Mortuary warehouse revamped with AFSO21 initiative

By Christin Michaud | Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Public Affairs | March 17, 2011

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del., — In an effort to consolidate two warehouse spaces and gain a more accurate accountability of inventory, a team conducted an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century 6S event March 7-11 at the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs.

The week-long project was designed to implement the principles of 6S: safety, sort, straighten, shine, and standardize, for overall improvement to the work environment.

"The goal was to gain control of an out of control warehouse; minimize stock levels; organize and arrange items to better meet the needs of the users; and, stop leasing the downtown warehouse," explained Candy Popper, project team lead.

With the help of Facilitator Senior Master Sgt. Chris Swinson, 436th Airlift Wing AFSO21 Office, Co-facilitators Richard Gates, 436th Security Forces Squadron, 1st Lt. Parawee Euavijitearoon, 436th Maintenance Group, Senior Airman Melanie Griffin, team members and volunteers relocated or redistributed more than 1,700 items worth more than $375,000.

It's a good feeling to come to work and not feel trapped and challenged daily with not having space to move anything," said Jim Quinn, team member and logistics chief for the warehouse.

Knowing leadership is supportive in helping improve the work environment and procedures for a better flow process, is something Mr. Quinn appreciates.

"I would like to thank the team and leadership for making this event a huge success," said Mr. Quinn.

He also thanked what he called 'AFMAO muscle,' the workers who made it possible. Limited manpower at first made it doubtful the project would be done on time.

"Things came together better than expected," said Mrs. Popper. "When we first began, I thought we'd bitten off too much for a week's project. But, once we had the sorting finished, it didn't seem so impossible."

In addition to a better assessment of inventory on hand, the team was able to relocate items closer to point of use, saving the stakeholder time when getting a product from the warehouse which will increase overall effectiveness of the mission.

To help maintain organization and eliminate clutter, the team implemented a visual management system. Organizing and identifying locations on shelves for specific products and labeling them makes it easier to assess stock levels and reorder when needed.

"I think the biggest take-away for me was how a few rolls of colored tape and some signs (visual management) can have such a large impact," explained Mrs. Popper. "It's amazing to watch people immediately recognize where something belongs or that something is missing."

A week of work on the 6S project resulted in recovering 839 square feet of physical floor space and more than 1 million cubic feet of inventory shelving storage space.

The mortuary is on now track to discontinue use of the downtown warehouse this summer which will provide a cost savings of approximately $100,000 annually.

The money saved on renting the off-site warehouse is one way the mortuary can reduce its footprint and help with the Department of Defense budget cuts. With anticipated cuts targeted at more than $100 billion, of which approximately $28 billion falls on the Air Force, every little bit helps.

"If every unit can look hard and find some efficiencies to cut costs and just do things smarter we can come up with that $28 billion in savings, said Col. Thomas C. Joyce, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations commander.

"This is one small step in that effort," he said.

That small step resulted in more than 40 cubic yards of unserviceable items and other trash properly disposed of, the elimination of seven safety hazards, an improved inventory assessment capability and substantial cost savings.

The project combined spring cleaning with a Lean initiative proven to eliminate waste and reduce downtime.