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Aircraft maintainers lead the way in reforming ART time and attendance process

  • Published
  • By Bo Joyner

When Chief Master Sgt. Byron Landon and Master Sgt. Keith Miner volunteered to be the time and attendance points of contact for the Air Force Reserve’s 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, a little more than three years ago, little did they know that they would soon be leading the command down a path to dramatically improve the way it conducts business.

“We had just failed a UEI (unit effectiveness inspection) in the area of ART (Air Reserve Technician) time and attendance, so the chief and I made it our goal that we just didn’t want to get to passing in this area, but we wanted to set the standard for the command,” Miner said.

ARTs work as both full-time civilian employees and as uniformed Reserve Component military members, performing the same job function whether in civilian or military status. The dual nature of their service can lead to potential problems when it comes to time and attendance.

“I think what’s unique about this is that Sergeant Miner and I are crew chiefs. We’re maintainers,” Landon said. “We live in a world of compliance and guidance. There is no gray area in maintenance. You do exactly what the book tells you to do at all times. And that’s the approach we took when we started looking at the ART time and attendance process.”

What they found originally was an antiquated, labor-intensive and expensive paper-based process with an outdated operating instruction. What’s more, when they started talking to time and attendance POCs at other Reserve wings around the country, they found that the process varied from location to location.

Landon and Miner knew there had to be a better way for ARTs to report and the command to keep up with their time and attendance. At the same time that the Barksdale maintainers were looking at improving the ART time and attendance process at their base, some people at AFRC headquarters at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, were looking at taking the time and attendance process from paper to a more automated process.

“For me, the big thing was that ART time and attendance audits had to be done boots-on-the-ground since everything was paper,” said Louanna Bledsoe, a human resources specialist in AFRC’s Directorate of Manpower, Personnel and Services, who is in charge of the ART time and attendance audit process. “I knew it would be a huge cost savings if we could get to a point where I could do the audits virtually from my desk.”

Bledsoe teamed up with Landon and Miner and they set out to automate and improve the ART time and attendance process.

“At the end of the day, Sergeant Miner and I aren’t computer people and we’re not A1 people, but it was painfully obvious to us that there had to be a better way of doing business. When it came to catching clerical errors, we were spending a dollar to save a penny. It didn’t make any good business sense.”

The trio reached out to other subject matter experts throughout the command as they worked to improve the process. Chief among these was Senior Master Sgt. Penny Ricketts from AFRC’s Directorate of Cyberspace and Technology, who helped with automating ART time and attendance.

“After we were successful at our wing level, we worked with Ms. Bledsoe and Senior Master Sgt. Rickets, and our goal was AFRC-wide change,” Miner said. “As soon as the AFRC manual is published, every timekeeper and supervisor should be in compliance. The big takeaway is that they no longer print and file copies of the records. Timekeepers and supervisors will no longer be required to sit in a room and audit paper copies. As an ART, this is a huge win.”

“We recently had a Continuous Process Improvement event where we brought in stakeholders from here and some of the wings,” Bledsoe said. “And at the beginning of our CPI event, we encountered a lot of resistance. People were reluctant to change since it has always been done this way. By the end, that resistance was gone and everybody agreed this was a better way and they got onboard.”

“The numbers out of the CPI event showed that we are projecting to reduce 395,000 man hours annually, a 69% improvement of time and attendance alone,” Miner said. “These hours can be refocused towards other programs and, more importantly, towards our Airmen. The new way forward is going to improve the work life for all members involved.”

In late November, the team presented its recommendation for an innovative automated ART time and attendance process to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Pennington, AFRC’s deputy commander, and he approved the recommendation, along with the publishing of an updated AFRC Manual 36-104.

Currently, the team is collaborating with the Air Force Audit Agency on an automation tool that should be up and running soon.

“In today’s world, if we’re not looking at trying to evaluate the previous ways of doing business and innovate them, then we are failing,” Landon said. “We now have tools and equipment that we didn’t have before that make it possible to improve on a lot of our processes. In this case, we were able to move an old way of doing business that affected bout 7,000 employees forward and we built a process that was standard across the command. All units can use this and as you move around the Air Force, it’s always going to be the same.”

Landon and Miner’s efforts prove that great ideas can come from anywhere and that all Reserve Citizen Airmen are capable of moving the ball forward in AFRC’s quest to reform the organization.