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Speed, safety and quality are how AFSC 'does business'

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla -- The Air Force of tomorrow is a smaller force, but needs to be just as lethal, agile and ready to engage in a full range of contingencies and threats.

The Air Force Sustainment Center plans to meet these new Air Force needs by focusing on speed, quality and safety as the business model for success.

"The products we deliver today could be in harm's way tomorrow protecting our men and women overseas," said Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, Air Force Sustainment Center commander. "So it's paramount that what we produce is of the highest quality possible and that we get it to them quickly and without sacrificing anyone's safety."

Since the standup of AFSC this summer, senior leaders within the organization are on the path to increasing success for our employees and our customers. Part of that improvement is focusing attention on the tenants of speed, quality and safety, and according to the commander, the organization has to balance these three tenants in order to be successful.

Speed is one of the main catalysts for driving process improvement and achieving "art of the possible."

For external customers, they want to know when they'll have their aircraft returned to the field, and fighter wings want to know when they'll have engines delivered. For internal customers, mechanics want to know when they'll have parts delivered or when a piece of equipment will be repaired.

"For us, speed involves meeting the demands of schedule," said Gary Krebsbach, 76th Maintenance Support Group director. "We have an expected schedule to meet and in a lot of situations, it's not just about flow days. Speed equates to decreased cost."

For a large part of the organization, if a product or aircraft can be accomplished faster, it means a cost savings in work hours, resources, tools and possibly parts. So, getting it done faster can help us meet our cost-cutting goals, he explained.

"But, speed is not about cutting corners or simply working harder and faster," General Litchfield said. "It's about our ability to quickly identify, elevate and eliminate constraints on the critical path."

That's where management is expected to step in.

"We want employees doing their jobs and allowing management to knock-down barriers for them," Mr. Krebsbach said. "It's about building an environment where people feel comfortable telling the boss about their challenges and letting the supervisors work those issues at their level."

Speed will increase as barriers are reduced and employees are allowed to do their jobs.

But, constraint elimination and process speed isn't of any value to the organization if it comes at the expense of the health and safety of AFSC's employees.

"It is our first priority as managers to keep our employees safe and ensure there aren't any injuries," Mr. Krebsbach said.

The commander has echoed those comments regularly that he wants all AFSC employees to return home after work with the "same number of fingers and toes and limbs as they started work with."

AFSC deploys programs like the Wingman and Voluntary Protection Programs to address employee's physical and emotional safety. The Wingman program asks AFSC employees to reach out to each other in times of need, to ensure people are healthy and happy, and VPP engages the workforce in keeping their areas physically safe.

"Safety is about taking care of our people and ensuring their work environment and processes keep them safe at all times," General Litchfield said. "Keeping the most valued members of our team safe is critical to the success of our organization."

After our people are safe and we meet our deadlines, it comes down to quality, and most will agree with the commander that "quality is our credibility."

"Defects in our products have the potential for disastrous effects on our warfighter," the general said.

Last year, AFSC conducted programmed depot maintenance on 991 aircraft and 383 engines. The organization produced 223,160 commodity exchangables, delivered 417 software products and saw almost three million items flow through the supply chain.
"At a bare minimum, our warfighter expects every single piece that we touch to be of the highest quality possible, and I expect leaders to reinforce the mandate for quality and take the necessary steps to ensure it is guaranteed," the general said.

AFSC has the tools to identify problems and correct them before the product ever reaches the customer, while working to prevent those quality defects in the future.
"We know what our customers expect on quality and our management shouldn't be shy about taking immediate action to address quality issues," Mr. Krebsbach said.

So, while AFSC adjusts to budget and manpower changes, the organization plans to not only survive in this uncertain environment, but thrive, according to the commander.
"We're looking to sustain the Air Force of tomorrow and we know how to do that - it's by focusing on speed, safety and quality," he said. "Our business is to sustain our ability to defend our Nation, as well as fight and win the next war, and this is how we do it."