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FRCs Slated for Production Quality Makeover

Production quality throughout the Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) domain will undergo a transformation through a concerted effort from artisans to senior leadership by the end of this year.

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) Quality Manager Adam Kimmerly said that a COMFRC policy (COMFRCINST 48855.1) released late last year directed the formation of Integrated Quality Teams (IQT) as part of the FRC-wide Quality Management System (QMS).

The QMS targets production quality and delivery of products to the fleet.

“IQTs are an integrated product type structure which brings people from different competencies together to fulfill a specific task. And the task is to enforce quality in our industrial production shops,” Kimmerly said.

“That will encompass everything from new item manufacturing to basically all of the depot-level production that we do here (maintenance, repair, and overhaul),” he added.

Tiers and Teams

The IQTs will be divided into three tiers:

The Tier 1 team is at the COMFRC level and manages the overall program.

The Tier 2 team is located at each FRC and is led by the quality manager and consists of top-level leadership across the production industrial spectrum, including engineering, logistics and industrial operations, industrial production and COMFRC’s industrial production, and safety and environmental compliance.

“These are the members that will manage the implementation of the COMFRC quality policy at the FRC level,” Kimmerly noted.

The Tier 3 team is aligned to the production integrated product teams.

“For example, here we’re going to have 11 IQTs. The first three we established are aligned to the processing and manufacturing side of things that includes plating, paint, machining, NDI, and heat treat — kind of building our foundation and getting our QMS implemented,” Kimmerly said.

Three IQTs were formed during the spring to manage component overhaul including avionics, hydraulics and dynamic components.

By the end of June three IQT leads will be assigned to the aircraft production lines: F/A-18 legacy, Super Hornet, and EA-18G, the E-2/C-2 and Vertical Lift.

Lastly, two IQTs will be established during the summer for all engines, the test line, voyage repair team, and FRCSW detachments.

All IQTs should be fully operational by Dec. 31, 2018.

“Each of the Tier 3 IQTs is led by an industrial engineer who has a background in process control, quality management, and continuous process improvement,” Kimmerly said.

With a focus on Lean and Six Sigma, the foundations of AIRSpeed, the engineers hold Green and/or are working toward Black Belt certifications, Kimmerly added.

Operational Targets

The IQTs will target four operational areas identified by COMFRC to enforce production quality: personnel, technical publications, work documentation, and tooling and equipment.

Personnel issues will address staffing and training needs, and ensure artisans have the appropriate certifications and proficiency levels required for their jobs.

“We need good technical publications that are clear in what they are requiring, are available to the people who use them so they have access to the most current version of the tech pub, and are up-to-date with the latest and accurate processes,” Kimmerly said.

Creating work documentation that accurately reflects the processes in tech pubs and provides artisans with clear instructions on what they are supposed to do, will provide traceability to what work was done.

“When an operation is completed it needs to be clearly documented on paper, or electronically, in the future. This way we can tell if a landing gear component was inspected properly and what the results of that inspection were, for example,” Kimmerly said.

Reliable machinery and equipment must consistently be available to artisans for them to perform their work.

“How each of the IQTs focus on these things will probably vary a bit depending on what the major problems are on their areas of focus, and what’s hindering production and impacting quality,” Kimmerly noted.

An Overhaul On How We Do Things

“In the past, the FRCs relied strictly on our industrial quality department to manage quality,” Kimmerly said. “And after some of the quality escape experiences, it was decided that we need some degree of engineering involvement or oversight with respect to quality.”

“Typically, in the aerospace industry, there is a quality engineering department and we haven’t had that until now. So this is really a new structure and new alignment of quality to engineering.”

Kimmerly stressed that the existing Quality Assurance (QA) department will not be altered.

“We need their support more than ever to help implement this quality management system, and provide their expertise in audits and in QA and product conforming verification,” he said.

