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Going beyond the why with CPI

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Tylir Meyer
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs

Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) is a vital element to ensuring the Air Force and Kadena Air Base continue to develop and KAB maintains its position as the Keystone of the Pacific.

CPI is the methodology of taking a process and breaking it down step by step to improve upon it.

Master Sgt. Maurice Monroe, 718th Manpower and Organization Flight superintendent and the wing process manager, had much to say on the importance of CPI and why Airmen should more actively participate in the program.

“You’ve been doing CPI your whole life,” he said. “You solve problems. The program is a way to give you the tools to make sustainable and standardized steps for anything you do in life.”

CPI is a process that all Airmen can participate in. Every Airman has a voice. To help facilitate the fostering of ideas, brainstorming and practice events are conducted in civilian clothes.

“When you have that rank in the room, people automatically say, ‘Hey, no matter what I come up with, sergeant will say this is not the way we’re gonna do it’,” Monroe said. “But, if we strip that rank away from everyone, just a person with ideas, we are not going to underutilize that person.”

There are many opportunities for Airmen to learn about CPI. There are foundational classes given during the First Term Airman Course, Airman Leadership School and the Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

Additionally, there are classes, such as the practical problem solving class, that occur once a quarter. These classes are broken into segments and conducted as a lunch and learn, focusing on specific aspects of tools.

The CPI team works to facilitate, train and give Airmen the tools to solve problems. The classes present an opportunity to dive deep into each of the problem solving steps or tools and how to use them.

One such tool are the Five S’s: sort, straighten, shine, standardize and sustain. It is a basic tool for improving workplace efficiency, adding value to a process or service and providing a safe and hygienic environment.

Other tools include the Five Whys, fishbone charts and root cause and effect charts. These types of tools help identify and explain processes and their reasonings.

“The five whys are especially great. If you’ve ever had any interactions when a kid asks you a question and you give them an answer, the first thing that they’re going to ask is why,” said Monroe. “Then you have to think about how the answer you gave wasn’t good enough so you have to dig deeper. Then you answer them again and they ask why. Eventually you get down to that root cause after the fifth time.”

There have been quite a few recent improvements to processes at Kadena through Airmen utilizing CPI tools.

One recent improvement was in the process of a newly PCS'd Public Affairs Airman obtaining authorization to take photos on the flightline. Previously, it was a 10-day process to add an Airman to the photo authorization letter. One Airman went to her leadership because she thought there could be a better way. Now, what took 10 days is now a one-day process.

Mail delivery was also improved. After implementation of the new process, the time it took for ninety percent of customers dropped from an average of 122 hours to 40. Changes to delivery times, hours of operation, facility layout and changing of inbound mail were all points that an Airman and the CPI team found to be improvable.

CPI does not just apply to service members. Recently, the Kaizen program has been established, translating CPI resources into Japanese for the master labor contractors (MLCs) who work on the installation. Nate Yonemiya, a CPI facilitator, has been leading this new program. Since January, over 165 MLCs have participated in the translated course.

“They have a lot of ideas but they don’t know how to speak up,” said Yonemiya. “They think the supervisors or higher management would be against them. It’s a cultural thing.”

Monroe stressed that everyone has a voice. Not just the Airmen, but guardians, sailors, soldiers, Marines and civilians are all part of Kadena. The opinions and ideas that anyone brings are important.

“We’re all a team,” said Monroe. “We are making sure they all have a voice. Our goal here is to educate, empower, and improve.”