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AFOTEC employs Lean and Six Sigma to improve test process

Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. -- The commander of the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center recently instituted the use of Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century process improvement tools across AFOTEC to improve the operational test and evaluation planning processes at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Detachment commanders, headquarters directors, technical advisors, and test directors gathered from September 8-11 to reengineer how AFOTEC conducts early test planning and test design using Lean and Six Sigma techniques and procedures.

"The primary goal of our reengineering efforts is to eliminate waste in all of our processes and buy back time to allow our team to spend more time on substance and less time on form," said Maj. Gen. Steve Sargeant, AFOTEC Commander. "The AFSO21 event allowed our team to identify waste in our early test processes and eliminate it. For instance, the team identified more than 45 'touch points" where individuals had been routinely coordinating on our reports en route to me. They reduced the total number of our team involved in the coordination process to only 15, resulting in at least one to four hours of time saved on average for more than 30 individuals."

"The intent is to use a structured and repeatable process whereby the team looks end-to-end at their process from a system perspective and identifies waste and where the process is constrained from flowing smoothly, without interruption," said Ms. Maria Elena Stopher, a senior AFSO21 advisor from the Office of the Under Secretary of the Air Force's Management Office. "The team then designs a new future state process that meets the customers' needs without waste." 

According to General Sargeant, "Our AFSO21 events are designed to allow us to closely examine how we conduct our mission in order to define how we can improve. Our team is fully engaged in achieving the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff of the Air Force goal of acquisition excellence and is committed to moving beyond being good to becoming great."

"Success is measured by the ability to meet the goals and objectives articulated by General Sargeant during his kickoff of the event," explained Ms. Stopher. "Shorter lead time to produce reports while using fewer resources and improving the quality were the goals. General Sargeant challenged the team to redesign their processes so that the early test planning and design responsibility would smoothly transition to the detachments from the headquarters. Enhancing quality and reducing production time were the imperatives. The team will be testing the new process to see how well they achieve or exceed the goals."

"The time the team spent reengineering our processes was worthwhile and definitely brought the headquarters and detachment personnel closer together," said General Sargeant. "I feel very positive about where we are heading."

"The most important takeaway was the recognition that the team was spending more time checking and reviewing, rather than developing, designing, and building the reports needed by their customer," said Ms. Stopher. "Reducing the number of reviews and shrinking redundant checks helped to make it clearer about who was responsible and accountable."

"The event was very productive and we will continue to build on our success monthly employing the skills of our highly qualified expert to guide us through the AFSO21 process," said General Sargeant. "Our goal is to buy back time versus doing more with less. We are employing Lean and Six Sigma techniques to enhance the quality of our reports, while buying back time for our team, despite that fact that we'll only be 625 strong."

AFOTEC is a direct reporting unit reporting to the USAF Chief of Staff and is the Air Force's independent operational test agency responsible for testing and evaluating new major programs delivering warfighting capabilities to our Airmen, and often our Joint and Coalition Partners.