Getting a jump on the official release of the COMFRC policy, FRCSW established the first FRC IQT in June 2017 at its canopies and windscreen and flight controls shop. Since then, the shops have already seen benefits.

“In one case, the IQT identified a need for a design change to a part on an F/A-18 windscreen. The design was a little too thick causing the windshield assembly to delaminate and fail prematurely. The artisans knew that and often saw it, but that feedback never got back to engineering to trigger that change to happen. So the IQT helped to facilitate that feedback loop and helped to initiate that design change,” Kimmerly explained.

“Also, some of the windshields were getting dented because the work stands they were being stored on didn’t have the right padding in the right places. So we were causing discrepancy work orders to fix a problem that we were causing because our work stands were insufficient. That triggered a change to the work stands to reduce damage and improve the overall quality.”

Kimmerly said that IQT leads will routinely walk through the shops to identify issues and problems the artisans may be experiencing and review quality data on a monthly basis.

“This whole structure is new and it is within industry standards to have quality engineers to manage this stuff,” he said.






From his office in Building 378 aboard Fleet Readiness Center Southwest, quality manager Adam Kimmerly is assembling Integrated Quality Teams (IQT) at the command as part of the FRC-wide Quality Management System to improve production and delivery of products to the fleet.

FRCSW Expands Artisan Training Program


Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers Rear Adm. Michael W. Zarkowski and Dan Demilio, deputy IPT lead 6.2.3, cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony of the depot paint course Jan. 10 in Building 466 aboard FRCSW. The course uses a virtual reality program designed to hone the skills of the command’s aircraft painters. Photo by Scott Janes

On the heels of creating its sheet metal artisan training program last April, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) expanded its depot-level training endeavors in January to include a paint training course.

The concept and timeline for the course, which targets workforce and production quality, was initially developed in May 2017.

Daniel DeMilio, deputy integrated production team lead for the paint complex, was joined by subject matter expert planner/estimator David Chavez, paint training crew leaders Daniel Hernandez, Donnie Kilgore, Dustin Briggs, and crew leader David Powers in developing the paint course.

The team used technical publications and drawings as guide markers to ensure the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the information contained in the course.

Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers was apprised of the paint training team’s work and requested that DeMilio evaluate a 2-D Virtual Reality Paint Training system for applicability to the course.
The evaluation led to information about a 3-D Virtual Reality system developed by SimSpray™ Industrial that accelerated the impact and scope of the course.

Based in East Hartford, Conn., SimSpray™ Industrial was in the San Diego area and brought aboard by FRCSW’s Chief Technology Officer Gabriel Draguicevich to demonstrate the unit and its potential to support the training course lab requirements.

A progress review meeting was held to request support and funding for the 3-D Virtual Reality Paint Training system. Pictures and a video of the demonstration were presented which clearly displayed how the units would enhance the course’s content.

The 3-D system reduced a variety of waste factors including over production, unnecessary motion, material movement, and inventory.

Artisans performed lab training without moving into paint bays, waiting, or using materials. This reduced the indirect cost and time to complete the course from five to four weeks.

All current artisans will attend the training course to ensure a baseline of knowledge is established. The SimSpray™ system has the capability to teach several different skills in a virtual environment including de-paint, or blasting operations, and paint and powder coating operations.

Through the virtual reality headset, and given the appropriate device for the training session (blast hose, paint gun, etc.), artisans are transported into a virtual paint booth setting with a 360-degree view of the project in front of them.

When the artisan uses the device (hose or gun), the system provides haptic feedback and sound simulating the process. Direct feedback is provided at will showing any damage, overspray, drips/runs/sags, and where the coats may be too heavy or too light.

In addition, the SimSpray™ can show the “orange peel effect” and “dry spray,” which are the leading causes of damage work orders (DWO). These are correctable in the lab without wasting time or material, and the artisans can see their improvements as the course progresses.

Significantly, the course is designed for FRC-wide implementation, and is based on advanced skills management collaboration for painters, with a focus on DWOs to ensure a broad-based approach affecting paint quality and speed to the customer.

