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Luke AGE gets 'lean,' increases production

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) --

The 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment flight held a "lean" event recently in an effort to operate more efficiently, saving the Air Force money and man hours.

The event is designed to look at current processes to see if there are ways to do things smarter.

A team of AGE technicians and an F-16 crew chief worked together to improve the timeliness and quality of the periodic inspection process, the annual or biannual equipment "tune-up," for a faster return rate to the flightline while continuing the quality of work and training.

"The old way of performing inspections wasn't efficient anymore, we were taking too long to complete our projects," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Beach, the 56th EMS AGE production support NCO in charge. "After our evaluation, we thought we could reduce our times by 33 percent. Once we implemented the new procedures, we decreased our time by 67 percent."

To help expedite the process, the Airmen reorganized where their tools and equipment were located for easier access as well as the order in which they conducted an inspection.

The new inspection process divides equipment into four cells based on the kind of equipment being inspected, Beach explained. Each cell consists of about four technicians and one supervising craftsman to provide more experience and evaluate the Airmen's work.

The new procedure is more of an assembly line in which the equipment processes through. It is picked up, washed, delivered for inspection and quality checked by the craftsman.

When the inspection begins, Airmen in the cell use work cards, technical data and the cell-specific standard-of-work form that documents who completes each task, what time the inspection was started or stopped and any discrepancies discovered.

Once the inspection is complete, the equipment either goes to the ready line or to maintenance if required.

In addition to being faster, this process has produced more experienced and trained technicians.

"We do a month rotation at each station, which helps with our Airmen's (upgrade) training, since they spend a dedicated month on one system at a time," Beach said. "We are producing more competent technicians and getting inspections completed faster. Also, the supervisor who is signing off on the Airmen's training is working with them the entire time."

The new process is essential to keep the mission going.

"The new process is great because it gets our maintenance and inspection completed on time," said Senior Airman Eric Tillman, a 56th EMS AGE flight journeyman. "We have gained a lot of man hours that can be used elsewhere."

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Senior Airman David Owsianka contributed to this article.)

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