Total force collaborates to learn CPI

  • Published
  • By Jerry Bynum
  • 624th Regional Support Group
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – U.S. Air Force process managers here took a total force approach to provide two continuous process improvement courses Nov. 6-9 to help U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard leaders.

The Continuous Improvement Senior Leaders Course is designed to help improve organizational effectiveness, efficiency and economy through Air Force CPI, which is a tailored model of CPI to fit Air Force culture.

“It was a team effort to bring the course together,” said April Schroeder, 624th Regional Support Group process manager here, and also a Reserve Citizen Airman with the 624th RSG. “We need to have leadership commitment and understanding of how CPI can help an organization meet its mission.”

The course is designed to help leaders understand CPI and how to incorporate it into their units. The goal of CPI is to develop a mindset and ability to identify and eliminate non-value-added work and provide access to experts who can help organizations change work to improve mission results.

CPI operates using five Lean principles. Part of this is recognizing what the customer actually wants or needs from the process, and what linked actions are needed to produce a final product.

“The benefits of CPI include increased productivity, improved response times, safe and reliable operations, increased critical asset availability rates and improved energy efficiency,” said Dr. Phillip Chansler, the course instructor and Management Operations associate professor for Ira C. Eaker Center for Professional Development at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

CPI professionals can help managers improve flow, which is to identify and eliminate waste and things that stop their processes; make the remaining value-creating steps “flow.” This means customers are able to “pull” value and process owners only provide or replace materials upon use or request. CPI is a continuous cycle to pursue perfection within an organization.

“We have operated in a resource-constrained environment for the last decade,” said Schroeder. “We have done more with less. It’s time to find ways to do less with less. The way we do that is through strategic alignment and data-driven decision making to identify processes and products that are non-value added as it relates to the mission.”

Accepting risk for prioritizing tasks is fundamentally a commander’s responsibly. Utilizing available tools, leaders can focus on finding ways to improve their organization. One way to foster a culture of innovation and challenging inefficiencies is through CPI.

“This course is showing us how CPI can help improve efficiency in how we operate,” said Col. Timothy Soderholm, Hawaii Air National Guard’s 201st Air Mobility Operations Squadron commander here. “We all have processes we can improve, we just have to make sure we can translate CPI into language that people can understand and be receptive to making it part of their everyday work.”

CPI focuses on four methodologies to help improve an organization. These methodologies include Lean, Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints and Business Process Reengineering. These methodologies utilize systematic approaches and strategies to identify waste, remove inefficiencies and change fundamental ways of doing business.

“This is an opportunity to empower Airmen at all levels to think about CPI and the way it can impact their immediate workload,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Bein, 15th Medical Group Dental Clinic chief of Dental Services here. “It provides an opportunity to start with the smaller tasks that can lead into larger enterprise-level process changes overall.”

During the course, participants had the opportunity to visit the Hawaiian Electric Company in Honolulu to get an outside perspective of how CPI can benefit an organization. In recent years, HECO needed to adjust its practices to accommodate change and the growth of clean energy. Bob Krekel, director of Enterprise Performance Excellence-Execution at HECO, and Kevin Saito, general manager for System Operations at HECO, provided emphasis on CPI as a critical part of day-to-day management.

The tour included an overview of operations, challenges, changing technologies and the way HECO is addressing change. HECO leadership recognized the need to incorporate CPI into their operation, which helps HECO invest in infrastructure to incorporate the next generation of clean, renewable energy systems. The process management staff highlighted successes of CPI in the HECO business model and how it can be incorporated in other organizations.

“It’s helpful to see how CPI can be put into action to improve an organization,” said Soderholm. “This course provided an overall concept of where to start and how to get CPI to be more institutionalized.”

For more information about Air Force CPI, contact your local unit process manager.