402nd CMXG looks to future with continued change, growth

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
It's been a time of steady transformation across the 402nd Commodities Maintenance Group here. 

From tracking every aircraft at Robins to ensure assets are successfully routed from the flight line to CMXG as scheduled, to supporting various customer needs locally and globally, there's pride and ownership in the process from beginning to end.

"Although we've been deploying the Art of the Possible for the last several years, we still have a long way to go," said Mark Johnson, 402nd CMXG deputy director. "We've had a lot of similar concepts, but what makes this process different is that it's a single, codified way for the Air Force Sustainment Center to function. 

"This is the first time I know of where we - from a production management perspective - all have a single process that we're using," he added.    

There has been a standardized system in use at Robins since the summer 2012 standup of Air Force Sustainment Center operations. 

The Art of the Possible stems from a leadership model penned by retired Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, former AFSC commander. 

The AFSC Way describes AoP as being about "reaching beyond today's limitations to grasp previously unimagined heights of performance," and challenging each other to "recognize opportunities, eliminate constraints, improve processes and optimize resources to achieve world-record results."

Johnson, who has been at Robins over 33 years, has seen many ongoing efforts to bring the various depots together.

"But what I've seen under the deployment of AoP has been a very focus-centric effort by all of the air logistics complexes to operate and function in one set of business rules," he said. "From a production operations concept, having each of the ALCs using the same basic guidance as they're setting up production lines has been beneficial to moving us forward and helping us sustain weapons systems.

"When you build a production machine," he added, "whether it's an aircraft line, a routed component or a commodity coming out of the supply system, there are certain factors you have to consider."

Take the chapter on the science of throughput, detailed in AFSC's AoP book, calculations and philosophies are covered so there's understanding of the methodology behind a production machine's gated monitoring system, like those used across CMXG and the base. 

There's a fundamental relationship between such important concepts as throughput, or required output, flowtime (the average time a unit stays in a production machine), work in progress (the average number of units in work throughout the production machine), and takt time (how often a single unit must be produced from a machine). 

One part reads, "A production machine designed in accordance with Little's Law ensures a well-balanced production line and a disciplined approach to controlling active work in progress. Monitoring the performance in each gate provides increased transparency into the performance of the machine, enables more timely constraint identification-elevation-resolution and ensures optimum performance of the overall machine." 

Johnson said the system helps all the ALCs make sure the machines will produce. Once the various stages of a project management plan are known, you can structure a line so that from beginning to end you can use the data to see how you did.

"If you've set that machine up with the correct flow times and each of the steps of the processes, you will yield the right results," he said. "Once you have a standard process flow - if you have variations or problems - they will surface more quickly and will allow you to work them."

For example, in Robins' CMXG shops, which include 1,200 personnel, they've deliberately set up processes that have not only reduced standard workday flow, but also changed the workplace culture with improved employee morale. 

It was about two years ago when AoP began deployment across all shops. Some of those initial efforts focused on CMXG products that supported F-15 and C-130 programmed depot maintenance lines. 

For example, take an F-15 that's about to enter a repair and build-up gate. That signals to CMXG that wings need to be ready to support the customers' needs. No shop can work alone as all have an impact on production. 

The F-15 Ramp Shop is a success story in that it defined and reached a goal earlier this year by producing 20 ramps per month to clear backorders. Through redesigning the shop's layout and using a simulation tool, adjustments were made that consistently meets requirements. 

Other successes include the F-15 Wing Shop team as well as various C-130 routed items, all which play a critical role once they are removed from the aircraft and sent for work to different CMXG shops across Robins.

The focus of CMXG has been taking each of its production lines and ensuring each is set up and structured so they'll function and yield the desired output. 

"As we've done AoP in these areas, we've had to look at our customer requirements," he said. "We've found it to be very successful as we've taken a total approach, looking one year in advance on what is coming in, and making sure shops are sized to handle that production throughput." 

By using AoP goals, it's agreed there's more accountability and ownership of daily work. 

"There are a couple of key things to focus on - reducing work in progress, being able to reduce the number of assets we need in inventory and the number of personnel needed to work those. That allows us to take on more work and provide more capability to the Air Force," said Johnson.