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AF, Apple building maintenance efficiency

Senior Airman Amanda Gonzales, 924th Fighter Group crew chief, checks her technical orders before beginning maintenance on an A-10 Thunderbolt II in a hangar on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Senior Airman Amanda Gonzales, 924th Fighter Group crew chief, checks her technical orders before beginning maintenance on an A-10 Thunderbolt II on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Nov. 5, 2017. Gonzales has been chosen to beta test an Integrated Maintenance Database System application at the Apple Design Center in California. This app will allow her iPad to become a mobile workstation instead of just an e-reader. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Courtney Richardson)

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (AFNS) -- Most people hear the word Apple and think either a fruit or an electronic device. But for the 924th Fighter Group, it means efficiency.

The 924th FG was chosen by Air Force Reserve Command as the test unit to work directly with Apple on the development of an Integrated Maintenance Database System application. This application aims at increasing productivity for Airmen who work on the flight line.

“Whenever we accomplish a maintenance task on an aircraft, it is documented on the aircraft form and in the database, and they both have to match,” said Master Sgt. Scott Jenkins, 924th FG quality assurance lead.

Jenkins has been in contact with AFRC since early 2017 in hopes of making the maintainer’s jobs easier with the implementation of the app.

“Documentation is a very crucial part of our job because it accurately tracks everything we do on the aircraft,” said Jenkins. “But when you have 60 Airmen all trying to use eight computers on a training weekend, that makes it hard and we don’t want things to get missed.”

The app will allow Airmen to document actions on the spot right next to the aircraft, instead of waiting until they return to the building at the end of the day, or whenever the can go inside.

“We maintainers used to have little blue books for our technical orders, then we switched over to tough books, and here recently we have moved to iPads,” said Jenkins. “Although we had these devices, we have only been using them as an e-reader. We know there is more capability, so we started trying to figure out how to use it and one step of that was to perform more aspects of our job on it; kind of like a mobile workstation.”

Although Airmen only have eight desktop computers to share, every Airmen is required to sign out an iPad, which holds their technical orders, before starting work on an aircraft. Therefore, the development of the app is a top priority for the unit.

“When AFRC reached out and asked us to take the lead as the test bed, my leadership accepted without hesitation,” said Jenkins.

In order to test the app, AFRC and Apple requested, at a minimum, an experience IMDS user and a brand-new Airmen to gauge how easy the new app is to use. Jenkins then reached out to the 924th FG airframe powerplant general flight chief.

“The people who document the most using this form [are] the [airframe powerplant general] Airmen, so it only makes sense to use the maintainers that used this form on a daily basis,” said Jenkins.

Master Sgt. Michael Mindziak, 924th FG APG flight chief, has worked with Jenkins to determine which Airmen will go to Apple headquarters for a design session and beta testing, and which screens are essential to the limited functional app.

“AFRC sent me a working list of screens they think are pertinent and I am able to work with Mindziak and the unit to determine what screen is necessary and what can wait, to really test out the app,” said Jenkins.

Mindziak said this project is a great step in the right direction.

“I think it’s awesome and a great honor to be a part of the initial steps in developing the IMDS app,” said Mindziak. “We need it.”

Mindziak understands there will be challenges, but for good reason.

“I know there will be glitches here and there but in the end, this will truly help the Airmen and create a great product for the Air Force,” said Minziak.

Going to the Apple headquarters may be overwhelming but Mindziak has one goal in mind.

“I plan on being a huge sponge for any and everything they share with me because it will only enhance our mission,” said Mindziak. “Plus I hope to be the first stop for help with the app when problems come up.”

Mindziak said the overall perception around his unit is very good. Airmen are excited about the prospect for more efficiency and better time management.

The unit’s hope is that 25 iPads will be ready to test within the unit by early 2018.

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