The FRCSW Total Force Strategy and Management training department provided guidance and support in creating, updating and transferring lesson plans to the appropriate format for instruction.

A pilot class was held in October 2017 to test the instructional material, readiness of instructors, and every functional area of the training course. After compiling the results of the pilot, the team made the changes necessary to provide results by the established timeline.

To ensure the first official class kicked off in adequate facilities, engineering technician Bethany Harris added her support by refurbishing the former Fleet Training classroom in Building 466.

A Grainger® 4PL contract was used to purchase the SimSpray™ units, and during FRCSW’s reduced operating period in December, DeMilio received them while the rest of his team continued fine-tuning the course content.

Instructors received Sim Spray™ factory training on Jan. 5, and the first FRCSW depot-level paint course was set three days later.

FRCSW Names FY 2017 Civilian of the Year

FRCSW Commanding Officer Capt. Craig Owen presents Financial Management Analyst Aaron Vivar with the command’s 2017 Civilian of the Year and Civilian of the Quarter Award (3nd quarter) Feb. 23 in Building 94. Photo by Scott Janes

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) selected Aaron Vivar as its Fiscal Year 2017 Civilian of the Year and Civilian of the Quarter, third quarter.

Vivar, a financial management analyst, was recognized for his work in the command’s comptroller department where he was instrumental in identifying and processing aircraft upward obligation requests.

FRCSW Commanding Officer Capt. Craig Owen presented Vivar with the award in ceremonies Feb. 23 in Building 94.

“Upward obligation requests are actually funding requests that have been based on a certain fiscal year. These are used if more funding is needed for the following fiscal year, mostly for additional in-house funds. We used these primarily for the legacy F/A-18 Hornets that are high-flight-hour aircraft,” Vivar said.

A graduate of Ashford University with a major in organizational management and a minor in finance, Vivar developed a background in financial management while working for a credit union for three years.

In 2008 he joined FRCSW and spent two years as an F/A-18 aircraft mechanic apprentice in the fuel cell shop until becoming a journeyman mechanic. In 2014 he became a financial management analyst for the command, and in November 2017, became a supervisory financial management analyst where he oversees the work of 12 other financial analysts within the comptroller department.

The department is responsible for the allocation of financial expenditures for FRCSW and all of its sites.

Working with the FRCSW Integrated Products Team (IPT), Vivar assisted in the identification of 45 cost-reimbursable aircraft maintenance repair or overhaul procedures that required additional expired funding, and 70 planned maintenance interval actions that had suffered understated workload standards, generally applicable to the legacy Hornet airframe.
“We want to make sure that we have the correct amount of money for the correct work and that all of our transactions are in accordance with the law.”

“All total, these obligation requests come to about $58 million,” Vivar said. “Our goal is to make sure that we have the correct amount of money for the correct work and that all of our transactions are in accordance with the law.”
“We want to make sure that we have the correct amount of money for the correct work and that all of our transactions are in accordance with the law.”

Obligation requests of up to $4 million may be approved by Naval Air Systems Command. For amounts above that, higher authority like the Undersecretary of Defense or congressional approval is required. To date, FRCSW has received more than $28 million in upward obligations funding.

“I would thank our team in the 10.0 (comptroller) staff and our collaboration with the IPT side for the data calls in getting this done,” he said. “I enjoy the readiness portion of working here — from being an aircraft mechanic to working on the support side now, seeing the aircraft leave the test line and heading for the fleet — that’s the best thing about working here.”

A native San Diegan, Vivar spends much of his free time camping and hiking with his wife Desiree and their two children.

FRCSW Test Line: Ensuring Quality Aircraft to the Fleet

Electrician Dana Joygrimley makes adjustments to a legacy F/A-18 flight control computer at the FRCSW Test Line. Photo by Jim Markle

Encompassing almost 1.5 million square feet at the very Western portion of Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI), the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) Test Line Support Facility is the hub for test flying the aircraft the command’s artisans repair and maintain.

