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NEWS | Nov. 13, 2019

Innovation the greatest tool in the box

By Senior Airman Cody R. Miller Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

Joint Base Charleston Airmen procure an automated tool crib to streamline flightline processes and improve maintainer quality of life in the shop, Nov. 8, 2019.

After identifying a problem with time consuming processes, Airmen from the 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Support Flight tool room researched ways to improve one of their most daunting tasks of keeping their benchstock supply at the appropriate levels to accommodate the C-17 Globemaster III high ops-tempo at JB Charleston. 

“This new piece of equipment really shortens our processes,” said 2nd Lt. Estera Leavelle, 437th AMXS Support Flight officer-in-charge. “It’s also able to help us maintain accurate records more effectively and efficiently.”

628th AMXS Airmen teamed up with 628th Contracting Squadron to acquire an automated benchstock machine that vends various aircraft parts such as screws, nuts, washers and light bulbs.  The machine updates the program manager via email on the quantity levels of each part bin by weight. This initiative will save the section over 1,000 hours a year by reducing the time spent counting thousands of miscellaneous aircraft parts and hardware.  The automation frees up one Airman per shift from manning the program.

“It took a few years for us to acquire this piece of equipment, we were denied the first time because of funding and had to start the process over again,” said Staff Sgt. Slade Muraira, 437th AMXS Viper Tool Room shift leader and one of the initial Airmen to apply for the tool crib. “It took a lot of phone calls to other bases and units that already had the machine. We wanted to do our research and be sure that this was the right call in purchasing it for our unit. In three years it’ll pay for itself with the amount of labor it saves. Everything after that is profit as far as man hours are concerned.”

Mauraira said the tool crib will have a positive impact on all of the flightline Airmen and operations, not just his shop.

“Everyone that works on the flightline could have a hand on some of the tools we have in our shop,” Muraira said. “This will help us keep 100% accountability on any tools that we give out. Everyone comes through us, we have a tool box for everyone.”

In the last few years, the Air Force has been driving an innovation initiative to help the force keep up with evolving technologies and systems.

In an address to the Air Warfare Symposium in February of 2018, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright stressed the importance of innovation and allowing young Airmen to try and fail at new methods to keep the Air Force current, lethal and efficient. 

“Some of you in this room will take to war in 10 to 20 years,” Wright said. “So, we have to think about the technology and the innovation that we need 10 to 15 to 20 years from now. We have to start thinking about it and start building it right now. Do you have a culture in your organization that allows your Airmen to fail? That’s how we get there, creative thinking.”

Air Force higher leadership has implemented programs such as the Air Force Spark Tank to encourage Airmen to keep thinking critically and creatively to tackle any problems they may have.

Muraira encouraged Airmen with innovative ideas to never be discouraged by failure and to keep persevering.

“Don’t think just because you’re younger or newer in the Air Force that you’re voice shouldn’t be heard,” Muraira said. “Just because you’re an Airman doesn’t mean you can’t have a great idea. The Air Force is always looking for great ideas. If you have something route it up, tell your supervisor and see what they have to say. There are always funds for innovation and making an Airman’s life easier or helping get the mission done quicker and safer. Any innovative idea is your investment in the Air Force and the system as a whole.”