Hanscom’s CPI program initiates its own process improvements

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. - The Air Force Continuous Process Improvement program here at Hanscom – which facilitates workplace efficiency across the base – has itself undergone a number of recent changes for the better, allowing additional opportunities for CPI projects, training and awareness.

Throughout the Air Force, CPI practitioners employ common business tools and methods to uncover and reduce waste, cut costs, streamline processes and improve customer service.

Local initiatives tackle process obstacles that arise in the 66th Air Base Group and acquisition directorates. And while practitioners have always assisted commanders and directors get from the current state to the future visions, for the first time CPI is explicitly linked to the group’s strategic plan.

“As a member of the 66th Air Base Group Strategic Process Improvement Review council, we’re now tying in the CPI efforts that are enabling the Strategic Plan to get implemented,” said Sam Doucette, 66 ABG CPI program manager and Hanscom’s only certified CPI Black Belt.

The council allows for increased visibility and backing of the CPI program, which in turn puts the spotlight on its accountability, follow-through and metrics – all high priorities of leadership Air Force-wide. Those results are now more readily accessible, thanks to new-and-improved CPI SharePoint sites here, at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and Air Force level.

The redesigned sites serve as comprehensive resources for practitioners, with details on past and present CPI projects, as well as tools, templates, training and education links. Hanscom’s site also includes a list of all CPI events in the last five years at their various stages of implementation. So it’s easier to cross-reference other projects for problem-solving ideas, and it’s clear whether events met their target and what other measurable improvements were made, according to Doucette.

“The site improves our methods of reporting that CPI is delivering positive results, and that holds me and the other facilitators accountable,” he said. “The metrics show traction in the program – that we’re not just building good outbriefs, we’re fully implementing CPI projects and measuring results as part of a comprehensive follow-through plan.”

Air Force CPI statistics show that Air Force Materiel Command has nearly 70 CPI projects ongoing; the most in the Air Force. Doucette sees that as a positive.

“Anytime you surface problems and share the results of solving them with the greater Air Force, that’s a good thing,” he said.

One such success story at the installation level stems from an eleven-month CPI event for the 66th Logistics Readiness Squadron’s Central Shipping and Receiving section. When the project wrapped up last fall, the base saw a significant consolidation of shipping points, the creation of one central-receiving location and improved mailing, pickup, delivery and courier-service options for customers. Cost savings also resulted. According to LRS officials, the centralized shipping of packages ensures units on base receive lower shipping costs through a Defense Department pre-negotiated rate.

An acquisition event assisted a team of contracting and small-business professionals to properly align the metrics they report up to higher headquarters. Upon implementation this past spring, the project saved approximately $3,000 monthly in wasted time and effort, and shortened the overall acquisition timeline per contracting action by about 1 percent, according to the CPI report.

Current Hanscom CPI efforts are focusing on a wide range of operational improvements, including the onboarding experience for incoming personnel, the Air Force Form 3821 (used to input or update civilian employees’ accounting data), Civil Engineering work orders and vehicle-search procedures. A strategic-planning offsite is also planned for the Aerospace Management Systems Division this month.

The variety of projects demonstrates that CPI can be employed across mission areas and functions to solve issues of every size and scope, Doucette said. He tells commanders and directors, “We can help you improve your unit; not just comply. And when done successfully, it should give you more of your own time back to focus on what matters. In the end you’ll have improved operations and happier people.”

Meeting the high volume of training, mentorship and facilitation had been a challenge in the last few years, Doucette admitted, but the demand is now more manageable with a larger number of trained practitioners on base – a big change for the program.

Through the Manpower career program, four of the six consultants in the 66th Force Support Squadron Manpower section recently attended Black Belt training. The acquired advanced skills certified them to teach the Green Belt course and mentor its candidates, opening up more opportunity for those interested in the program, Doucette said.

The Manpower staff encourages all personnel to discover the tools and philosophy of Continuous Process Improvement, whether it’s participating as a team member in a CPI event or pursuing Green Belt certification. Team members receive training when they participate in a project, learning the framework for the application of CPI. But for those interested in more in-depth instruction, the first step is a four-day Green Belt academics course where attendees are taught how to be facilitators using theory and practical applications.

But just being exposed to CPI problem-solving methodologies can make a positive professional – and perhaps even personal – impact, according to Doucette.

“You can bring these skills back to your workplace and use them to make things better in your corner of the Air Force,” he said. “Not only could you improve your own work environment, but it could have even more far-reaching benefits.”

For more information about Hanscom’s CPI program, contact Doucette at 781-225-1707 or samuel.doucette@us.af.mil.