Low-key liaisons: product improvement managers

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. John Crampton
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. Air Force exists to fly, fight, and win, but fulfilling that purpose is no small accomplishment. There are millions of moving pieces within every element of every mission, and thousands of hands are necessary to make them work as intended. There are far fewer, and often nearly invisible, hands who handle the pieces that don’t work smoothly.  


Product improvement managers (PIM) are the Air Force’s link with the multitude of manufacturers and vendors that provide the parts and equipment and enable every mission to operate. They ensure that Airmen have what they need to accomplish the mission.


“We’re the (liaison) between the Air Force and basic logistics, like depot facilities, aircraft manufacturers,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jordan Hjalmaa, 41st Rescue Generation Squadron Communications and Navigations non-commissioned officer and former PIM. “If anything comes to us defective or fails to stand up to use, it could all be under warranty and replaced. That's what the PIM does.”


There are usually relatively few PIMs on any given base, and while they usually work with maintainers on the flight line to keep aircraft in the air, they also provide support for Airmen across their installation.


“They can be avionics, environmental, it can be a crew chief, whoever,” said Staff Sgt. James Brantley, 23rd Maintenance Group product improvement manager. “If you identify a deficiency, we want to put it into the system because the earlier that we can recognize that there is a problem, the better.”


A PIM is in a uniquely impactful position as a kind of steward for the taxpayer funds allocated to a base. At Moody AFB alone, the PIM’s program has ensured more than $9 million worth of discrepancy reports were resolved over the last year.


“We want to make sure that we're actually spending tax dollars the way they were intended to be spent,” Brantley said. “When it boils down, we're making sure that airplane is equipped to fly as best it can with every single part working together the way they're supposed to.”


PIMs are not a very well-known resource outside of the flightline, despite their disproportionate ability to make an impact.


“It's a job that's very in the shadows, but it's very important,” Hjelmaa said. “I wish everyone knew about the impacts of it. It's something that actually impacts the Air Force and shows a trend of something bad and they can help fix it. That’s part of the job, highlighting what's wrong and coming up with solutions.”


Every U.S. military branch has a program equivalent to a PIM, and they all provide an invaluable service to people and the base.


“There's no right or wrong way to necessarily do it, but there are efficient ways and that's what I've tried to do,” Brantley said. “Money speaks, numbers speak, but it's just a part of the conversation.”