. 12, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The class consisted of a scenario and hands-on team problem-solving to give the Airmen the tools to think outside of the box when it comes to making processes more efficient. In March, Innovation Madness recognizes those Airmen with innovations and ideas improving their units and the Air Force as a whole. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Larissa Greatwood)

A team of Airmen work together during a Problem Identification Training scenario Jan. 12, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Teams began with a simulated problem and learned how to fix it in a more efficient and effective manner. These tools can help them innovate new ways of improving processes already in place in their units. In March, Innovation Madness recognizes those Airmen with innovations and ideas improving their units and the Air Force as a whole.   (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Larissa Greatwood)

A team of Airmen work together during a Problem Identification Training scenario Jan. 12, 2016, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Teams began with a simulated problem and learned how to fix it in a more efficient and effective manner. These tools can help them innovate new ways of improving processes already in place in their units. In March, Innovation Madness recognizes those Airmen with innovations and ideas improving their units and the Air Force as a whole. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Larissa Greatwood)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- The Air Force is "powered by Airmen, fueled by innovation." To keep innovation alive and thriving here at Ramstein, the 86th Airlift Wing Continuous Process Improvement office has taken up the responsibility of fostering a culture of improvement across the wing.

Though innovation is not a new concept, its relevance in workplaces is becoming more apparent. The CPI office is working toward not only the growth of new ideas in individual units, but for those concepts to become useful in multiple facilities.

"Whether it is innovative or just efficient, as long as it's effective, (all ideas are) good," said Pamela Black, 86th Force Support Squadron Continuous Process Improvement wing program manager. "If (an Airman) comes up with something that gets a job done better in any way, that's an innovation. More people need to share their ideas...that's one of the things that continuously makes us stronger."

Innovation doesn't always have to come from a long or expensive process either. Utilizing already established resources can also be a good way to renovate a procedure, said Lydia Bradley, 86 FSS management analyst.

"Some innovations aren't made completely from scratch," said Bradley, who is working alongside Black to build the 86th AW's CPI program. "For example, (last year) someone (adopted) an idea from their last base where they used small cameras to help them see if there are any cracks in their large water tanks as opposed to completely draining and refilling it. The camera is not a new device, but the way he used it is."

In this day and age, innovation has become a major building block of today's Air Force.

"Our job is to make sure everyone else knows about innovation successes," Black said. "We validate the amount of money and man-hours saved for each submission, and then send those to the Innovation Transformation office at USAFE to put into the Capture Innovations website so other wings have access to those ideas as well."

"All submissions are also tracked through the Innovator of the Month program, so if there's anything still out there that we haven't seen, we would like to bring those ideas to light as well," she said.
 
Aside from Innovator of the Month award, the most recognition for new concepts at a wing is through the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Air Forces Africa competition, Innovation Madness.

Innovation Madness is an event in its second year which recognizes the new ideas, concepts and processes of the previous year that saved the Air Force money and man-hours.  In May 2015, the 86th Airlift Wing won the inaugural Innovation Madness tournament against nine other USAFE-AFAFRICA wings. Combined, the wings submitted 477 innovations which saved the Air Force more than $28 million and 115,000 man-hours for the two previous years.

This year the competition awards have been updated and the winning wing will receive a $175,000 check to put toward program and equipment finances, while the second place wing will receive $50,000. New this year are also the best mission improvement, money saving, time savings and best video categories. 

The final day for innovation submissions for this year's Innovation Madness is March 3. To submit yours, contact your wing CPI representative or email ideas to 86fss.fsemidea@us.af.mil. To contact the 86th AW representative, call DSN 480-4493 or commercially 06371-47-4493.

Innovation is one reason the Air Force is able to stay not only efficient and effective, but also forward-moving. The mighty 86th proved just that as last year's Innovation Madness champions and this year will be looking to defend their title while striving to always become better, and in turn developing into better Airmen.