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The commander for U.S. Air Force Materiel Command, Gen. Bruce Carlson, has said that Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century is a mind-set and a change in behavior.
Within the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base, senior leaders are changing their behavior and the center’s culture one green belt class at a time.
Green belt training instructor Michael Kakhta said the concepts are basic.
“We are going back to classic functions of what makes a business work,” he said. “We are fixing processes; they already know how to fix parts.”
Green belt training develops individuals to lead process improvements. The training also teaches participants to effectively use tools like Six Sigma, a method to eliminate variation and standardize a process, and lean initiatives, which are designed to eliminate waste or non-value-added steps from a process.
The training emphasizes a data-driven approach to problem solving using several key concepts like value stream mapping, a tool used to identify all steps of a process and the time it takes to complete those steps, cause and effect analysis and basic statistics.
“Our job as leaders and managers is to remove barriers so our guys can be productive,” said Wade Wolfe, chief of transformation, integration and process improvements for plans and programs.
The training consist of 14 classes during a four-month period in which participants apply the skills they learned by working a real-world project in teams of four. The average project time is 40 to 50 hours outside the classroom in addition to regular duties.
Maj. Gen. Loren Reno, OC-ALC commander, and the senior leaders that are participating in the current green belt training, tackled a variety of problems.
General Reno’s team was tasked with reducing the time of preparing read-ahead materials. On average, it took the team more than 11 hours to produce the read-ahead material per day. Through statistical data, the team developed a plan to reduce the time to four hours by making the process electronic.
By eliminating the paper process, officials project savings for toner and paper at $1,200 a year. The team also found it was quicker and easier to make corrections electronically than on paper.
Wolfe said the process improvements and green belt projects don’t have to save millions of dollars, but make a process more effective and efficient.
“It’s not one project that saves $1 million, it’s a million projects that save a dollar,” Wolfe said.
He said the goal of the green belt training class is not to charter a formal project for every improvement, but to get people to automatically think of how they can improve things.
“Eventually, the culture will be engrained into their minds,” Wolfe said.
He added that the next class will consist of an equal amount of supervisors and non-supervisors as the focus begins to shift to non-leadership positions.