Success Stories
Lean Manufacturing


Contact Information

Bill Rafferty
Manager
Lean Manufacturing
(210) 522-5865
wrafferty@swri.org

image: kanban processes to improve the work flow, significantly reducing the aircraft's downtime

As part of a nationwide effort to implement lean manufacturing processes in the U.S. Air Force F-15 avionics repair facility, SwRI staff members developed kanban processes to improve the work flow, significantly reducing the aircraft's downtime.

Aircraft Directorate at Hill AFB Establishes Lean Division

The Aircraft Directorate at Ogden Air Logistic Center (OO-ALC/LA) has formally established a Lean Division responsible to manage the implementation of Lean Depot Repair (LDR) throughout the Directorate. LA Senior Management is committed to Lean and is making the necessary investments to achieve high impact.

The LA Directorate engaged the assistance of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) to help establish the lean infrastructure mandatory to affect organizational change. The infrastructure (process improvement "vehicle") includes assigning a change agent and core team to focus 100 percent of their time to implementing shop-floor recommendations and innovative solutions. A core team of seven individuals has been dedicated to making improvements and sustaining the bottom-line impact.

The LDR team of SwRI lean consultants and LA personnel will implement a lean methodology including mapping the value stream, identifying bottlenecks in the process, creating baseline measures and deploying kaizen event teams to attack non-value added activities in a value stream. Lean focuses the organization on eliminating waste in processes and deploying a "lean" culture.

The last event in the A-10 production area had significant impacts on cost and delivery. Projected annual saving of $680,000 and a reduction of six flow days. The event team studied the value stream and identified problem areas. The event team implemented the following improvements:

  • Part kitting for build-up operations
  • Kanban system to create pull for consumable materials
  • Ship-side storage for tools and frequently used consumables

This work is to increase the velocity of the product with the same amount of resources applied. Critical success factors include:

  • Focus on the customer through the Value Stream
  • Organizational goals that match a communicated vision throughout the organization
  • Leadership through hands-on involvement at all levels of management
  • High-level champion responsible for spearheading the change process
  • Meaningful measurements on the shop floor
  • Use of cross-functional teams
  • Constant communication to all employees
  • Performance measures for management are tied to success of change process
  • Performance measures for production line are tied to cell metrics

Lean and F-16 Wing Repair

"Lean in a Government Depot Repair environment works!" according to Mr. Rick Painter, Lean Depot Repair Core Team Lead. Technically speaking, "Lean" is the systematic and persistent pursuit of the elimination of waste in any business process. Hill Air Force Base has been actively implementing lean initiatives for the past several months in it's MAB repair environment, and has realized some substantial improvements in quality, cost, and delivery.

Under the direction of Colonel Richard Dugan and Chief Master Sergeant Alexandra Gasper, HAFB's Aircraft Division (MAB) has launched an aggressive crusade to improve efficiency in the Warfighter effort. For example, in December of 2001, a six member "Lean Core Team" was put in place to help facilitate continuous improvement efforts. Their first directive was to find a way to decrease flow days, trim cost, and increase quality in the F-16 wing repair process. By January of 2002, the core team, along with technical assistance from Southwest Research Institute's (SwRI) Lean Maintenance Consultants, began to analyze the F-16 wing repair process. They discovered that in order to successfully achieve their goals, they would need cooperation from shop employees. Unfortunately, much of the shop workforce was disinterested an/or unwilling to voluntarily engage in a continuous improvement campaign. Education and top management support seemed to be the key to help motivate shop employees. The core team and the SwRI consultants began with an area assessment that included developing a value stream map to illustrate the value-added, and the nonvalue-added steps in the wing repair process. They also conducted numerous training sessions to teach both management and shop employees such lean tools as 6'S. 6'S is an essential Lean tool which emphasizes workplace organization and cleanliness. Each "S" represents a vital step in an organization's transition toward Lean. For example:

  • 1S - Sort (eliminate what is not needed)
  • 2S - Straighten (organize what belongs)
  • 3S - Scrub (clean up; see and solve problems)
  • 4S - Standardize (determine who does what and how)
  • 5S - Safety (discover and resolve unsafe working conditions)
  • 6S - Sustain (self discipline; keep things in order)

After the initial training sessions were complete, a detailed analysis of the value stream map showed that a major area of improvement could be found in the pylon rib assembly process. The pylon rib is a structural hard point on an F-16 wing that is used for attaching armaments and external fuel tanks. This area is susceptible to fatigue and corrosion due to constant interchanging of equipment. Consequently, a Rapid Improvement Event was scheduled to address this area. Some of the goals of this event were to reduce flow days, to decrease overtime expenditures, and to develop and implement visual material control boards.

In an attempt to increase the effectiveness of the Rapid Improvement Event, a cross-functional event team was established. The team consisted of management and shop workers from the three areas involved in the Pylon Rib Assembly Process; the Aircraft Directorate, the Logistics Management Directorate, and the Technology IND Support Directorate (MAB, LG, TI). Furthermore, each team member was encouraged to sign a "Contract of Excellence" which assigned responsibility and accountability to the event's goals.

The actual event included three weeks of preparation, one week of dedicated hands-on work, followed by three weeks of follow-up from each team member. At the event's conclusion, an out-brief session was conducted to summarize the results. Major General Scott Bergren, Commander Ogden Air Logistics Center, HAFB, as well as Management from LA, LG, and TI attended the session. The results of this event were exceptionally impressive: the team was able to decrease flow time for the pylon rib process from 15 to 4 days which helped decrease the time involved to complete an entire F-16 wing repair by 46%. This in turn resulted in reducing the overtime labor rate from an average of 18%-25% to less than .5%! At the end of the out brief session, Maj. General Bergren thanked the event team for their efforts in helping the Depot transition toward a culture of "Innovation and Excellence."

