Inclusion strategy gives maintenance workers ownership in HVM

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
High Velocity Maintenance marks a major shift in the way work is done at Robins, and therefore the planning for it has involved the highest level leaders here, but has also included significant input from frontline maintainers.

Several C-130 maintainers served on the workflow team that developed the detailed plan for how C-130s and other aircraft will be maintained in the future. Both maintainers and base leaders said it was essential for the success of HVM to include the input of those who will actually do the work.

"Once you are comfortable in something - I don't care if it's your favorite chair at home or the job you do - when you become so familiar with that, and somebody comes in and wants to change that, there's a huge resistance," said Michael Kazenstein, the workflow team lead. "That's really the challenge in making that change. Having these guys build this process was a step in breaking down those barriers. It's their process and their schedule."

The biggest change with HVM is rather than bringing in C-130s every 5 to 6 years for an average of 164 days of programmed depot maintenance, the planes will come in every 18 months for a much shorter time. HVM, which is patterned after the method used by commercial airlines, is expected to reduce the overall downtime for aircraft by half or better.

Eventually HVM is expected to extend to other weapons systems at Robins and throughout the Air Force. The first validation aircraft here, which arrived July 31, is the first in the Air Force to undergo the HVM process.

The task of the workflow team was to map out a detailed schedule of how the work would be done. Previously, Mr. Kazenstein explained, the order of work was largely at the discretion of the supervisor.

Under HVM, the order is specifically mapped out so that everyone knows exactly what will be done each day, which provides numerous benefits. The appropriate personnel can be scheduled for each day, for example, and all of the necessary tools and parts would be made available based on the job being done that day. A key aim of HVM is to keep the mechanics working on the plane rather than chasing down tools and parts.

A computer screen on a wall near the plane gives a detailed breakdown of the day-by-day schedule and the progress of each job.

Mr. Kazenstein compared it to assembling a piece of furniture out of a box. The difference between HVM and the previous method, he said, is the difference between assembling the piece of furniture by what seems the most logical way versus assembling it using the step-by-step directions. Those step-by-step instructions for C-130 PDM are what the workflow team developed.

"The joke is that guys don't look at instructions so when you're done putting something together you have a handful of parts leftover," he said. "If you don't follow this, you are going to end up with a handful of parts left over."

C-130 maintainers who served on the workflow team said their participation was necessary to make HVM work.

"I think it's going to be a good thing once we get all of the bugs worked out," said aircraft mechanic Scott Deen.

Mr. Kazenstein agreed that there have been some problems found with the process, but he said that was to be expected. Overall, he said, the work on the first validation aircraft is on track and a lot of work has gotten done on the plane in a short amount of time.

To him, it shows just how much can get done once all of the issues are worked out.

"It is encouraging to see what we can do when we get this right and are following that process," he said. After the current validation aircraft is completed, two more C-130's are scheduled to come in for HVM maintenance, then next spring the process will be evaluated and a decision will be made on pushing the HVM program forward.

Bob Farrell, an HVM team member, had high praise for the efforts of the workflow team and its contributions to making the program work.

"We've had a lot of the flightline blue collar guys involved in this process, and that helps get support from the workforce," he said.