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Charleston Airmen get Lean with maintenance

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicholas Pilch
  • 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 437th Maintenance Squadron here used Lean principles to increase aircraft availability and reduce total cost for Charleston Air Force Base Aug. 6 to 10.  

The Airmen used the rapid-improvement Lean process, under the umbrella of Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century to improve the thorough three-day inspection done every 120 days on an aircraft while it's at home station.

The Airmen, assigned to the home station check division, began this process by preparing the aircraft for a wash. A contractor cleans the aircraft at the wash rack and it is later towed to the home station check, or HSC, hangar for the inspection process.

After the inspections and repairs in HSC, the aircraft is towed back to the flightline for engine runs. Once the entire process is complete, the C-17 Globemaster III is taken back to the aircraft maintenance squadron and scheduled for its next flight.

Before this Lean event, the entire HSC process took 101 hours to complete. The ultimate goal is to cut the total time down to 58 hours, or 2.5 days per aircraft. During this event, the Lean team was able to cut 11 hours out of the overall process. The Lean team has action plans to cut down the remaining hours.

To help support this event, specialists came from different bases around the United States. Col. Robert Hamm, the 436th Maintenance Group commander from Dover AFB, Del., was the lean facilitator for the event. Dover AFB has made huge strides in Lean projects during the past three years and he helped bring their Lean knowledge to Charleston AFB. Colonel Hamm helped the team set and reach goals during the event.

"Colonel Hamm brought a standard for us to follow," said 1st Lt. Vince Cammarano, the 437th MXS Maintenance Flight assistant commander. "He brought a lot to the table and did a great job at leading us."

Before the Lean event, many things caused waste and generated extra hours because the C-17 was just sitting and not being inspected or repaired. One issue was the way damaged gear doors were handled. Previously, the aircraft structural maintenance shop received the bad gear doors after the aircraft was washed. Repairing bad gear doors was a process that took an average of 42 hours. Now, the doors are removed earlier and this provides aircraft structural maintenance Airmen an additional 14 hours of repair time to provide a non-delayed product for HSC.

"For me, this whole Lean event was very educational," said Senior Airman Cory Tash, a 437th MXS crew chief. "It was great being able to stand back and look at processes and figure out how to apply improvements."

Other improvements made were the organization and location of tools and machinery throughout the HSC hangar to make them more readily available for Airmen to work on C-17s. Beforehand, Airmen averaged 864 footsteps to get equipment, but now with a different layout of available tools and machinery it only takes 291 steps to keep C-17s readily available.

"The team we worked with was nothing short of tremendous. There was a great amount of effort from everyone," Lieutenant Cammarano said. "So far, we've saved more than 1,000 hours of aircraft availability to America and to the warfighter." 

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