Process to the finals
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Two 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen practice the Window Change Continuous Process using new techniques developed by the 509th Maintenance Group's B-2 Window Change Continuous Process Improvement Team. The team was recently selected as a finalist for the 2012 Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Cody H. Ramirez)
509th MXG competing for 2012 CSTEA

by Candy Knight
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

8/16/2012 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The 509th Maintenance Group's B-2 Window Change Continuous Process Improvement Team was recently selected as finalist for the 2012 Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award.

The award recognizes outstanding team performance and shares best practices within the Air Force. It promotes a systematic approach for enhancing mission capability, improving operational performance, and achieving sustained results while maximizing efficiency.

"This is phenomenal," said Michael 'Bo' Baumeister, 509th MXG Air Force Engineering and Technical Services technician. "Truly phenomenal."

To be eligible for the award, teams must have completed a performance improvement within the last two years. Since September 2010, this Total Force Integration team worked to streamline and enhance the window-change process, reducing the time from 40 days down to 27 days, with the potential of greater savings.

"When the B-2 is down, it is not viable for the mission," Bo said. "The whole purpose of this B-2 Window Change Continuous Process Improvement Team was to minimize downtime and put the aircraft back in to fight."

The 16-person team accomplished this by using AFSO21 and LEAN principles, eliminating workforce expenditures through quality control optimization and eradicating redundant tasks. The team even acquired a full-scale mock-up of the B-2 window so they can get more on-the-job training.

"Before, we couldn't train on window changing unless we had a window to change, which meant that an aircraft wasn't mission ready or available to combatant commanders," said Senior Master Sgt. Gregory Bicknell, 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit's aircraft section superintendent. "The mock-up enables off-aircraft training scenarios, which in turn enables better real-world training results."

Bicknell added that having a 10-year AFETS guru in Bo training the team didn't hurt either.

Although grateful for the recognition, the team remains humbled by it, maintaining that they are "just doing their jobs."

"Personally, it is an honor and privilege, and I'm happy my team was recognized for their dedication and work ethic, but we're also pretty modest about it too," said Staff Sgt. Kennrik Nelson, team member from the 131st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "The fact that we get to brag to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force about our process, work ethic, and dedication is a pretty big deal, but at the end of the day, this is our job, and we'll keep doing it the best we can."

"This team built itself," Bicknell said. "In this job perfection is the only option. It makes me proud to work with individuals that stepped up and developed innovative ways of doing the job better. The attitudes displayed throughout the process showed that they are the right people for the job."

During an impromptu gathering to discuss the next day's schedule, Bo encouraged the team to be excited and happy about the recognition.

"You're being recognized by senior Air Force leaders," he told the team. "You took a process that wasn't up-to-par, used creativity to make it better, saved the Air Force money, and now the individuals coming up behind you are getting better training and are becoming more efficient at their jobs. That's what this is all about - making it better for those who follow us."