Sabers work smarter, not harder with new LEAN program initiative

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Pamela Anderson
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
For some members, Air Force Smart Ops 21 is a foreign term that is just being introduced into the field, but for the 52nd Maintenance Group, it is quickly becoming the standard way of doing business.

Smart Ops focuses on grouping things together, like tools and engine parts, to eliminate wasted motion and effort, said Lt. Col. Lawrence Gatti, 52nd MXG deputy commander. “It’s a way to do things smarter with the same amount of people and resources.”

Spangdahlem’s venture into Smart Ops 21, which is similar to the LEAN initiative, was started with guidance from General Electric, who manufactures all of the aircraft engines operated here.

GE sent a team to the base to observe how the 52nd CMS Propulsion Flight performed its daily mission.

The team focused on everything from the maintainers to the location of the tools that were used, said 1st Lt. Brian Cooper, 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron maintenance flight commander and Smart Ops 21 leader.

“The best thing (the GE reps) kept asking is ‘Why?’” he said.

That question alone encouraged maintenance leadership to reevaluate their set up and eliminate non-value added movement. The end result was rearranging the layout of the work area and moving toolboxes closer to maintainers and becoming an assembly line process, which cut down on time spent moving between what was being repaired and equipment being used.

“Before there was no real flow to it, no process to it,” Lieutenant Cooper said. “Now we have a new standard of how we do inspections.”

The new standard has increased productivity and cut time from the work day, which will benefit Airmen in the long run, said Colonel Gatti.

“When you finish the job quicker, it gives (the troops) more time for training and to do other stuff,” he said. “You’re giving back time to those putting so much into their job.”

That’s a benefit that can be shared by the entire base populace once the program is fully operational, the colonel said.

“Anything with a process can be LEANed,” he said. “We just need to get everyone in the mindset of asking ‘how can we fix this?’.”

One base-wide process that is being evaluated is the car registration process.

Members can put about two miles on their car by driving from the registration office to the inspection office and back to registration, Colonel Gatti said. The idea is to eliminate that wasted time and mileage traveling back and forth between the two.

“Wouldn’t it be nice to get it all done in one day instead of a week?” he said.

The Smart Ops process might include a solution that involves placing vehicle registration next to the inspection area, a viable option that wing leadership is looking into.

But like any process, the success of AFSO21 depends on the people, Lieutenant Cooper said.

“You have to be open-minded,” he said. “Anytime you introduce a new idea or program, people tend to give an ‘it can’t be done attitude’.”

Colonel Gatti said if people can get past that attitude, the rest is easy.

“It’s self initiating,” he said. “Once people start to see it take off they will accept it and get something out of it.”