NCO banishes mountain of paperwork to the PIT

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class William Johnson
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As years of logbooks and paper records stacked up in the 436th Airlift Wing Non-destructive Inspection lab, they needed to find a way to improve both their record logging system and their efficiency.

Leadership knew they had a young, computer savvy Airman and they turned to him for the answer.

"They knew I was good with computers and asked for my help," said Staff Sgt. Chad Ericksen, a NDI craftsman assigned to the 436th Maintenance Squadron. "They asked me if there was a way to make the logs digital so we wouldn't have to rely on paper logs anymore."

That was back in July of 2012, when Ericksen was an airman first class. It took him only four days before his program was ready to be submitted to his leadership. He named his new program Parts, Inspection, Turnover (PIT).

"PIT is a Microsoft Access database program," Ericksen said. "We tested it in conjunction with keeping paper logs and on August 17, 2012, we went live with version 1.1 of PIT at Dover AFB."

The PIT program is a data entry program that tracks all jobs and inspections done on aircraft and support equipment. It records pertinent information such as serial numbers, National Stock Numbers, job control numbers and the results of any inspection. The system also tracks each inspection and any work an NDI technician does to see specifically what tests have been conducted on a piece of equipment and who it was tested by. All the information inputted into the program is easily searchable through a wide variety of queries and allows the user to search minute details of a small, single-person job as well as large, multi-person inspections.

"There was a lot of Googling involved in making this program," Ericksen said. "I wrote most of the code for it myself but some of it was contributed by other people."

Ericksen has had a long history of working with computers, and by the age of 10, he built his first functional computer. With his technical knowledge in computer programs and coding, he was able to deliver a product to his leadership to save the Air Force both time and money.

The PIT program changed the NDI record keeping process and allowed for easy shift changeover between supervisors. The program has a "snapshot" function which shows every job within the previous two days, completed or still in process, with one click of a button. The program is so versatile that supervision can read this snapshot and other reports right from their cellphone, making their turnover reports faster and more accurate.

Tech. Sgt. Cory Cuadrado, the NCO in charge of the 436th MXS NDI, was one of the original members of the NDI supervision that approached Ericksen to create PIT. He said the old paper logs were often not legible and were poorly organized which resulted in lost time or duplicated efforts, subsequently costing the Air Force money and resources.

"The system he created has tremendously helped our shop," Cuadrado said. "PIT is an accurate database that we can use for years to come."

It was not until 2014, when Cuadrado received orders to Osan Air Base, South Korea, that he realized just how versatile PIT was. He transitioned from a single-shift NDI operation of heavy airframes to a three-shift NDI operation of fighter airframes.

"When I got there they were still using paper logs," Cuadrado said. "Because of the high-speed tempo of fighters and the three shifts, the continuity of our logs was even more important."

Cuadrado contacted Ericksen to see if there was way to tweak the PIT program to accommodate the Osan’s NDI operations. Ericksen made adjustments and sent a redesigned version of PIT to support Cuadrado and the 51st MXS NDI unit. The PIT log is still in use there today.

"Here at Osan, the NDI PIT log helps us reduce paper while improving and modernizing the management of maintenance on weapon systems and support equipment," said Tech Sgt. Brett Simmons, the supervisor of the 51st MXS NDI. "We utilize the program to document all of our flight line, in-shop and aircraft phased inspections, leaving little confusion on completion and priority of maintenance actions. The centralized database has been very effective in providing clear communication for our three-shift, 24-hour operations."

Overall Ericksen has spent more than 100 hours making updates to PIT and it is now on version 3.13. PIT is also being used or tested by four other Air Force bases at this time. Ericksen states the PIT program can also be beneficial outside the realm of NDI.

"PIT is not just confined to an NDI shop" Ericksen said. "Any maintenance shop can use this program because of the way I designed it."

Ericksen is cross-training out of his current NDI career field, but he does not plan to abandon his program.

"There is a tech support function in the program and if you click it, it will send me an email," Ericksen said. "So even after I cross-train, I still plan on editing and making updates to PIT."