War on Terrorism

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Airmen adapt aerial port procedures to be more effective, efficient

by Senior Airman Scott Saldukas
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

3/5/2013 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- The 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron members recently re-evaluated their processes and procedures and decided it was time to fine tune the way they operate and move cargo here.

Maj. Philip Shields, the former 451st ELRS Aerial Port Flight commander and Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Spain, the 451st ELRS APF superintendent, developed a simple and direct mission statement that the aerial port flight immediately embodied -- "We move cargo, no matter if it walks, rolls or is palletized."

"In November, we began to focus our efforts on processes that directly impact this mission," Spain said. "Activities that did not directly impact the efficient movement of cargo were deprioritized and replaced with value-added activities. If it doesn't fit into our definition of cargo movement, then it is waste, and we must get rid of it."

He explained that one of the inefficient processes they were encountering was the locations of the cargo ramps and yards.

The airfield they were dealing with consisted of six cargo loading ramps and five separate cargo storage yards, all of which are separated over a 4-mile area.

"This was a big deal for the material-handling equipment," Spain said. "MHE was made to drive under a mile from the cargo yard to the aircraft. The long distances in the extreme temperatures cause the loaders to overheat, in turn, causing additional maintenance."

Spain expressed how he believes in the common-sense approach and that they needed to work as efficiently as possible.

One example was building a working relationship with planers in the flying squadrons and the base operations center to allow the aircraft to park on the ramp closest to the cargo yard.

"We consolidated everything into two yards to minimize transportation waste," Spain said. "We also needed to be proactive and help base operations park the aircraft closer."

Consolidating everything into two yards was designed to minimize travel and waste, but also acts as a gauge for when more aircraft will be needed to transport cargo.

"We implemented the pull versus push method," Spain said. "The airlift system traditionally operates on a push system of cargo movement. The user pushes the cargo to the aerial port. The port's backlog increases and one of two signals eventually triggers a response of airlift to move the cargo."

He said using that method led to longer port hold times and port capacity constantly fluctuated. The pull system, however, continuously pulls cargo into the port to maintain a more constant and steady demand for airlift, leveling the workload on both personnel and MHE and effectively utilizing airlift, he added.

"The yard will now stay at approximately 80 percent capacity," Spain said. "Not only has this allowed us to optimize each sortie to the fullest extent possible, it has cut down on aircraft delays and has reduced safety incidents. Now, we know well in advance what will be going on the aircraft and we aren't scrambling to rush with less manning."

Other process improvements include daily cargo meetings, daily port throughout discussions and increasing cargo forecast interaction with customer agencies.

"Aside from hard work and a good attitude, getting out there and building relationships with the customers has been the biggest reason for our success," Spain said. "We had to get out there and educate them on what we do."

"This emulates the precision loading concept," Spain said. "We took the concept that Dover uses and tweaked it to fit the mission in the AOR. In a nutshell, our logisticians created an electronic blackboard tool that connects cargo providers, planners and aerial port managers to optimize cargo pallet and aircraft configuration and the generation of additional airlift at a consistent rate."

Previously, the Army Movement Control Team would process customer's cargo not knowing what kind of airlift would be used, or if the next mission was ten days away. Now, the customers, MCT and aerial port use the electronic blackboard in order to move the cargo from the customer to aircraft in less than five days. This common-sense approach allowed logistic managers to "see" the cargo and match up the ground cargo with available airlift.

Using the new methods, Kandahar Airfield APF increased their outbound rolling cargo items from November to December by 314 percent. The old process allowed them to move 65 pieces of rolling stock; the next month, using the new method, they were able to move 269 pieces.

"I believe we're currently running at optimum conditions because we are aligning the cargo with the airflow, which allows us to maximize output for all aircrafts departing KAF," said Master Sgt. Andre Bellamy, the 451st ELRS Special Handling NCO in charge. "Within one month, and with the help of everyone here coming together to learn and get educated on what we do, we changed the entire culture of how we move cargo."

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