Green Belt class aims to bring innovation to the workplace

Maj. Melissa Ova poses for a group photo with her first Green Belt class at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., February 1, 2018. Ova is Grissom's certified Green Belt instructor and seeks to improve workplace efficiency through innovating work processes. (Senior Airman Jeffrey Withrow/U.S. Air Force)

Grissom is making innovative strides in process improvement with the introduction of Green Belt training.

The 434th Air Refueling Wing held its first Green Belt class recently. The five-day course, taught by Maj. Melissa Ova, 434th ARW process manager, centers around teaching multiple ways to approach improving and streamlining the way people live and work.

“Process improvement can be applied to almost any activity,” said Ova. “In today’s situation of having to do more with less, process improvement is more important than ever before and Green Belt training is building Grissom’s foundation for improvement.”

Borrowed from East Asian martial arts, the green belt refers to entry-level practitioners of process improvement, she said. They are taught by experienced black belts who are certified to teach process improvement.

“Until recently, Grissom didn’t have a certified instructor,” said Ova. “Now that we do, classes can be held right here on base.”

The goal of process improvement training is to make Grissom more efficient and effective, but anyone can also apply these principles to improving their lives outside of work, said Ova.

“The philosophy behind process improvement is squeezing the most value possible out of your time and effort,” she said. “A teaching tool we use a lot is talking about ways to organize your home to optimize your daily routine.

“This actually gets a lot of people really excited to go home and try it right away,” Ova added.

The class covers multiple approaches to process improvement, including the widely-used “Six Sigma” methodology employed by many major companies.

“We also explore lean business processes and the theory of constraints,” said Ova. “We usually spend the first two days learning these theories and then we start going over the tools to implement them.”

One attendee of Grissom’s first Green Belt class was Juanita Withrow, 434th ARW drug demand reduction specialist.

“I saw the class being advertised and it caught my interest because I’m always looking for ways to better manage our drug testing program,” said Withrow. “I went to my commander to propose that I attend the class, and he told me he absolutely wanted me in there.”

Withrow expressed a number of ideas the class had given her for making her program more efficient, as well as ways she had already applied the theories.

“An area that’s really easy to improve but often gets overlooked is how much people are walking during their jobs,” she said. “One study showed that a maintenance crew was walking a combined 30 miles a day to get the different tools they needed. Simply rearranging the shop cut that down to 10 miles a day.

“All that walking may be good for your waistline, but it reduces efficiency,” Withrow added.

Col. Larry Shaw, 434th ARW commander, voiced his approval of the training program and encouraged more Grissom personnel to become involved in future classes.

“The Green Belt program is exciting,” Shaw said. “We have such a diverse group of Airmen at Grissom and they all bring different experience levels and ideas to the table, so when we can take advantage of that experience to operate at peak levels I get excited. Let’s do this! I get excited about it!”

Upcoming class dates and enrollment information will be sent out via email. For additional information, contact Ova at 688-2290.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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