However, the hard work from this project is not over. The Core Team established a "Stick Rate Audit" system to help ensure that the positive effects are continued and not forgotten. A stick rate audit is a formal evaluation system that assesses daily whether the "follow on" items from an event are being implemented. "This is the essence of a continuous improvement process," says core team member Paul Roberts. "Continuous improvement does not go away at the end of a Rapid Improvement Event. Stick rate audits help enforce and promote a lean culture on a daily basis." And that is indeed the true goal of a Lean campaign; to change the culture of a work group from one that is content with the status quo, to one that actively seeks to improve every aspect of the organization. Mr. Rick Painter was right. Lean can work in a government repair environment, and at Hill Air Force Base, one can find proof.

6S - Just the Right Stuff

In February 2002, Mr. Tom Browning, Director, Electronic Directorate, Ogden Air Logistics Center, made a midcourse correction in his Lean Conversion effort. Specifically, he directed the LE change agent, Capt. Kerry Sparks, and the LE core team, along with their consultants from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), to begin a 6S effort throughout the Directorate. The Electronic Directorate had started a Lean Conversion in July to eliminate waste and improve efficiency by applying Lean concepts to the unit's repair environment. The conversion had been primarily concentrated in the Airborne Generator Division. Mr. Browning's emphasis on 6S would serve two purposes: first, it would lay the groundwork for further Lean implementation within the entire Directorate and, second, it would help prepare the Directorate for the higher headquarters Maintenance Standardization and Evaluation Program (MSEP) inspection, and Unit Compliance Inspection scheduled for June. 6S is one of the primary and most basic Lean tools, which focus on workplace organization and cleanliness. Each "S" represents one step in the progression of implementation:

  • 1S - Sort (eliminate what is not needed)
  • 2S - Straighten (organize what belongs)
  • 3S - Scrub (clean up; see and solve problems)
  • 4S - Standardize (determine who does what and how)
  • 5S - Safety (discover and resolve unsafe working conditions)
  • 6S - Sustain (self discipline; keep things in order)

The plan developed by the Core Team and Consultants called for implementation in four separate divisions (Generators, Electronic and Instruments, Avionics, and PMEL) within a three-month period. The process to accomplish this consisted of 4 major phases.

Phase I

After identifying team members and a point of contact within each shop, every member of the shop attended a 6S orientation session to ensure a common understanding of the purpose behind, and the activities associated with a 6S campaign. Following the mass orientation, team members then received specific training on the intricacies of 6S to include procedures, expectations, and desired outcomes.

Phase II

The process continued with each branch/shop team first "red tagging" (sort) unnecessary or infrequently used items in their work area. Actual 'red tags' were placed on every item that needed better organization, was out of place or inconvenient for the work process, was a safety hazard, or was scrap or excess. Red-tagged items were each assigned a control number, which was entered on a log, and unnecessary items were moved to a designated "hold" area for disposition. The responsible supervisor then reviewed items in the red tag hold area before a final determination was made.

Phase III

Once unnecessary items were removed, the teams began the process of organizing (straighten) the remaining items to facilitate the workflow. Everything from machines, to work benches, inventory, shelves, cabinets, and files was addressed. Permanent/best "home" locations were identified and marked with tape and labeled so there was a place for everything and everything was in its place. Safety equipment and potential hazards received special attention during this phase. Once "home" locations were identified, everything was dusted and cleaned (scrub) as individual items were put into place.

Phase IV

After each branch/shop team completed their initial 6S effort, the next step was to assign individual responsibilities for maintaining the established housekeeping standards. Each area was divided into 6S 'zones' and a map was placed on the shop 6S board so everyone was aware of their involvement. Everyone in each shop now had a role to play in ensuring the gains which had been achieved, were maintained and improved upon. Moreover, as each shop completed their initial 6S cleanup and organization, the LE core team and shop supervisors began an audit process so improvements could be noted and shared within the organization. The audit checklist was developed by the LE core team and allowed for scoring in each of the 6S categories with a perfect score being 55 points. The purpose of the audit process was to initially raise the standards of each shop to a minimum plateau of 20 points.

The result of this intensive effort was the establishment of a 6S system to support the noteworthy improvements made in each area as 6S was migrated throughout the Directorate. Equally important were the results of the inspections conducted by the HQ Air Force Material Command Inspector General teams in June. "Hill AFB received high marks . . . following non-stop inspections by 43 inspectors from two Air Force Material Command headquarters inspection teams. The evaluations . . . resulted in a 99 percent compliance rating from the Unit Compliance Inspection team and a 96.8 percent rating from the Maintenance Standardization Evaluation Program team . . . Tom Severyn, HQ AFMC IG inspection team chief said, "Ogden ALC is the best yet."

Related Terminology

 lean manufacturing training  •  six sigma principles  •  lean enterprise  •  six sigma  •  kaizen workflow  •  tpm  •  TPM process improvement  •  value stream mapping  •  six sigma approach  •  kaizen 5s  •  workflow management  •   continuous process improvement  •  process improvement training  •  one piece flow  •  office kaizen  •  lean manufacturing 5s  •  lean manufacturing consultants  •  lean manufacturing concepts

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Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 9 technical divisions.
07/13/16