Lean/cellular approach and technology insertion allows aircraft painting in maintenance hangar, increases productivity



Ongoing transformation activities, such as lean/cellular redesign, are changing the way the Air Force does business in the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) community. Air Force Materiel Command's three Air Logistics Centers (ALCs), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (OC-ALC), Layton, Utah ( OOALC), and Warner-Robins, Georgia (WR-ALC), are concurrently conducting lean/cellular transformation programs to increase throughput, increase quality, decrease costs, and improve readiness.

Those familiar with lean manufacturing know that the fundamental premise of this practice is to squeeze the waste out of manufacturing processes. In the case of typical MRO, waste is embodied in such things as large queue times for parts due to centralized (functional) layout of processes, mismatched and ill-sized equipment, and multiple layers of approval authority. All of these elements contribute to a high cost of doing business and, in the case of the Department of Defense (DOD), affect operational readiness.

In support of the ongoing lean/cellular transformation of Building 225 (the maintenance hangar for many C-130 and F-16 weapon systems at Hill AFB), Battelle helped the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group (309 AMXG/QP) to improve C-130 wheel-well painting operations. C-130 wheel wells are only accessible to paint when the landing gear is removed—an operation that takes place in the maintenance hangar. Through an exemption under the Aerospace National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) rules, 309 AMXG has been painting wheel wells in the maintenance hangar for some time, though this requires special considerations that impose barriers to scheduling and production flexibility. For instance, the hangar doors must be open, and one-half of the hangar personnel must be evacuated. To minimize the effect on production, Hill has scheduled wheel-well painting on the third shift for some time. However, this is known to displace F-16 maintenance workers, even on the third shift, and it is estimated that 1,650 man-hours/yr were lost on the F-16 line because of this activity.

Working with aircraft engineering, Battelle took a systems engineering approach to provide a corrosion control system including portable paint modules (PPBMs) for each wheel well, a portable environmental module, and plural component paint dispensing systems (PCPDSs) that now allows C-130 wheel wells to be painted without disrupting other work in the hangar. This successfully delivered and proven corrosion control system has an estimated payback period of less than one year, and a total ten-year estimated savings of $1.4 million. Battelle has also prepared a business case analysis (BCA) to extend the application of PCPDSs to all C-130 painting operations, an action that would generate estimated savings of $285,000 per year, or $2.85 million over 10 years. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.