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NEWS | Jan. 14, 2015

Going green: 12th FTW/MX sets afterburners on aircraft repair

By Airman 1st Class Stormy Archer Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

Every year, the 12th Flying Training Wing graduates more than 850 instructor pilots, 350 combat systems officers and 500 remotely piloted aircraft pilots and sensor operators.  Wing members are also responsible for training more than 2,000 Air Force Academy cadets and 2,200 undergraduate flight training candidates.

However, none of this would be possible without the tireless effort the members of the 12th Flying Training Wing Maintenance Directorate put forth every day.

On average, members of the 12th FTW/MX repair and reinstall more than 2,700 parts a year from the T-38 Talons that fly out of Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. The average time it took for one part to complete the repair process was 62.5 hours.

In early November, the 12th FTW Maintenance Directorate began planning to use the Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century eight-step plan for continuous process improvement. The plan was to evaluate the 12th FTW/MXD's processes to "green up jets" and complete repairs.

On Dec. 1 the plan was set in motion with the initial goal being to reduce repair times by 50 percent.

"Many of the processes we use in the Air Force today, specifically in aircraft maintenance, were designed 20 to 30 years ago," Robert Hamm, 12th FTW/MXD deputy director, said. "Over time, these processes have come to the point where they don't work for us anymore because they are fraught with waste, variation and constraints.

"Everything we do in any job is completed through a process and over time, the environment we operate in changes and it makes that process obsolete. AFSO21 is the Air Force's standard approach to problem solving used to redesign a process and make it work better."

By Dec. 22, the 12th FTW maintainers had already reduced average repair times to 21 hours. In this short time, they were able to break down and identify problems, determine the root cause of these problems and then develop and implement counter measures for these gaps in performance. Some problems had simple solutions once they were identified.

"The biggest improvement was the reduction in time it took to get parts routed," Jeff Stanley, 12th FTW/MX supply technician, said. "We cut down the time it takes for the driver to pick up parts from each hangar."

To reduce pick-up times, a sliding metal sign was attached to the outside of each hangar with a red and green panel. If the red side was showing, the driver knew there were parts to pick up. If it was green, the driver knew to keep going to the next hangar.

This one measure lead to the largest improvement and even allowed for transporters to make an additional run during the day to pick up parts from each hangar. This, along with dozens of other improvements, helped the 12th FTW/MX surpass their goals.

"The reason this is important is because we can't put an aircraft back in service until the parts are prepared," Hamm said. "By increasing the number of aircraft available for the mission at the 12th FTW, they are able to complete their mission to produce the future of America's air power.

"Some processes can't be fixed in 30 days like this one," Hamm said. "The reason this turned around as quickly as it did is because we had the right people, with the right experience, training and attitude. Process improvement is hard work and you get out of it what you put in."