Applying Newton’s Laws of Motion to your self-inspection program

Col. Parker Plumb
86th Maintenance Group

***image1***Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion can not only apply to the physical elements of putting a force against one object to exert an equal force against the original object; but also to how a unit conducts a self-inspection program. 
Newton’s theory from 328 years ago states, ‘for every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action.’ This applies to most things with an action associated to it. A self-inspection program can be presented as a science.
Government organizations and most commercial industry self-inspect themselves by one method or another. They range from elaborate functional inspections guides to simple checklists. Basically, it’s done by evaluating against specific criteria – like an open book test – giving a grade, and fixing mistakes.
However, most organizations within government and industry have gone through cost-cutting measures to do more with less people. Then, add on a very high operational tempo where people routinely work extended hours to get the mission done and a self-inspection program has the tendency to slip behind.
Keeping Newton in mind, by putting little effort against the organization in the form of self-inspection, expect little in return and lack of compliance in certain areas will surely show.
About a year ago, the maintenance group was going down the path of getting the mission done, but there were cracks showing that prevented meeting standards. It was time to apply science and put extreme force into the self-inspection program to reap the benefits. To validate where we stood, a compliance, standardization and inspection office was created as part of quality assurance. 
To begin with, the office’s sole purpose was to conduct compliance self-inspection at the shop, flight, squadron, group and wing level to determine compliance. 
Something extreme had to be done because Ramstein maintainers had not underwent a higher-headquarters maintenance inspection in about four years – that inspection was rated Satisfactory. The difficult part was that work centers thought they were complying but couldn’t always produce documentation. 
The CSI office began tracking and briefing results weekly to group and squadron leadership, and deficiencies were immediately corrected. When the dust settled, CSI documented 551 discrepancies. The wing, group and squadrons applied a fix plan to go with manpower, funding, a new wing maintenance instruction, and even some facility re-alignment to tackle those areas needing attention. 
During this period, CSI developed cross tell to implement best practices across all work centers. 
Efforts paid off when the U.S. Air Forces in Europe logistics, standardization and evaluation team evaluated our effort in May and the equal and opposite reaction received a grade of Outstanding for compliance in the outbrief. The report stated, ‘This was by far the most prepared unit they had seen.’ The report went on to say, ‘Their self inspection program is a model’ within the command, meaning the right amount of force was applied against the task.
We received an overall grade of ‘Excellent’ for standardization in the report, which pleased the group as well. 
The grade from standardization was primarily based on the performance of individuals being assessed. Pleased by these efforts, we put CSI and the squadrons back into self-inspection mode to prepare for the external environmental compliance and assessment program inspection in June. 
Again, areas for improvement were identified by the squadrons and CSI, and fixes were put in-place. But, only 51 items needed minor work. Again, the effort applied produced the desired results. The ECAMP team found a mere five minor environmental-related documentation discrepancies in the maintenance group – less than I’ve seen anywhere in my 24-year career.
After success, don’t lull into a false sense of security because new personnel will arrive that must run the self-inspection checklist. In fact, some military members probably don’t know that group and squadron commanders must conduct a unit self-inspection within 45 days of the change of command. 
The attitude of being in compliance has translated to include looking for better results on how individuals perform in regards to meeting standards in daily work. We remain as busy as ever, but a large effort still must go toward a self-inspection program. Like Newton’s principle of motion, a self-inspection program will only give what is put into it.