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Innovate Now! closes but innovative mindset continues

Innovate Now! (U.S. Air Force graphic/James Rainer)

Innovate Now! (U.S. Air Force graphic/James Rainer)

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- After a year of creative ideas materialized into cost-saving initiatives, process improvements and time management incentives, the Innovate Now project team has accomplished their mission.

The objective of the 45th Space Wing's Year of Innovation during 2014 and its affiliated basewide program has closed out but an innovative mindset continues at Team Patrick-Cape.

"You know we are not getting more people and we are not getting more money, so we are still going to have to continue to think our way through solving problems," said Maj. Gen. (sel.) Nina Armagno, 45th Space Wing commander, while presenting a recap of the Year of Innovation during a commander's call, April 20. "What I hope the Year of Innovation did was engrain in you all that you are empowered to stand up, think differently and come up with creative, innovative solutions."

At the beginning of 2014, Armagno assembled a team of volunteers to organize the Innovate NOW! initiative to empower individuals at all levels, airmen, civilians and contractors; to generate innovative ideas, streamline processes and reduce inefficiencies within wing organizations.

"This was an exciting project that ignited our airmen to think creatively about how we accomplish our mission; sharpen our focus and inspire those around us to 'think outside the box,'" said Lt. Col. Laura Robinson, of the 5th Space Launch Squadron, who led the program for Team Patrick-Cape. "Our incredibly talented team worked out the details of some creative initiatives designed not only to get people thinking innovatively, but to create a repeatable, sustainable process that we all can use to capture and implement those solutions."

Overall, the team received more than 70 submittals from wing members.  The ideas that were implemented saved over 4,500 man-hours and over $200,000 per year.
"I'm very proud of our team," said Robinson. "They put in an extraordinary amount of work, above and beyond their primary duties. The quality of their work is evident in the results."

One of the top accomplishments from this project, labeled the wing's "poster child" of innovation at the commander's call, was generated out of a partnership with a local high school robotics "Pink Team" to develop a robotic weather balloon release capability during inclement weather to preserve launch opportunities. The robot helps members of the 45th Weather Squadron release weather balloons without risking human life when lightning is within five nautical miles.

A video of the new technology and other innovations were also shown at the commander's call.

Other initiatives featured in the video included the increase in the speed limit on Titan Road that reduced travel time for hundreds a year and saved over 2,000 hours of travel time.

"The spaceport of the future depends on continuing the innovative spirit that every Airman across the 45th Space Wing has already demonstrated," said Armagno. "I hope to continue to give you hard problems to solve. We created a quarterly and annual award for both teams and individuals, in order to make innovation enduring here at Team Patrick-Cape."

Outside of the Innovate NOW program, the Year of Innovation was a time of other success stories. For example, Airmen of the 45th Space Wing and the 920th Rescue Wing innovated a solution to the distance problem by painting a pair of deck landing pads (DLP) on the east-west runway of the Patrick AFB airfield with an expected annual savings of approximately $288,000. Additionally, the Patrick AFB Professional Development Center discovered going paperless by using iPads saves them about $10,000 a year.

Personnel are encouraged to continue to submit ideas through their chain of command at Team Patrick-Cape. At an Air Force level, personnel can send their ideas through Airmen Powered by Innovation, the Chief of Staff's program that replaced the IDEA Program and several other process improvement initiatives. For more information on this program, click here to read the Air Force article.