The sprawling compound includes an 800,000 square-foot aircraft ramp with parking for numerous aircraft, three climate-controlled storage hangars, out-buildings, seven fabric work shelters and a main support building (785).

Unless an aircraft is trucked onto NASNI, the FRCSW Test Line is the first – and last – stop during its visit to the command.

“The squadron maintenance charts and log books are some of the first things we go through upon induction of any aircraft; it’s the first step in the process before an aircraft is turned over to its product line,” said Aviation Machinist Mate Chief Petty Officer Gabriel McConico, maintenance controller of the FRCSW Test Line.

On the reverse side of that process, the Test Line and log sell procedures include final ground checks, test flights, and a review of all documentation to ensure that the work has been completed and certified.

In accordance with Navy regulations, any aircraft completing depot-level rework is required to undergo at least one Functional Check Flight (FCF) prior to delivery to the fleet to determine the quality of work and the airworthiness of the aircraft. The FCF is the final step in Test Line procedures.

Three of the four major aircraft product lines at FRCSW bring their aircraft to the Test Line: F/A-18 Hornets, E-2C Hawkeyes, C-2A Greyhounds, and H-53 Super Stallions all must be flight checked at the flight line.

The only aircraft that doesn’t pass through the Test Line is the H-60 Seahawk helicopter; though the aircraft may be stored in facilities there on a short-term basis, McConico noted.

Returning more than 40 F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft to the fleet during fiscal year (FY) 2017, FRCSW test flies more legacy Hornets than any other airframe.

The Test Line ‘selling’ phase begins once the aircraft is transported from Building 94 where all repairs and maintenance procedures are performed.

Once under the cognizance of the Test Line staff, it is checked, prepared, test flown, and returned to the customer.

The Hornets are also weighed when returned from maintenance because modifications or repairs can affect the aircraft’s weight. The planes are weighed again after painting (prior to delivery to the customer) to make sure they’re within an acceptable limit.

Artisans assigned to the F/A- 18 Test Line program include aircraft examiners (AE) and an examination evaluator (EE).

AEs also assess the aircraft’s functions to ensure a safe and proper flight. This includes the hydraulics, fuel system, air conditioning, engines, and cabin pressure.

“AEs are the initial ones who issue discrepancies, fix discrepancies and decide when the aircraft is ready,” McConico said.

While AEs turn the avionics on, actual system checks are performed by EEs, electricians, and electronic integrated systems mechanics.

The F/A-18 Test Line artisans face few barriers they cannot overcome at the flight line to ensure a safe initial test flight.

“But on occasion certain issues can come up where we would have to return the aircraft to Building 94,” McConico noted. “If a new message is released that requires replacement of an inboard leading edge flap, for example, or if there’s a technical directive requiring an update, then we would send the aircraft back for things like that.”

In contrast to the volume of F/A-18 Hornets, only nine E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning and eight C-2A Greyhound transport aircraft were inducted and returned to the fleet in FY 2017.

Artisans comprised of AEs, mechanics, electricians, and avionic artisans prepare the turbo-propeller airframes for flight at the Test Line.

During induction a series of “dynamic tests” are performed on all systems to check their condition.
Dynamic tests are those that engage the engines, hydraulics, fuel, radar, and other systems used in the flight of the aircraft.

“From the initial induction to get to the production floor is dependent on available space, and can be about three to five weeks to get to Building 460 for the aircraft’s planned maintenance interval (PMI),” McConico said.

After PMI and any repairs, the aircraft are reassembled and returned to the Test Line where another round of dynamic tests are performed to ensure they meet pre-flight inspection status.

AEs test all of the systems except the avionics, which is tested by journeyman avionic artisans.

