52nd MXG do more with less

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- In times of budget cuts and reduced manning, Airmen are seeking out innovative ways to streamline their processes through the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century Program. 

For members of the 52nd Maintenance Group, taking advantage of the AFSO21 concept is an important part of managing their manning cuts since a third of the maintenance scheduler's career field positions have been removed. 

"This event was designed to bring maintenance and operations together to look specifically at the planning and scheduling processes that support the flying hour program and the Global War on Terrorism," said Senior Master Sgt. Juliette Jennings, 52nd Maintenance Operations Squadron Maintenance Operations Flight superintendent and maintenance personnel team leader for the AFSO21 event. "As the maintenance PBD720 cuts become reality, it is vital that we work together and strive for a balance that supports the flying requirements of the operators while taking into consideration the workload of the maintainers." 

To ensure that all aspects of the processes are assessed, a core team of 15 members formed of schedulers, operators from each fighter squadron and the operations support squadron and the maintenance OIC gathered for five days, from April 16-20. This team examined of every aspect of the scheduling process. 

"We had mapped our current processes during the initial AFSO21 event and determined the baseline that was used to identify waste that could be removed," Sergeant Jennings said. "We then split into groups and took the current process and analytically removed waste while identifying Air Force Instruction requirements and limitations. We then melded the two 'new' processes into one and that served as the backbone for the future. We applied additional factors, such as people, equipment, hand-offs and more, to each step and then developed a theoretical structure that we collectively thought would support the future process. The end result was maintenance and operations processes together so that we were basically one entity who worked from an annual plan all the way to execution." 

The AFSO21 process is not new to Sergeant Jennings; she has was the team leader for the first AFSO21 event that took place at Spangdahlem. She has also been working on the development of the Expeditionary Combat Support System for two years. During this time, she has learned that open and non-judgmental communication can help team members from becoming sidetracked. 

"Honest and open communication is so important," Sergeant Jennings said. "Emotions occasionally run high, but that is expected when you put a group of professionals, who are committed to what they do, into a room and try to vet out waste in their processes. We came to the table as two separate entities and ended the week as one team."
While five days passed during the last Spangdahlem AFSO21 event, changes of the magnitude being worked on do not take place overnight. 

"We have made some small steps since the first AFSO21 event; in the words of the facilitators, one change is a gain," Sergeant Jennings said. "There are several things in the works and I see some of them taking effect in the near future. 

"Don't let anyone tell you change is easy -- AFSO21 is hard work -- but this is the time to make recommendations to improve your processes," Sergeant Jennings said.