MINOT AIR FORCE BASE. - The 5th Maintenance Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment flight recently initiated an Air Force Smart Operations 21 process to increase the unit's effectiveness.
An increase in aircraft support forced the flight to look at innovative ways to meet the mission. Using the "6S" principles of "Sort, Straighten, Shine, Safety, Standardize, and Sustain, and Lean" the unit is on a fast track to success.
"It all started on a cocktail napkin in 2006-07 at Eielson Air Force Base (Alaska)," said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Hopwood, Aerospace Ground Equipment Flight Chief.
That was the start of the cellular design of operations. "What we did here is create the evolution of (Aerospace Ground Equipment) which is the next step in that design. It's much faster, much leaner and produces a higher quality of equipment quicker than it used to," Hopwood added.
Two weeks ago, the flight implemented a rapid improvement event to instill the concept and within that period reduced inspection time by 66 percent. It is the only cellular design system in Aerospace Ground Equipment for Air Combat Command.
"The two things that changed dramatically were the life cycle of maintenance and inspection of equipment," Hopwood said.
Traditionally, a single mechanic would be assigned to a specific piece of equipment, and oversee it all the way through to inspection. When broken equipment was received, it was inspected and if the repair was deemed extensive, it is was then sent over to the inspection side and inspected a second time. This resulted in duplication of efforts, wasted time and constant competition of resources.
"A person could be working in four different areas, out of four different technical orders, and four different tool boxes. Now we've allowed it to take place in one part of the shop," Hopwood said. The previously disorganized structure was eliminated for an organized two-section process cellular model that streamlined workflow.
The flight developed a nine-cell working design within the scheduled and unscheduled sections - that incorporates a team concept for all tasks. 65 percent of the manpower moved to the schedule side to ensure success. "Now if someone has an appointment, our production continues as a team in one section of the shop," Hopwood added.
The new team concept typically consists of one 7-level, two 5-levels, and one 3-level technician. They are assigned to one cell for approximately 30 days and then rotate. After going through all cells, the team is then reconfigured to ensure the 7-level rotation and standardized quality levels.
Furthermore, from the aspect of training, the 3-level is now fully trained on all tasks within the shop in nine months, versus the Air Force standard of 12.
"Before, it was hit and miss here or there. Now, it's the same task 30 days straight, with repetition, which ensures our mechanics are highly qualified to perform that 5-level task when we upgrade them," said Hopwood.
To maximize quality and increase the AGE mission capable rate, the unit completed the "6S" on the maintenance floor during the reorganization. All of the support items were labeled, and lines were literally painted on the floor to identify each cell.