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NEWS | July 7, 2006

APS uses lean initiative to slim down processes

By Senior Airman Alice Moore 437 AW Public Affairs

In keeping with Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, the 437th Aerial Port Squadron was tasked by Air Mobility Command to put together a team to recommend lean initiatives to improve productivity. 

The initiatives were developed by a team of civilians and military members who cam up with ways to make daily operations at the port more efficient. 

“Lean initiative basically means eliminating waste,” said Tech. Sgt. Tharin Thomas, 437 APS cargo noncommissioned officer for air freight. “We worked together to find better ways to get things done by taking wasted time, wasted effort and wasted movement out of the process.” 

This evaluation plan was originally initiated at Travis AFB, Calif. After further evaluation following the initial implementation, AMC officials decided it would be most productive to have the team comprised primarily of younger Airmen and noncommissioned officers more directly tied to daily operations, said 2nd Lt. Chris Jacobson, 437 APS ramp officer in charge. This would provide an opportunity for AMC to see the common problems Aerial Ports are experiencing, and determine how to best fix them at the staff level. 

“After the initial lean process conducted at Travis, AMC directed the next team to be comprised of young Airmen and NCOs in order to include people who were going to have to implement and follow the new practices,” Lieutenant Jacobson said. 

“It was awesome we were chosen to be a part of the team,” said Airman 1st Class Aldea Hersel, 437 APS cargo processor. “It was a good opportunity to give other members of the team a better picture of what we do. We were able to share the little things that are a part of daily operations because we do it every day.” 

After assessing, the lean team came up with several ideas to increase the port’s productivity and to diminish the amount of time required to get supplies to the warfighter. The team concluded more effective operations included scheduling all truck deliveries so teams would offload trucks and immediately check cargo into destination bays. 

“Ideally cargo will be placed directly onto a pallet so that the cargo never actually touches the warehouse floor,” Lieutenant Jacobson said. “By having a team work together for this entire process, it will drastically reduce the chances of human error and the time that cargo is stored in the warehouse. Once our changes are implemented we are confident we will reduce our cargo wait time from 600 minutes to 150 minutes or less.” 

A second team would then build pallets at the same time, while referencing a large flat screen that will tell them which pallets to build depending on scheduled missions, Lieutenant Jacobson said. 

In addition to how cargo is processed, other lean ideas included keeping small packages on destination carts until they are pulled for a mission and having mobile carts with internet and telephone access to help personnel perform all tasks on the warehouse floor, Lieutenant Jacobson said.