WR-ALC Initiatives: Creating success through process innovation

  • Published
  • By Kendahl Johnson
  • 78 ABW/PA
With budgets tightening throughout the Air Force, leadership is looking for ways to do more with less, including relying on process innovations to provide major improvements to the way things are done - improvements to increase warfighting capabilities while saving taxpayer dollars.

"You can't just settle for marginal improvements because that will barely make you come out even," said Kenneth Percell. "You have to hit some homerun innovations in key areas of need. We don't want to just make things a little better or improve things incrementally. We want to dramatically change the game."

Percell is the director of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center's Engineering Directorate. He is the expert in Process area; one of the Center's five initiatives from Maj Gen Peyer's P3I strategy. He said building on a foundation of innovation is one important element of success, and that establishing a Lean culture is the first step.

"Our first goal is to redeploy and reinforce our Lean capabilities," Percell said. "They've atrophied. We're not doing as well leaning out processes because we're not investing as prudently in Lean itself."

He said the Center is taking a "back to basics" approach to reestablish Lean here, using a "plan of care, just like a medical doctor would use on a patient - deal with the symptoms while you treat the underlying illness."

The base is extending the AFSO21 mandate by requiring all senior managers at wing and group level to receive Lean training. It's also working with new managers to ensure they come ready to work in a Lean environment. But the Lean teaching and training is not just for senior leadership; it's also for front-line supervisors. They will also receive training that would normally just be given to Lean facilitators and professionals with the aim of them instilling in their employees the culture of Lean.

As part of this redeployment, the Center will also be looking to use the resources already here by drawing upon the experience of people across the base.

"We have a lot of Lean experts at Robins. We are going to bring them together as a team and make them available across the Center as organic experts," Percell said. "Leveraging what we already know and already have learned is a big piece of the redeployment puzzle."

He said once Lean has become an integral part of the base culture, Lean experts can begin to really examine processes and can help lead process improvements in areas that need the most help.

"Once we reestablish Lean, we can look at some major places where we need to get much better than we are today. Where do we need to get a five- or 10-fold improvement in our performance?" Percell said. "That's where we'll mount our initiatives to achieve world-class status."

A good example of where the base saw a need for improvement and, through innovative thinking, implemented some major changes was with high velocity maintenance, or HVM.

"We were ticking away at improving aircraft delivery performance in maintenance, but everyone involved had to come together to redefine the game," Percell said. "HVM was a complete rethinking of program depot maintenance by all the players, not just maintenance. That's an example of things we're going to do in processes under this innovation initiative."

Percell said once Lean is reestablished and processes are improved, warfighting capabilities will improve dramatically. But process is only one of five initiatives; to truly be successful at Robins it must work in unison with the other initiatives.

"The right people working with the right processes getting the right level of performance in an infrastructure that's supportive and not detracting - that's the integration we're ultimately trying to achieve - that is what Maj Gen Peyer wants from P3I," he said.