ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. – After approximately two years of transitioning to six Complex operation contracts and standing up the Combined Test Force, leadership at AEDC are beginning to turn more focus on continuous process improvement (CPI) and the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) industry standard.
The CPI is an Air Force program which includes LSS and other tools such as Business Process Reengineering and Balanced Scorecard. LSS presents methods of improving a company’s productivity and profitability, or more specifically, cost effectiveness for AEDC.
According to the Lean Six Sigma Institute, “Lean,” developed by the Toyota Motor Corp., improves service speed or lead time by eliminating the waste in any process. “Six Sigma,” developed by Motorola Mobility LLC, improves the quality of products and services by eliminating variability.
CPI and LSS a requirement
A recent news release from the Air Force Test Center states that the Center is waiting for approval to designate AEDC as a Wing-equivalent organization. Col. Ray Briggs, chief of Test Systems Sustainment Division at AEDC, explains requirements for a Wing as well as for the supporting contractors at the Complex.
“Air Force Instruction 38-401, released April 15, 2016, requires a CPI program for Air Force organizations at the Wing level,” he said. “Our Test Operation and Sustainment (TOS) contractor, National Aerospace Solutions (NAS), also has a requirement to implement LSS, and many of our other contractors also have their own CPI programs. There will be many opportunities where the government CPI program and contractor programs will work together to solve problems and improve efficiencies at AEDC and the geographical separated units. It is important to remember that the programs are separate, but we are easily able to partner capabilities across contracts and government resources, depending on the problem.”
TOS management will leverage parent companies Bechtel, Sierra Lobo Inc. and GP Strategies Corp. in establishing the LSS program on the contract at AEDC, according to Matt Szendre, the NAS Lean Six Sigma manager and a certified Six Sigma Black Belt.
“The parent companies of NAS have demonstrated a strong commitment to LSS over the past few decades,” he said. “They have seen their businesses transform and become more efficient through the use of the LSS program. We want to ensure we utilize those successes here at AEDC.”
CPI and LSS beneficial to AEDC
Briggs and Szendre agree that the Complex will benefit in efficiencies that will be passed on to AEDC customers.
According to the LSS program model, efficiencies may be gained by using an 8-step Practical Problem Solving Model from the “Lean” side and the DMAIC process from the “Six Sigma” side which is to define, measure, analyze, improve and control.
“Any organization that adopts LSS or other rigorous CPI program will be able to identify and eliminate waste in their processes,” Briggs said. “It will help us be more effective in using the resources we’ve been given in order to conduct tests for our customers.”
For NAS, Szendre said, “reducing waste leads to more productive time, which leads to a more efficient workforce, leading to better ROI [return on investment] for our customers, thus leading to AEDC’s ability to increase air on time and achieving the 2024 vision.”
CPI and LSS implementation
The Complex government lead for implementing the CPI program is Troy Bisby. He, along with government senior leaders and mentors, will execute the program to help foster a culture of innovation and challenge inefficiencies.
On the TOS contract, Szendre said all NAS team members will contribute to the LSS program.
“An operating committee consisting of senior NAS managers will govern the LSS program providing goals and identifying priorities,” he said. “All NAS personnel have the option to be a part of process improvement events. Since July we have been actively engaged in a number of process improvement efforts critical to mission execution. During this time we have seen a high demand for LSS services; anywhere from evaluation of energy efficiencies, the TMDE [test measurement and diagnostic equipment] process review, improving the recruiting and onboarding process, to development of streamlined processes, tools and training to flex personnel between CTFs.”
Training for CPI and LSS
The training for CPI begins with awareness training and progresses to stages referred to as “Green Belt,” “Black Belt” and “Master Black Belt.”
Government personnel will be able to learn about CPI tools in the first stage of training as it becomes available.
“Right now, there is no AF approved training available for any level of CPI at AEDC,” Briggs said. “As the program advances, we will identify folks for training and send them TDY [temporary duty]. Part of their responsibilities will be to bring the training to AEDC and start CPI awareness classes.”
Training for LSS begins with “Lean Management” for business owners and executives who design the future of the company. The next levels, “Yellow Belt” and “Green Belt,” extend to key employees then progresses to leadership under training categorized as “Black Belt” and “Master Black Belt.”
TOS contractor individuals, operating under the LSS program, can also anticipate having access to training.
“In the future we can expect there to be some level of LSS training for employees,” Szendre said. “Whether that be some level of computer or classroom based training providing the basics of process definition and measurement, we will train people to be able to identify value added and non-value added steps within processes and how to build efficiencies around the process while taking into consideration upstream and downstream requirements.”
Briggs, who is working to complete his CPI Black Belt certification, expressed that team members at AEDC have a background geared for CPI and LSS.
“Many of the concepts of LSS and CPI are already incredibly well engrained in the AEDC workforce,” he said. “Engineers and technical communities generally do very well with these methods. Some of the basic tools include root cause analysis and problem breakdown. AEDC does these better at all levels than any other organization I’ve seen.
“Good CPI organizations also experience a culture shift with more engagement and empowerment at lower levels, resulting in increased job satisfaction from the workforce. From the worker’s perspective, change stops being forced from top-down, but instead becomes bottom-up. It is very rewarding and powerful to be part of an organization that truly understands CPI.”