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437 MXG embraces AFSO 21, streamlines equipment processes

By Tech Sgt. Paul Kilgallon | 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs | Dec. 15, 2006

CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. — Organizations from Team Charleston continue to lead the way in Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century by challenging themselves to find new and better ways of accomplishing the mission.

Recently, the 437th Maintenance Group formed an integrated process team that focused on finding smarter and better ways to provide aerospace ground equipment to the flightline mechanics.

"Managers from the aircraft and maintenance squadrons met for an intensive four-day study to minimize the time a mechanic has to wait for aerospace ground equipment at the aircraft," said Capt. Arthur Shields, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft maintenance officer in charge. "We made aircraft mechanics the center of the universe and any time a mechanic has to wait for AGE equipment is time wasted.

The process team was comprised of experts from across the 437 MXG, 437th Operations Support Squadron and 437th Aerial Port Squadron.

Once the team was formed, they began gathering data using an online survey, which contained questions on how the current maintenance operation was running and how the process could be improved. From this survey, two areas of concern were identified: the communications in the AGE delivery process and the physical placement of AGE in relation to the work being performed.

"These two processes contained two of eight textbook forms of waste which are waiting and transportation," said Major Mike Dailey, 437th Maintenance Group, operations officer. "This is what we decided to attack."

The integrated process team identified and broke down the steps in the process through value-stream mapping.

"The goal of the value stream mapping process is to seek out the non value-added components which were contributing to the delay of the mechanics receiving the AGE equipment," said IPT member, Senior Master Sgt. David Johnson, 437th Maintenance Squadron AGE flight chief. "Through value-stream mapping we were able to see where the wasted time was occurring. After seeing where the time was being wasted, we then focused on where the AGE equipment was being kept and where the equipment was being serviced."

Sergeant Johnson said that by using a map and pushpins, the IPT realized that the locations of the AGE equipment and servicing points were not set up as efficiently as they thought. He said the AGE equipment assets were positioned on the north end of the ramp, away from where it was needed, and the only fuel pump for AGE equipment was also located on the north end of the ramp.

The IPT drove routes and made calculations recording excessive delivery times, travel distances and all non value-added items that slowed the mechanics wait time to work on the aircraft.

The IPT determined through the use of data-driven decision-making, that to minimize the time mechanics spend at the aircraft they would have to simplify the communication chain for AGE requests. Secondly, the IPT developed a new layout for AGE parking which established two new ready-lines on the flightline close to areas where the work would be performed. Finally, another pump would be needed to on the south end of the ramp to refuel AGE equipment. The IPT determined that these initiatives combined would not only better meet the mechanic's needs, but could also save more than $100,000 in man-hour and transportation costs in the upcoming year.

The IPT is planning to meet again soon and this time they will focus on the refueling and inspection of powered AGE equipment where it sits on the flightline, which would reduce unnecessary trips for fueling and inspection.

"There must be tangible, measurable improvement toward the organization's overall 'goal' for an event to be considered successful," said Major Dailey. "That's Enterprise Lean and that's what we're striving for in all our process improvement efforts here at Charleston Air Force Base."