Education with Industry (EWI) Fellows from Amazon, Delta, FedEx, United, and UPS highlight research to senior Air Force leaders in Seattle, WA
by Major Garrett Hernandez, Amazon EWI Logistics Fellow
Attendees of the 1st ever Logistics EWI Summit stand in front of the Amazon Spheres in Seattle, WA.(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj Garrett Hernandez)
In June the Air Force Institute of Technology hosted the first-ever EWI Logistics Summit at Amazon Headquarters in Seattle, Washington. During the event, aircraft maintenance and logistics readiness officers highlighted their annual research of industry best practices to senior logistics leaders from the Air Staff, Major Command, Wing-level, and joint organizations.
This year’s full EWI class totaled over 60 officer, enlisted, and civilian fellows assigned to 39 companies ranging from traditional defense contractors like Boeing and Raytheon to non-traditional partners like Coke and SpaceX. Of the greater class, seven Fellows comprised the logistics cohort and spent their time at companies that are literally rewriting the playbook for how to effectively manage aircraft fleets and optimize operations for complex, global supply chains. Up from only two fellows just two years ago, this year’s larger group of 21A (aircraft maintenance) and 21R (logistics readiness) officers graduate their 10-month experiential research tour just in time to find an Air Force looking to employ industry best practices. Brigadier General Linda Hurry, the commander of Defense Logistics Agency Aviation and the next Air Force Director of Logistics, presided over the summit and informed the group that the logistics enterprise will certainly look to utilize their recent experience.
“The Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Staff have approved a new Sustainment Strategic Framework. Our charge is to transform our enterprise and modernize our operating procedures to increase readiness and drive down costs. Your insights into industry best practices are going to play a pivotal role in meeting that charge,” shared Hurry. She went on to describe how the Air Staff Logistics Directorate will be leading four major lines of effort related to mission generation, materiel support, repair network integration, and data analytics. General Hurry closed her keynote address by sharing her intent to draft the graduating EWIs to support this work.
Summit attendees discussing the story behind Delta’s decade-long transformation to eliminate 99% of maintenance-caused cancellations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj Garrett Hernandez)
Over the course of the day, each of the EWIs took the stage to share the most impactful aspects of the time at their respective companies. Each framed their research from the perspective of improving the Air Force logistics and maintenance enterprise. At the conclusion of each brief, the entire room engaged in open discussion and the EWIs were challenged with questions regarding how their company’s culture and practices could be operationalized in the Air Force. Each Logistics EWI research focus is outlined below.
|Maj Garrett Hernandez||Amazon||AI-enabled automation/robotics & agile company culture (focus on customer, small teams, and flat org)|
|Capt Frank Larkins||Delta TechOps||Aligning People, Process, and Resources to make “The Delta Difference”|
|Capt Kelsey Smith||Delta TechOps||How Delta used Theory of Constraints and culture changes to eliminate 99% of maintenance cancels|
|Capt Sarah Smith||Delta TechOps||How Delta aligned its supply chain to cut cancels and delays while also reducing $500 million in inventory|
|Capt Tiki Crampton||FedEx||Building a Foundation of Asset Accountability using RFID, Bluetooth, and blockchain technologies|
|Capt Jesse Johnson||United||The Case for Centralized Fleet Scheduling to Maximize Aircraft Utilization and Meet Operational Demands|
|Capt Bryan Ingram||UPS||Leveraging Commercial Partner Airlift by Optimizing Use of Lower Deck Positions and Smarter Contracting|
One of the greatest benefits of the EWI program is the win-win scenario it offers career field managers and development teams. “If we are going to pull a young officer off the flight line and away from leading Airmen in the field, we need to see a return on investment. The EWI program is a home run in the sense that our officers earn cutting-edge industry experience that we can leverage in deliberate staff outplacement to affect enterprise policy in the short term, while we continue to build squadron commanders in the long term” shares Lieutenant Colonel Eric Quidley, Chief of Logistics Readiness Officer Force Development. Quidley continues, “The latest National Defense Strategy reminds us that the pace of technological change is accelerating… so it is imperative that our Airmen have leaders that understand how the world is changing outside of the Air Force. EWI helps us develop these leaders.”
It is worth mentioning the EWI program does not just afford each fellow the opportunity to learn at their specific company. It also promotes learning about other companies through “crossflow” experiences where fellows host their classmates for in-depth tours. This year’s logistics class all had the chance to visit each other’s company (with the exception of United), allowing the group to compare and contrast how these world-class organizations stay ahead of their competition and increase value for customers and shareholders. In this light, the EWI Summit also served as an abbreviated and final crossflow for this group and afforded them the opportunity to experience some of the latest Amazon headliners like the cashierless “Go” store where customers can “Just Walk Out” when they are done shopping or the eco-friendly bio-dome-like “Spheres.”
Summit attendees after cashierless shopping at the “Just Walk Out” Amazon Go store. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj Garrett Hernandez)
Summit attendees also had the chance to speak with non-logistics Airmen completing fellowships at Amazon as well as military veteran Amazonians. This helped with learning more about the company’s impressive transformation from a humble garage start-up that brought hand-packed boxes of books to the post office each day to its current status as an e-commerce juggernaut with hundreds of thousands of autonomous robots in the air, on sidewalks, and in its massive fulfillment centers moving packages to millions of customers across the globe. Few were aware that Amazon – like the airlines and Air Force – uses predictive maintenance technology to keep its fulfillment centers running. Beyond the tech, key in these exchanges was hearing the Amazonians repeatedly emphasize a pioneering, agile, and “customer obsessed” company culture as the enabling and differentiating factor for producing disruptive technologies.
At the end of the day, there can be no doubt of the EWI program’s value as a bridge for building partnerships with the full might of the American industrial base as called for by the National Defense and Air Force Science and Technology strategies. With those in mind, career field managers have increased their demand for EWI billets to find and apply relevant industry best practices. In the logistics arena alone, next year’s class will also send fellows to Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Overall, the next class will comprise over 70 fellows at dozens of companies and universities – almost double the size of last year’s class. This increased investment in Airmen is sure to be at the core of how the Air Force will remain ahead of its adversaries in air, space, and cyberspace.