C-17 area gets perfect score

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
In the fiscal year which ended Sept. 30, the 562nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron recorded its first-ever perfect on-time delivery rate.

It worked on 37 aircraft and completed every one on time.

Some may say that's not surprising. During the last 10 years, the 562nd has fallen short of its 95-percent on-time delivery goal only once, and that year the rate was 94.6 percent.

But reaching the 100-percent mark was a significant achievement, according to Ed Montano, squadron director .

"It's huge," he said. "We owe everything to the folks down there on the shop floor turning the wrenches."

Indeed, it was a year for the history books for the 562nd.

The squadron "surged" a number of C-17s during the summer as a part of the shift of additional troops to Afghanistan. It was asked to produce six aircraft in a 45-day window, about twice its normal output, and actually completed seven.

562nd crews then assisted with C-130 work after the surge temporarily halted C-17 intake. Some may also say that's not surprising. The 562nd was once rated by the union as one of the worst places on base to work, but today is considered a model for teamwork.

Both sides credit the turnaround to improved communication, with labor and management meeting regularly to discuss issues of concern and find ways to address the problems.

Montano said it has had a significant role in improving morale and, ultimately, the efficiency of the operation, which in the past five years has grown from 112 to 700 employees and to 12 lines.

"It has been complete turnaround," Montano said. "It's labor and management working together for a common goal, and the goal is to have a motivated C-17 workforce. It's always been there. We just didn't understand how to do it."

Another significant change in the operation is the development of multi-skilled crews. 562nd mechanics previously had a certain focus area, such as engines, electronics, or sheet metal work. Many are now performing a wide variety of tasks.

One benefit to this, Montano explained, is the nature of the workload can shift. In one year the squadron may be doing more engine work, and in another it may be doing more electronics. By having multi-skilled mechanics, they can pitch in when the workload in a certain area is greater.

About half of the squadron is now multi-skilled, and Montano said he hopes to eventually get it close to 100 percent.

Patrick Meleco's specialty is engines, but he went through multi-skill training and can now work on hydraulics and other general components, such as flight controls. He said multi-skilling makes his job more interesting, because he isn't doing the same things all the time, and he has earned more overtime by having additional skill sets.

"It's a win-win situation," he said. "It's good for management, and it's good for me."

The C-17 work here involves heavy maintenance and modifications to bring the huge cargo aircraft up to the same standards as new ones coming off the assembly line. The work is done under contract with Boeing, which does the same work in San Antonio.

Montano said the workload has increased, and will continue to increase, because as the planes age more extensive repairs are required, and Boeing has seen Robins can do the work efficiently and effectively. In the current fiscal year Robins is slated to perform approximately 750,000 man hours of C-17 work. In three years, that figure is expected to top one million hours.

As a requirement of the contract with Boeing, the squadron had to become AS9100 certified. That's an industry-wide standard to ensure quality and was no small achievement. Although it's not required in other areas, it has become an initiative across the 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Wing because it sets a high standard of quality consistent with industry worldwide.

Earlier this year, the 402nd was given the 2010 Maintenance Repair & Overhaul Military Center of Excellence Award by Aviation Week, largely because of its process improvements in the C-17 area. The Air Force has 217 C-17s in the inventory, and the aircraft performs 61 percent of the Department of Defense's heavy airlift missions around the globe.

The importance of the aircraft to the defense of the country is not lost on the members of the 562nd. "The workforce is motivated, and they work very hard every day," Montano said. "They know what the work they do means to the men and women defending this country."