Maintainers collaborate to improve home station aircraft inspections

Tech. Sgt. Shannon Fairburn, an aircraft maintainer for the home station check shop, Master Sgt. Jacob Heavner, an electrical and environmental technician, and Kevin Barrick, a home station check aircraft inspector, discuss tasks on a current state value stream map depicting all of the tasks involved in a home station check aircraft inspection, during a 4-day continuous process improvement workshop at the 167th Airlift Wing in November. Civilian clothes were authorized for the event to encourage open discussions.

Tech. Sgt. Shannon Fairburn, an aircraft maintainer for the home station check shop, Master Sgt. Jacob Heavner, an electrical and environmental technician, and Kevin Barrick, a home station check aircraft inspector, discuss tasks on a current state value stream map depicting all of the tasks involved in a home station check aircraft inspection, during a 4-day continuous process improvement workshop at the 167th Airlift Wing in November. Civilian clothes were authorized for the event to encourage open discussions.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- A process improvement workshop aimed to create more efficient C-17 Globemaster III aircraft inspections was conducted at the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, W.Va., Nov. 13-17. 

Airmen from several shops that are involved in the home station check inspection process here participated in the event which was facilitated by representatives from Boeing, the manufacturer of the C-17.

The participants came up with 47 improvement suggestions and determined a way to turn a 264 hour inspection into a 203 hour inspection. 

The team presented 22 of their action plans, the ones with the highest potential for impact, to the maintenance group leadership at the end of the workshop.

Master Sgt. Shawn O’Rourke, the 167th aircraft maintenance support flight chief, organized the workshop to improve what he said was already a good process.

“The big items we wanted to get out of this were the shops coming together and working to come up with the most efficient flow possible and to identify any waste in our process, not necessarily to finish the HSC faster but to maximize the time we have in the hangar and consolidate as much maintenance into the HSC timeline as we can,” O’Rourke said.

Maintainers currently perform six different home station checks, or regularly scheduled inspections, on the wing’s aircraft at 120 day intervals. The workshop focused on HSC #1, the longest and most in-depth inspection.

Through a process called value stream mapping, Airmen collaborated to create a visual representation, or map, of the inspection process. Each step of the inspection was written on a piece of note paper and placed on a wall in chronological order. 

The map enabled the team to analyze the current state of the inspection, validate processes that are working and identify areas for improvement.  Then the team created a future state map which depicted the inspection as a leaner more efficient process.

Process improvement suggestions ranged from simple fixes that could be implemented immediately to more complicated processes that may take a year or more to implement. 

Improvement ideas touched all aspects of the inspection process including changing the process for checking out tools, changing shift schedules, designating an HSC parking space closer to the hangar, and installing Wi-Fi in the hangar.

“I believe the best thing that came out of the event was the shops understanding and building on the concept of a team, understanding and respecting each other's points of view and areas of expertise,” O’Rourke said.

Maj. Jason Harris, the 167th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, said he enjoyed watching the team merge and come together.

“We pushed them to the limits of innovation so we [maintenance leadership] need to do our due diligence and give them that same effort on our part,” Harris said.