Cleaning house saves precious time and money when both are short

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Gustavo Gonzalez
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs

In a time of budget cuts and sequestration affecting the way a squadron, wing, or branch of service does business, every piece of equipment must justify its worth; and time is of the essence.

For the 621st Contingency Response Wing here, they had too much of one, and they never have enough of the other. 

Thom Maxwell is the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century master process owner for the CRW. He was tasked with evaluating the organization of the wing's Global Reach Deployment Center for improved efficiency and cost savings. The GRDC is the mobility warehouse where the specialized air mobility response force repairs, prepares and stores its JBMDL-based equipment for worldwide alert. 

The CRW has a very unique mission. They specialize in training and rapidly deploying personnel around the globe within 12-hours to quickly open airfields and establish, expand, sustain, and coordinate air mobility operations ranging from wartime taskings to disaster relief. Its forces are split equally between JBMDL and Travis Air Force Base in Calif.. It is the only active-duty wing of its kind in the Air Force, and the JB MDL GRDC is a key to its continued success.

 "The building wasn't dirty, but it is full of everything we need, and years of deployments had created piles of equipment with little regard for how we would need to get to the serviceable stuff, inspect it and move it out the door quickly during a major mobilization," said Maxwell. "Some of the equipment was obsolete or waiting for turn in, and some of it made us all just scratch our heads and wonder, 'What is this and how did it get here?'"

When he was hired as the wing's civilian manpower specialist in 2010, he noticed some of the equipment stored was the same equipment he used when he was here in 1994 as a Senior Airman loadmaster.

"Seventeen years later, this same equipment was still sitting around and hadn't moved," Maxwell laughed. "I've always wanted to go down there and get into it."

The goal of AFSO21 is to significantly increase the Air Force's combat capabilities by using the expertise of process users to identify issues that others may never see or deal with on a day-to-day basis.  In this case, it involved asking the mobility masters of the CRW what they would fix if they could make their jobs more efficient, then giving them the power to make those changes.  

 "We had to be smart about this," said Maxwell. "The moment Air Mobility Command sends down a tasker, our bags are already packed, and we need to be ready to go from both coasts within that 12-hour deadline. If you spend eight of those hours looking for buried equipment, you've wasted them, when you could have spent that time at home with your family or doing other mission critical items. This process improvement event was worth the week we were spending on it because it had the potential to save us much more when we needed it most."

Maxwell set four goals for the week-long AFSO21 event.

"We had to find out what we had, and then get rid of what the CRW no longer needed," he said. Once we had that under control, we needed to closely examine our equipment storage, movement and handling processes to improve the efficiency of the GRDC and the parking areas outside where our vehicles and larger cargo are staged.  Finally, we had to put it all back together in a way that can be sustained during future operations." 

Maxwell's guide for this program is the Six S's: sort, straighten, shine, sustain, standardize and safety.

"These lean tools are used as part of visual management in the workplace," he said. "This means that everything has a place. This way you can tell immediately if something is broken or missing, or needs replenishing."

Over the span of a week, the equipment in the GRDC was completely cleaned out by a team of 10 volunteer Airmen. The equipment still usable to the CRW was reorganized back into large cages, but this time it was assigned a specific location and labeled to make it easier to locate.

"If I had five items and you can see one is missing, you know that item is deployed," he said. "That is the process of visual management."

According to Maxwell, if the units don't follow-up, then all work done will have had been for nothing.

"The key to success is follow-up and continuously staying with it," he said. "You have to keep going back every week, every month, to go through the equipment and see if it is still organized. This program will be considered a success when all of the unneeded equipment is reutilized to other units or turned into Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office or supply so that we don't have clutter in our warehouse."

Maxwell claims 743 items valued at $393,000 were recovered in potential reutilization. They will be given to host base and tenant units, or disposed of by DRMO.

"All left-over items will be loaded onto Sharepoint and MilBook for units to come and get," Maxwell said, referring to JBMDL host and tenant units. "We have these things and they're already bought and paid for. We can't use them, but maybe your unit can. That's how we can save money helping all of our partners in this fiscal environment."