C-5 lean event adds improved efficiency, safety to flap shop

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
Walk into the C-5 flap shop today and you will see 17 flaps neatly arranged into taped off "cells" with mechanics working on each one around the clock.

A few months ago, it was quite a different sight.

Instead of mechanics working continuously on each flap, which helps aircraft create lift for takeoff or slow down to land, mechanics were assigned their own flaps. That meant once one shift left the flaps they were working on just sat there until the next day. That meant instead of 17 flaps - some of which are larger than a car - there were up to 33 crammed in limited space. New flaps coming into the shop were simply put wherever someone could find some room.

With the shop regularly falling short of production goals, team members knew there had to be a better way. They conducted a lean event involving every mechanic on the shop's three shifts. What emerged is a new system of laying out the shop, with a flap assigned to a cell for the duration of its time in the shop.

A large magnetic production board on the wall shows the location and number of each cell, with the number of the flap currently in that cell. Another board tracks the progress of each flap and indicates whether anything, such as waiting on a part, is delaying it being ready.

Better organization has also made the shop safer. Mechanics previously had power cords and air hoses crossing over each other's work area, posing trip hazards. With their own cells, that problem has been eliminated.

"You really can't appreciate this unless you saw the shop before we transitioned to this," said George Pierce, director of the Composite Repair flight, which the C-5 flap shop falls under.

It's been just two months since the changes were made, but the results have been impressive. The shop has reduced flow days - the time it takes to repair a flap - by 50 percent. In fact, it's producing flaps so fast that aircraft mechanics now have flaps on the shelf ready for their use, and it's been able to loan out personnel to help other areas where the workload is backed up.

As with any attempt to change, a few people resisted. But Pierce said even the naysayers now see the benefits, and some have even volunteered to serve on a team planning future changes.

"I'm extremely proud of these folks," Pierce said. "I'm the flight director but I'm probably the dumbest guy in the organization. My job is to listen to them and implement their ideas."