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NEWS | Feb. 21, 2018

CPI course betters Team Charleston's leadership's process improvement skills

By Airman 1st Class Allison Payne Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Members of Joint Base Charleston’s leadership team attended a two-day Continuous Process Improvement course. Phil Chansler, assistant professor of operations management with Air Education and Training Command, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., taught the course Feb. 15 – 16, 2018, at JB Charleston, S.C. CPI is an integrated system of improvement focusing on products, services and processes.

The objective of the senior leaders’ course is to provide leaders with a better understanding of how to manage performance and strategically align CPI using tools such as Lean and Six Sigma. According to Chansler, Lean is a methodology for CPI which focuses on work flow, customer value and eliminating process waste. Six Sigma is a disciplined data-driven methodology for CPI which focuses on satisfying customer requirements while minimizing waste by reducing and controlling variation.

“CPI is really important to me,” said Chansler. “I get disturbed by the amount of waste in so many processes not just in the military, but civilian corporations as well. I’ve seen CPI used to reduce the level of waste and to provide an effective product and service to people at reduced costs. It’s such a great tool to free up resources to do other important things.”

The course included lessons on developing a process mentality, mission matters, internal control measures, shifting toward and developing a CPI mindset, leader standard work, problem solving and more.

“I took this course because I wanted more tools to help me improve processes in my unit,” said Lt. Col. Christine Smetana, 628th Medical Operations Squadron commander. “Our days are usually very fast-paced in my unit, so my goal was to find a way to develop processes to mesh with those busy days to allow for improvement. Being able to hear from different units and career fields made me realize we all have similar problems and if we work through them in a similar manner with CPI we can all achieve the results we want.”

Participants in the course toured Cummins Turbo Technologies, an organization that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines. According to Chansler, the goal of the tour was to expose the participants to an operation currently using uses CPI methods as part of their business.

“A lot of things we do in the CPI world differ from the way the Air Force operates,” said Chansler. “Switching to a CPI mindset requires a change of culture from commanders at all levels. This starts with leadership providing a consistent and persistent message to their peers and standing behind the methods of CPI.”

The CPI course is funded by the Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, Management (SAF/MG) and is offered multiple times throughout the year at various locations.

“CPI is important because if you aren’t working on process improvement, you’re going nowhere,” said Smetana. “You’re just following tradition while the world around you is changing. It’s important because, to have an effective Air Force, we need to keep pace with the world and with the civilian community. CPI is a huge step toward making this happen.”