News>CMXG C-130 long flaps shop highlights process discipline
Eric Gason, 574th Commodities Maintenance Squadron aircraft sheet metal mechanic, works on a C-130 long flap at the shop’s table build-up gate. The organization has implemented process improvements that have increased flap production to three sets per month with plans for even further increases. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tommie Horton)
8/22/2014 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Continuous process improvements have yielded successful outcomes in the 574th Commodities Maintenance Squadron's production of C-130 outer wing long flaps.
Using an innovative process known as The AFSC Way, the team has forged ahead using the standard systems approach that enables personnel at any level to strive for the best and meet goals. The process includes having a workload that's focused and synchronized so mechanics can work efficiently using standardized work.
From the time a C-130 outer wing long flap arrives in Bldg. 189, it flows through a series of five processes, or gates, each operating on a five-day battle rhythm.
It's critical to ensure work is completed in each gate before transitioning to the next. Using the new gated process, a total of three sets, or six C-130 long flaps, have been produced monthly since March up from one to two monthly.
When mechanics have parts, tools and supplies before each stage that not only increases speed, but it promotes a more efficient workplace and increases morale.
A chronic constraint in the past was not having parts when needed. To combat that, there are mortality kits - identified supportable parts prepped at specific gates - within an arm's reach for mechanics. That ultimately increases touch time at a specific gate.
"These kits are broken down for specific work that occurs each day for five days within each of the five gates," said Jeremy Wood, 574th CMMXS Structural Repair Flight director. "When you stand in front of a flap, your kit arrives for work that day with every possible part you'll need to complete the repairs. It gives the mechanics complete ownership."
The squadron also uses a monthly production plan which details what day an asset will be produced during the month based on customer requirements. That's a notable change from the past.
"We've progressed to a point where when we build a monthly plan, we build it down to the serial number level," said Jimmy Beeland, 574th CMMXS director. "We do that for assets which are routed to us from 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group along with assets we repair to support the Air Force supply system.
"In the past, we would push an asset aside that had problems and pull in another asset that we thought would be producible," he added. "That process created inefficiencies in our production system. Now, problems become very visible, and they must be solved quickly to ensure assets continue to flow through the production system."
The production plan spotlights problems on the front end, allowing supervisors to order parts and use overtime or shift manpower. Individual issues must be worked and solved in advance.
Every five days the shop produces an asset, and is synchronized with back shops that support operations.
In the past those back shops - which perform paint, nondestructive inspections and other functions - would be inundated with work toward the end of a month, constraining the entire group.
Through continuous process improvements, that no longer occurs. There are also charts located at each gate where employees can see and sign off on daily requirements.
"The way the process is set up now, it works well because you can come in on a Monday, do two different things and know exactly where you need to be," said Kurt Starling, 574th CMMXS sheet metal mechanic. "Before you could be doing three different operations in a week, but now you settle down on one serial number and that's yours for the week.
"With these kits, everything is right there when we need it," he added.
Charles Burch, Structural Repair Flight supervisor, sees the immediate potential to increase production lines.
"Having the visuals so they know where they are and knowing the operations, we rotate people through each gate weekly," he said. "That way our people know the entire process."
Mechanic James Lee agreed.
"I love what I'm doing, and I love this type of work," he said. "With everything based on a five-day flow, it works as long as we have the parts we need on time."
"At first it was a learning curve, but now it's gotten to be very efficient," said Lee, who has more than 20 years of military and professional sheet metal experience. "You get a chance to do everything on the line - and that makes for a better skilled mechanic."
The goal in the shop, which will soon include up to 60 mechanics, is to continue to improve and increase monthly workload.
Editor's Note: The Rev-Up will publish additional AFSC success stories in future editions.