552nd MXG's ISO Dock rockin' big change

  • Published
  • By Kimberly Woodruff
  • Tinker Public Affairs
The 552nd Maintenance Group is making big changes in the way the Isochronal Inspection handles maintenance and inspections on aircraft coming through their dock.

Senior Master Sgt. Wenesday Traylor, Maintenance Flight chief for the 552nd Maintenance Squadron, said a group of Tinker maintainers went to Peoria Air National Guard Base in Illinois to see the "cool things" they had been doing. That trip sparked a big Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century Lean event here at Tinker, she said.

Focus groups

Through a series of focus groups with members brainstorming about different type of waste, and what they were, to include waiting on parts and group interruptions, the groups came up with some smart changes to save time, money and frustration.
Noteworthy savings include the electricians shaving 8.75 hours from their process, while sheet metal workers were able to redistribute or cut 45.5 hours from their process.

Staff Sgt. William McPhillips said they spent time collecting data on sheet metal, electricians and maintenance.

"We used to de-panel down the plane in areas assigned per shift, but that meant we were spending our whole first day de-paneling which took longer, so we changed it so mid-shift workers do the de-panel and then the day shift workers can do the inspections," Sergeant McPhillips said.

Tech. Sgt. Gary Weaver said they start with the high interest areas, tail, wing and nose of the plane. There had been some confusion with nomenclature between different areas. They thought about how they would go about showing new people how to do the ISO, and decided that a visual aide such as a book with step-by-step photos along with technical orders was a good beginning.

"If you can use a tool, you can look at the book and do it," Sergeant Weaver said.

Setting goals

Weekly meetings with MXG leadership are held to ensure the team sets and meets its

"Our guys will get more job satisfaction if they are able to launch the jet after tearing it down, inspecting it and building it back up," Sergeant Traylor said. "It's a continuous goal as we progress and make adjustments. I get a little choked up because these guys all work so very hard."

As part of 6S, the Airmen were sorting, organizing and making things easier to find.
Staff Sgt. Marty Mares and Senior Airman John Mata designed a new panel rack with space to hold 75 panels using an old rack. The new one has shelf components with individual carpeted slots, so panels will be easier to inspect and there will be less scraping of the sheet metal.

Sergeant Traylor said the design was so genius, it blew her mind. "It was so clever using something we already had," she said. "The best part about this process is that the Airmen who do the job are coming up with all the ideas."


"Standardizing the processes will save time and money and increase quality by removing options for other people to come in and do their own thing," Sergeant Traylor said.

Sergeant Mares said standardization is a lengthy process, but "everyone is into it because it makes our job easier and will be less work in the long run."

The Airmen said the ISO system needs to be standardized because there are so many people in 15 different areas that are part of the process.

"It's like an ant farm," Sergeant Weaver said. "Everyone has to do their job or it holds up the next step in the process. Changes are hard, but the squadron has really come together to embrace it."

One of the other changes being made is "kitting," to cut down time waiting on parts.
Sergeant Traylor said kitting is working great in fuel and oil filters because they change every time. She said frequently used parts are now kept on hand, so there's no waiting to reorder each time.

Simple changes

What turned out to be a hold-up in the ISO process was the sheet metal shop. Because sheet metal is here for everyone, not just the ISO group, their workload sometimes held them up.

"We found one of our big problems was in tracking the work," said Master Sgt. Travis Waskom, sheet metal flight chief. "We thought we were completing 50 jobs per item when it happened we were doing more like 250 to 300 jobs in four days. Now, we have visibility of 650 to 1,000 jobs during the ISO process."

The sheet metal shop made just a few simple changes with fantastic results.

First, they closed off the door that led people directly onto the floor with the metal workers. They estimated all the interruptions were costing them approximately 10 hours a week per employee.

"By shutting off that door, it not only saves time by eliminating the interruptions, but is also an advantage because people walk around now and they can see where the metal cutting shop is and the office is front and center," said Sergeant Waskom.

Second, the shop is now on a "Panama schedule" -- four teams working 12 hour shifts with two days on, three days off -- instead of working three shifts that were reactive and regularly required weekend work.

"We were undermanned after half the employees were cut due to budgets," said Sergeant Waskom. "These guys were beat up, tired and frustrated."

Sergeant Waskom said they have absorbed four additional bodies and 30 more hours in the process. They have predictable work schedules, fewer turnovers and more touch time per Airman on each shift. "The guys love it, too," he said. "They know what days they'll have off."

In Electro-Environmental Control Systems, the Airmen worked with other areas to de-conflict their schedules so the work was more synergetic with the rest of the group.  They also moved high use parts closer to where they use them, which cuts down on transit time.

With small changes happening throughout the Maintenance Squadron, the long term vision is in sight, Sergeant Traylor said, adding that it is "an awesome feeling of accomplishment."

"ISO is what we do," she said. "This isn't the first lean event and won't be the last. It's all about continuous improvement to meet the mission."