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NEWS | March 27, 2013

Dr. Kirby visits JB Charleston

By Capt. Michael Busse 437th Operations Support Squadron

Colonel Darren Hartford, 437th Airlift Wing commander, recently hosted a two-day Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century Senior Leader class for all group and squadron leadership. The class, led by Dr. Ken Kirby, included a number of efficiency-based topics including: the 8-step problem solving method, strategic alignment and feployment, and a lean case study of the Boeing 787 production line.

Kirby, a professor from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, has been at the forefront of training senior Air Force and business leaders. He has 52 years of experience redesigning manufacturing systems and business processes in a variety of industries across the globe. To date, he has consulted with 35 companies in effort to streamline their company's processes. Results include enhanced products, safer work conditions, increased customer satisfaction and improved profit.

These principles are not new to the Air Force. Since 2006, the Air Force has been using the Lean concepts of AFSO21 in an attempt to curb the tide of rising operating costs. However, with the recent reductions to the Air Force's top-line budget and the likelihood of future budget reductions, executing these sound concepts only become more important.

"This isn't just about saving money anymore, it's now also about maintaining our capability while potentially losing manpower," said Lt. Col. Matt Leard, 437th Operations Support Squadron commander. "AFSO21 isn't just about making our processes more efficient. It is also about ensuring our processes align with leadership's strategic direction."

Lt. Col. Joe Meyer, 14th Airlift Squadron commander, emphasized that "Strategic Alignment should focus on a few priorities that can be translated from a top-level mission and vision, to tactical-level tasks done by our Airmen on a daily basis. It is important for leadership at all levels to be able to communicate that mission and vision to task thread clearly to our Airman."

Participants were able to see many of these practices being executed during a tour of Boeing's 787 production facility in North Charleston, S.C. Lt. Col. Stew Newton, 16th Airlift Squadron commander, said, "You could really tell Boeing is focused on eliminating waste throughout their production process. The LEAN process is about conserving resources and manpower, and Boeing makes sure their employees are versed in LEAN principles while focused on their primary mission - producing aircraft."

With the conclusion of the two-day course, JB Charleston leaders had cultivated their process knowledge and were further encouraged to champion these concepts. As we implement these ideologies as an enterprise, command leadership will prove vital to affecting progress across all ranks and duties.