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Mildenhall maintenance innovation slashes order time by 98 percent

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Heffernan, 100th Maintenance Squadron flight aerospace propulsion journeyman, poses for a photo in the composite tool kit section at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 6, 2018. Using Continuous Process Improvement methods, Heffernan and his team created a simple process to order tools and equipment for his flight, reducing order time from 90 days to one day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Heffernan, 100th Maintenance Squadron flight aerospace propulsion journeyman, poses for a photo in the composite tool kit section at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 6, 2018. Using Continuous Process Improvement methods, Heffernan and his team created a simple process to order tools and equipment for his flight, reducing order time from 90 days to one day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Heffernan, 100th Maintenance Squadron flight aerospace propulsion journeyman, and his team made a Continuous Process Improvement map – a tool used to help clean up an old ordering process - during Greenbelt training. The yellow sticky notes represent the deficiencies of the old ordering process and the blue sticky notes represent the corrections for the new process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Heffernan, 100th Maintenance Squadron flight aerospace propulsion journeyman, and his team made a Continuous Process Improvement map – a tool used to help clean up an old ordering process - during Greenbelt training. The yellow sticky notes represent the deficiencies of the old ordering process and the blue sticky notes represent the corrections for the new process. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelly O’Connor)

Senior Airman Joshua Heffernan, 100th Maintenance Squadron flight aerospace propulsion journeyman, discusses how Greenbelt, or Continuous Process Improvement training, helped him cut down ordering time from 90 days to one day by developing a new standard for ordering within his flight.

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Imagine shopping online for an item that must arrive quickly and realizing the order process will take 90 days. Ninety long days to place the order in the cart, hit ‘pay,’ and wait for the package to arrive.

Senior Airman Joshua Heffernan, 100th Maintenance Squadron flight aerospace propulsion journeyman, experienced this same problem while working in the composite tool kit (CTK) section in 2017. When customers tried to order tools and equipment, the process took an average of three months. Heffernan saw the frustration and wanted to swap out the old process with a new, step-by-step one.

Heffernan went to the 100th MXS Continuous Process Improvement manager Mia Tobitt, for guidance. Tobitt suggested he enroll in Greenbelt, or CPI training. There, he discussed his flight’s problem, and with the help of others, they made his vision a reality.

“The old ordering process had all these defects and we eliminated them,” Heffernan said. “The root cause was there wasn’t a standard process, so we created one. The average was 90 days to order something and our flight chief’s policy was 30 days. We got it down from 90 days to a day and a half.”

The process simplified purchasing items and brought maintainers the equipment they needed in a fraction of the time it use to take.

“The lines of communication are much smoother now because everyone knows what their role is, everyone knows who’s accountable,” Tobitt clarified. “We’ve put it back into the customer’s hands. It’s important that we empower them.”

Airmen are now trained on how to use tracking logs and place orders with a step-by-step guide for continued accountability and communication across the flight.

“This project illustrates how one Airman can make a difference,” said Lt. Col. Paul Weme, 100th MXS commander. “Joshua used his training to focus on and fix a problem that affected his flight and daily mission. Now that solution is benefiting our entire squadron.”

The 100 MXMT flight is made up of 61 personnel who provide world class maintenance on a squadron of KC-135 Stratotankers that support missions in Europe and Africa.