Outgoing ALC commander highlights successes, challenges

When Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler took over as commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex in September 2014, he was “impressed” with an organization that had proved itself as one of the Air Force’s premier maintenance facilities.

In his estimation, the complex has lived up to its billing during his time here.

“We are an airpower factory, an organization that produces aircraft, commodities, software, nuclear support, and much more. We’re basically a production machine for the warfighter,” said Buhler. 

During the general’s tenure, the ALC has taken on challenges set by Air Force leadership and is changing the way the Air Force looks at depot business. It’s an experience that he says will serve him well in his new leadership role as the Director of Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection for Air Combat Command.

 “We’re getting to the point, because of our performance and cost effective readiness, that we’re going to be able to drive certain behaviors in the Air Force,” Buhler said. “Because of the AFSC Way, we’re improving things to the point where we’ll be able to positively change processes used by other commands.”

From the supply chain to the shop floors, the complex has leveraged the principles of the AFSC Way to drive down time and reduce cost. Buhler believes more gains can be made. 

A good case in point is the goal of reducing F-22 depot flow days by 30 percent – a challenge given to him by Air Force Sustainment Center leadership when he arrived in Sept. 2014. Meeting the 30 percent reduction requires the elimination of 158 flow days. Since Sept. 2014, the team has cut 68 days across the three F-22 modification lines, while also growing the workload brought on by the transfer of F-22 work from Lockheed Martin’s facility in Palmdale, California. 

The depot also simultaneously reduced the number of “work in progress” aircraft from 13 to 12. That’s one more F-22 for the warfighter every day of the year.

“You have to challenge everything, every rule, every policy, and every assumption, from how we schedule a jet’s arrival, to when it’s returned, plus every touch point in between,” said Buhler. 

There are still 70 days in work with 20 more days to find in order to meet the 30 percent goal, but the depot and their partners are on the road to success. 

“I’ve had people tell me, ‘There’s no way you can achieve a 30 percent reduction in depot flow days for the F-22.’ I say we can, plus we can break through it and get much more,” Buhler said.

Although he feels the gains in F-22 production have been the depot’s biggest accomplishment, it also serves as a reminder to him that more can be done across Ogden’s production lines. 

“There are more efficiencies to be gained, but being able to actually achieve them is the challenge. In fact, it’s often an amazing challenge,” Buhler said. “If you look at the amount of progress the team has made in a nine month period on the F-22, I ask, how come we can’t have this same level of reduction across the depot? There are definitely efficiencies that can be gained.”

One of the challenges faced is the current manpower situation and hiring process. The ALC currently has more than 930 unfilled positions, which is affecting production. Because of this, Buhler said every employee’s time is a precious resource. And he’s tried to save time at every step.

“People’s time was a big focus area of mine. I learned a long time ago there are many precious resources in the world, but I believe time is the most important of those. It’s also quite often the most overlooked resource one can control. We’ve done a lot of things to try to maximize people’s time and that’s had a direct positive impact on production,” Buhler said. 

As Buhler leaves an “interesting, fast-paced,” assignment where he “hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped,” he’s going to miss the men and women of Team Hill. 

“I’m proud of our senior leaders and our entire workforce and what they’ve accomplished. I’m going to miss the people. Every assignment is about the people.” Buhler said. “I absolutely love the community here. I’ll probably have to hold back a few tears when I say goodbye to some of them, because they’ve become genuine friends and wingmen who love our Air Force.”