Master process officer explains Continuous Process Improvement

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Air Force Materiel Command has been focused on improving its processes since 2005 when the Air Force implemented the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century (AFSO21) Program.  The effort is more accurately titled AF Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) now, but the objective remains the same: to enable all Airmen to eliminate waste and maximize customer value through the application of several widely accepted process improvement methodologies, including lean, six sigma, theory of constraints, and business process reengineering.  Sandra Speake, HQ AFMC, has been working with CPI off and on since its inception, most recently as the command’s master process officer. She shares some insight about her role as the MPO, the AFMC CPI program and how it benefits Air Force missions.

What is your role as the AFMC CPI MPO?
I advise AFMC commanders, directors and functionals on CPI tools and methods for continuously improving mission effectiveness and efficiency.  As the MPO, it is my responsibility for the implementation and management of the AFMC CPI program, i.e., CPI guidance, training and certification, and communicating the importance of CPI in AFMC.

Who do you work with?
The PO’s office resides in HQ and supports the HQ directorates and the tenants located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. However, most of the process improvement work is done at the center and wing level. We have a center process manager (CPM) at each center, as well as a wing process manager (WPM) at each wing. CPMs/WPMs serve as subject matter experts for their organizations while accomplishing the day-to-day management and tracking of CPI education and certification while mentoring wing practitioners. CPMs/WPMs also advise center/wing commanders on project status and offers CPI training quarterly.

How can we use AF CPI techniques/ methods?
There are many tools available under the CPI umbrella to improve processes. A common lean approach is to map out your process. During the day-to-day grind, we often don’t think about how we do the work, we just do it. When is the last time you examined your process?  Once you can visually see your process as a series of steps, you can look at it for improvement opportunities. Is there anything in your process that is not value-added to the customer?  For example, do you need more than one approval on things you do? Why? Some would say that even one approval (or quality check) is too many.  Do you need to deliver hard copies for approval and sign-off? Why? Respectfully questioning whether your customer is willing to pay for every step in your process can lead you to improvements in your process.  The AF CPI techniques/methods are applicable to any process.

Why should we use AF CPI?
We should continually strive for improvement. I think that is what people do in their everyday lives – even away from work. Do you ever try to improve the time it takes you to get to work? How about improving your time from when you wake up to when you get to work? Maybe you could gain five more minutes of sleep. The point is trying to improve may come naturally, and we can apply similar thoughts on improvements of our own processes to the processes we participate in at work. The message is not complete optimization, although that would be good, but to continually improve.

How can you learn more about CPI?
For more information, I invite you to visit the AFMC CPI website at https://cs.eis.afmc.af.mil/sites/AFSO21/default.aspx.

In addition, feel free to reach out to me or one of AFMC’s CPMs:

■ AFMC/MPO: Sandra Speake, sandra.speake@us.af.mil (WPAFB, Ohio)
■ AFIMSC: Lt. Col. Ernest Mata, ernest.mata@us.af.mil (JBSA-Lackland, Texas)
■ AAFNWC: DeLaura Santos, delaura.santos@us.af.mil (Kirtland AFB, New Mexico)
■ AFLCMC: Travis Gerritsen, travis.gerritsen@us.af.mil (WPAFB, Ohio)
■ AFRL:Dr. JamesMcClelland, james.mcclelland@us.af.mil (WPAFB, Ohio)
■ AFSC: Lawrence M. Fisher, lawrence.fisher@us.af.mil (Tinker AFB, Oklahoma)
■ AFTC: James R. Briggs, james.briggs.5@us.af.mil (Edwards AFB, California)