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NEWS | Dec. 17, 2019

Resourceful 502nd LRS munitions inspectors save time, money

By Lori A. Bultman 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

When Ray Jolivette, 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron senior munitions inspector at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Medina Annex, heard someone say, “work smarter … not harder,” he took it to heart.

A routine task in the 502nd LRS’s munitions inspection shop, where Jolivette is a supervisor, is measuring and cutting detonation cords and time blasting fuses for the numerous Department of Defense explosive ordnance disposal personnel in the San Antonio area, to include those in training. 

“That’s a lot of people blowing things up, which requires a lot of detonation cord,” said David Dean, 502nd LRS munitions inspector.

Being the only distributer of these cords in the area, the shop’s supervisor knew there had to be a better way to measure the requested lengths, anywhere from 10 to 2,000 feet, than unrolling them across the munitions bay floor to 25- and 50-foot masking tape markings.   

“Detonation cords and time blasting fuses are finicky,” Jolivette said. “They can kink, curl, and you can end up with a bird’s nest of cord when you finish measuring, if you are not careful every step of the way.”

Determined to find a better way to complete the task, Jolivette took to the Internet and searched for options to improve the process. He found several devices he thought could help. After much thought and collaboration with his coworkers, he ordered the parts he believed he would need to create a viable alternative.

Creating and refining the new process involved several rounds of trial and error.

“We attached the three devices we purchased to a tabletop, but we had to get everything aligned very precisely so the cords could be measured accurately and without defect,” Jolivette said.

“Using a cord counter, spool winder and collapsible reel, we found that we are able to inspect and issue the desired lengths of detonating cord and shock tube 75 percent faster and 100 percent more accurately than the previous method of measuring,” he said.

“This process not only eliminates the need to measure lengths of cord on bay floors, it eliminates the potential for bird nesting, thus eliminating countless hours wasted untangling and re-spooling cords,” he said. “It lets customers spend less time in the bay and more time in the field where they are needed.”

While the time savings on Joint Base San Antonio will be significant, Jolivette knew their innovation could create the same savings for all Department of Defense munitions personnel, so he immediately searched for a way to share the idea with others. He ultimately created a submission on the Airmen Powered by Innovation platform.

When Richard Stephens Jr., 502nd Air Base Wing senior analyst for Joint Base San Antonio programs, saw Jolivette’s submission, he knew the idea had promise for the for Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Call for Innovation Topics competition.

“The 502nd ABW Mission Integration Team received an automatically generated email notification of a new submission,” Stephens said. An innovation consultant then contacted Jolivette to assist in idea refinement and development so his innovation could compete in the 2020 Mission Support Group’s competition.

“As innovation consultants, we ensure idea submissions include the required campaign criteria. In this case, the campaign requirement was to include a purpose:  a short statement that embodies the problem and solution, and the importance of the submission to the audience.

The consulting team also visited the munitions bay and assisted with comparing the old and new processes. They found that when measuring 150 feet of cord, it took four minutes, 35 seconds, to measure using the old method, while it took only 1:10 with the new device.

“Our team believes this idea has the potential of saving thousands of man-hours throughout the Air Force, and will reduce defects and customer wait time,” Stephens said. “It also has the potential of being applied across the Department of Defense. The return on investment is extremely high when the cost was approximately $500 to build.”

The Mission Support Group’s competition ends Dec. 31, and the top eight finalists will pitch their ideas in February to compete for $1million in innovation funds to expand their ideas.  

Last year's finalists, partnering with the AFIMSC innovation office, grew their $650,000 in prize money to ultimately over $5 million by successfully navigating the innovation ecosystem, according to the competition’s webpage.  

Any idea that enhances the Air Force’s priorities of restore readiness — to win any fight, any time; create cost-effectively modernization — to increase the lethality of the force; or drive innovation — to secure our future, are welcome and encouraged, and all Airmen are eligible to participate in one of the Airmen Powered by Innovation programs located on the Air Force Portal. In addition, Airmen can also participate by commenting and voting on the ideas of others. The deadline for voting or commenting on Jolivette’s innovation is Dec. 30.

Innovators on JBSA who would like to submit their ideas for future competitions can contact the 502nd ABW Mission Integration Team for assistance.