by Jenny Gordon
78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
9/25/2015 - ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- In
the current sustainment environment, there are military aircraft flying
worldwide missions every day protecting American interests.
Their sustainment is crucial.
One of those airframes is the C-5 Galaxy -- one of the world's largest
airlifters -- which was first deployed more than 45 years ago and is
maintained right here at Robins Air Force Base.
For all its capabilities transporting large cargo such as mine-resistant
and ambush-protected vehicles, helicopters and heavy battle tanks, it
has remained one of the world's most called-upon aircraft for
transporting outsized cargo.
"The Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex is one of three Air Force ALCs
that focuses on sustainment," said Dave Nakayama, 559th Aircraft
Maintenance Squadron director at Robins. "Sustainment is more critical
than ever simply because our equipment is getting older, and we're not
replacing it as we did during the Cold War. We don't have the luxury of
new equipment anymore.
"Bottom line is we want to keep the C-5 fleet like new, all the while
improving our efficiency and reducing our cost," he added. "Not
everything can be easily, feasibly replaced, so that's when sustainment
becomes critical. We're principal players."
And playing that key role is something Team Robins takes seriously.
That means the squadron has produced a total of 30 programmed depot
maintenance aircraft and 21 unscheduled depot-level maintenance C-5s
from fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2015, which closes out Sept.
With those aircraft returned on time, that's another C-5 that can
transport troops, as well as much-needed equipment and material
downrange or move special space mission payloads for NASA or Air Force
Space Command to their launch site.
In the business of aircraft maintenance and modification at the ALC, the
processes come straight out of the pages of the Air Force Sustainment
Center's "Art of the Possible," which describes reaching beyond today's
limitations to grasp previously unimagined heights of performance.
All production machines have an average throughput, work-in-progress --
in this case, the number of aircraft on station -- and flow time.
According to AoP, AFSC production machines must be designed to exceed
customer expectations and reduce WIP. With reduced WIP comes reduced
infrastructure and reduced resource requirements, creating capacity for
additional workload and reducing costs.
By reducing its WIP and flow days in the C-5 squadron, Robins has
arrived at a crucial juncture. That reduction allows additional
resources, such as time, manpower and equipment to be used to complete
work on other aircraft.
Looking at C-5 PDM performance over the last several years, PDM WIP has
improved significantly, from a WIP of 12 aircraft in the first quarter
of fiscal year 2011, to a WIP of four in the first quarter of fiscal
year 2015. C-5 A-model retirements contributed to those reduced numbers,
as well as process improvements.
The flow-day trend dating to fiscal year 2011 was around 420 days for a
completed PDM. Today, that number averages about 280 days. The goal is
to continue to drive that number down, reducing it to 220 days. But it
doesn't stop there.
"We keep improving our processes," said Nakayama. "We keep realigning
things so they flow together better. Our 'Art of the Possible' goal is
While that may take a few years, it took just as long to see numbers level off to where they are today.
"With our flow days coming down, it allows us to do more in PDM. That
way it helps with our aircraft availability rate going even higher,"
said Nakayama, referring to the overall fleet AA rate in fiscal
year 2014 being the highest in the last 22 years.
From the time an aircraft touches the flight line until it leaves,
squadrons such as the 559 AMXS have laid out their entire production
process, known as value stream mapping.
In essence, you look at everything you do to an aircraft in order to eliminate constraints and waste and make improvements.
It has helped shape how the production machine functions, especially
when a C-5 PDM includes some 14,000 operations as part of a 70,000-hour
That work happens across eight gates, or production segments created to
monitor performance during the 280 days a C-5 is in PDM. In the 559
AMXS, that includes pre-dock operations such as de-fuel and de-paint;
build-up and disassembly for inspections; and paint and functional test.
"We began our value stream mapping in 2009 and are about to do our fifth
iteration in the near future. Using this mapping, combined with
continuous process improvement tools, lean concepts and the 'Art of the
Possible', and most importantly involving our mission partners, has
gotten us to where we are today," said Kevin Hamilton, 559 AMXS deputy
There's consensus that the squadron is not alone in achieving its latest
results. Originating with customer requirements from the C-5 System
Program Office at Robins, to the 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Support
Squadron, 402nd Commodities, Electronics and Software maintenance
groups, supply chain groups such as Defense Logistics Agency and 638th
Supply Chain Management Group, 339th Flight Test Squadron and 78th Air
Base Wing, everyone's participation is a direct contributor to this
Looking ahead, sustainment and safety of the fleet will remain priority one.
With a small and aging fleet, parts availability issues, and
incorporating more complex technology into an older airframe, challenges
will remain as the aircraft is scheduled to remain in the inventory for
the next 20-plus years.
"We're still not satisfied and we still want to improve," said Nakayama.
"What we're doing at the depot is contributing to the good things that
are happening in the fleet, yet the airplane has never been older than
what it is today."