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NEWS | May 1, 2008

Lean Week comes to Randolph

By Airman 1st Class Katie Hickerson Wingspread editor

Gone is the Air Force before super computers and modern technology. Gone are the, "We used to do it this way," and "When I was an Airman..." mindsets. Even gone, is the Air Force of fifteen years ago. 

Today's Air Force is a highly streamlined, technology-driven entity that is tasked more and more everyday to accomplish more with fewer resources. Randolph Air Force Base is no different. The base will host a benchmark event, the first of its kind in Air Education and Training Command, named "Lean Week," to focus on areas of inefficiency May 19-23. 

"This is the time to take a critical look at how we use our resources," said Col. Jacqueline Van Ovost, 12th Flying Training Wing commander. "We will identify ways to eliminate wastes of energy, time and money and determine how we can streamline our operations." 

In a March 2006 Letter to Airmen, Michael W. Wynne, Secretary of the Air Force, called the Air Force Smart Operations 21 initiative, "A dedicated effort to maximize value and minimize waste in operations." 

AFSO 21 doesn't just ask why things are done a certain way, but holds all echelons of leadership accountable to the tougher question: is this task necessary at all? 

"AFSO 21 represents a shift in our thinking," James Grobe, 12th Logistics Readiness Division deputy director and 12th FTW certified facilitator, said. "Our goal is to get the entire wing involved at one time." 

Each of Randolph's units, the 12th Operations Group, Mission Support Group, Medical Group and Maintenance Directorate have scheduled specific projects during Lean Week in which to evaluate their daily operating schedules. Each organization will be assigned a facilitator, like Mr. Grobe, who will earmark various areas for review and elimination. 

"This is the first time any base, wing or organization has conducted an event of this nature," Mr. Grobe said. "Headquarters AETC has taken notice of Randolph's leadership engaged in this initiative and has decided to observe this effort to benchmark it for other organizations to follow suit." 

Mr. Grobe described the "Lean" concept as, a standardized method and mindset for reducing waste in all of the processes Randolph uses to execute its mission. 

"Our main goal is to identify areas of waste, eliminate it from our current operations and adapt to the new change, in effect, trimming the fat to save time money and resources." 

According to the program, waste is incurred with any non-value added activity. 

"Understanding this concept is easy," Mr. Grobe said. "Simply ask yourself, if this step went away, would the customer know or even care. If the answer is no, then it is non-value added and should be eliminated." 

The bottom line is, there's a lot of redundant work happening and it leads to a loss in productivity, Mr. Grobe said. 

"This week is important for everyone in every echelon, especially down to the lowest levels where the work is getting done, to get involved in the project," he said. "It really is a whole team effort."