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Eglin's Lean Event Improves Contract Process

Put 10 strangers into a room together for a week and tell them to change the world -
that's what happened at Eglin's first Lean Rapid Improvement Event in March.

By Brian Kern / 96th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., May 2, 2006 – Put 10 strangers into a room together for a week and tell them to change the world - that's what happened at Eglin's first Lean Rapid Improvement Event in March.

In the world of civil engineering, SABER, or Simplified Acquisition Base Engineering Requirements, will never be the same after the team improved its contracting procedures.

Similar to iterations of prior successful efforts, the Lean program intends to create a new way of thinking, cultivate a spirit of "doing it right the first time" and improve overall effectiveness and efficiency.

"The Air Force is leaning heavily toward Lean as the method of choice. "Its concepts are easy to understand and relatively simple to apply after only a limited amount of training."

Gary Wollam, director

Lt. Col. Robert Menard, 96th Air Base Wing Contracting Squadron commander, championed the Eglin session and is encouraged that it doesn't take a Lean subject matter expert to implement prescribed changes and improvements.

"It's much more of a common sense approach," Menard said. "With about a day's worth of training, you can really see the potential benefits."

The Lean program was established under the umbrella of "Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century," or AFSO21, to make necessary continuous process improvements in Air Force operations and accountabilities.

"It doesn't have all of the statistical control of Total Quality Management," Menard said. "This is exciting because you can see immediate changes and improvements. The magic is in learning the basics and making it part of your process toward continual improvement."

Gary Wollam, Air Armament Center Strategic Planning director, said there are many methods for accomplishing continuous process improvements.

"The Air Force is leaning heavily toward Lean as the method of choice," Wollam said. "Its concepts are easy to understand and relatively simple to apply after only a limited amount of training. And Lean is best learned by doing Lean events such as the SABER RIE."

Menard said programs like this and related programs such as TQM are generally thought to be production based but can be geared toward non-production based work places: "If it can be applied in our setting where all we do is paperwork, it can be applied anywhere."

Maxine Reed, 96th Air Base Wing lead strategic planner, attended the SABER RIE last month and she had one word for the experience: "awesome!"

"What made it work so well was that everyone was passionate," Reed said. "This is something that really needs buy in from senior leadership, and we had that - we were empowered."

Reed said the RIE group followed a paper trail for 3.2 miles, searching for steps that could be deleted from the process. She said an average timeframe for a contract to be awarded after it hits the SABER was reduced from 95 days to 44 days.
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