Military News

Monday, August 03, 2015

Tinker B-52 shop reduces production time, boosts savings

by April McDonald
72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

7/31/2015 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The numbers alone speak for themselves.

Using the Art of the Possible and a modular flow process, the 551st Commodities Maintenance Squadron's B-52 Wrap Cowls shop has reduced its production time from 155 days to around 22 days. That's a difference of 133 days and a savings of more than $1 million during the last four years.

David Deal, 551st CMMXS B-52 Wrap Cowls shop supervisor, said the shop's old cradle-to-grave process was slow and not clearly defined. It's not that way with modular flow, which breaks the process down into six different segments, or modules. Each module has a designated number of hours for the mechanics to do their jobs before sending the part to the next station.

"Every time it moves, a new one takes its place," Deal said. "It's a complete cycle all the way through."

A cowl is the metal covering around an aircraft engine, similar to a hood on a car. The shop produces a cowl every one-and-a-half days. That translates into about 322 a year.

"This year, we've done so well that they've had to back our numbers down because we've outpaced our customers," Deal said.

Under the cradle-to-grave approach, each mechanic had to be good at the entire process. With modular flow, the mechanics become very proficient with a small section of each part of the process, Deal said.

He said workers are a big part of the shop's success, as they are the driving force behind many of the changes.

"The whole process is designed around the workers being involved," Deal said. "Basically, it involves the employees at the very bottom level."

Leadership included employees in meetings where they discussed the process and brainstormed ideas to save time and money.

"Absolutely, these folks are the engines behind all this," Deal said. "They do it every day. There will be times they bring things in to me and we'll make a change if it makes sense."

Darrel Anderson, 551st CMMXS director, said the B-52 Wrap Cowls shop is definitely a success story.

"This shop is a good example of where the AFSC Way has caught hold," he said. "From bringing those ideas forward, advocating for change and constantly looking for improvements, this team understands their process, can quickly identify constraints and uses process improvement to eliminate those constraints. They are excellent problem solvers."

Anderson said about four years ago the shop had back orders through the roof.

"We were really struggling," he said. "Now we're cranking them out, smooth as silk. It was a matter of designing the shop with optimum throughput in mind, engaging our enterprise partners and training and enabling our people to be part of the solution."

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