Solely serving Marine Corps squadrons throughout the west coast including Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the FRCSW CH-53 Super Stallion program returned 10 helicopters to the Corps during FY 2017.
During induction the main rotor blades are removed and the aircraft is de-fueled.

Afterward, the aircraft is transported to Building 378 to undergo the Integrated Maintenance Program (IMP) that includes a variety of procedures including structural repairs to the fuselage and electrical wiring upgrades.

Work exceeding IMP specifications, like replacing engines or rotor heads that have exceeded their recommended hour or life limit, is often done by the Marines themselves to save money.

AEs are assigned to the Test Line and perform startups, systems, and electrical checks.

Unlike the F/A-18 and E2/C-2 programs, FRCSW does not have CH-53 pilots on staff. Instead, pilots from prospective squadrons are notified when an aircraft is ready for test flight and delivery.

FRCSW Welcomes Honor Flight Vets

FRCSW teammates are joined by veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam Feb. 13 outside of Building 94. The veterans toured FRCSW facilities thanks to the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization founded in 2005 which provides transportation as a means to honor our nation’s veterans so they may visit points of interest including memorials that recognize their service to the country.

FRCSW Revamps Super Hornet Windscreen Production

A project in the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) canopy shop that began in June 2017 to address occurrences of delamination in some windscreens of F/A-18 Super Hornets has come to an end.

Components production manager Jakob Grant said that fleet back orders for the windscreens had reached about 40 last year prompting FRCSW artisans and engineers to apply their expertise and ingenuity to craft a solution.

“Working together with the sheet metal artisans in the canopy shop, the machinists, painters, and the evaluation and examination teams, engineering embedded itself into the paint and sheet metal shops and worked side-by-side with them to develop local engineering specifications (LES) to measure the coating that is used on the windscreens and to streamline the process,” Grant said.

To improve the paint process, materials engineers determined the requirements for measuring the density and thickness of the low-observable coatings that are applied to the windscreens.

An initial LES for the repair and replacement of the transparencies (the actual glass which is made of polycarbonate and acrylic plastics) was also developed.

“The coating process in the painting area was our main development and deviation from our regular procedure, and because of the additional requirement to measure the density and thickness of the coating, it went from a 13-day process to averaging a 26-day process in paint,” Grant said.

“This also caused some of the backlog because it was taking us twice as long to meet the engineering requirements which had become more stringent, and to still meet fleet requirements.”

Nevertheless, team efforts enabled the canopy shop to produce 31 windscreens during the first quarter of fiscal year 2017. The shop is on track to produce the same amount for the second quarter.

“For three months we worked to streamline procedures, and in early October, we were able to meet fleet demands of 10 windscreens per month. During that time, we had to work with engineering under temporary instructions to get those 30 windscreens done,” Grant noted.

Windscreens are turned in from the fleet as repairable units. Upon induction they are cleaned and prepared for disassembly by the shop’s artisans in Building 250.

“We remove the fasteners and sand and prime the windscreens,” said sheet metal mechanic Loc Yu. “Afterward, the windscreen is placed in the fixture where we install new glass and seal the seams. All of this takes about five days. Then it moves to paint in Building 472 before being reissued to the fleet.”

Canopy shop work leader Eugene Ellis noted that the shop uses continuous process improvement measures on windscreens and Hornet canopies.

“We have a single piece flow system that results in less waste of materials and sealant, and fewer defects. In turn, this increases our production quality and results in less rework. Our ultimate goal is to extend the service life of the windscreens and improve production to the fleet,” he said.

FRCSW is the only naval facility that refurbishes Super Hornet windscreens.

Sheet metal mechanic Pierre Nguyen removes fasteners from an F/A-18 Super Hornet windscreen. Fastener removal is one step of the disassembly phase which includes removal of the windscreen’s glass.






















                                         FRCSW senior civilian Michelle Gomez presents the command’s Golden Wrench Award to David Phillips, E-2/C-2 foreign military sales (FMS) support, Jan. 16 in Building 6. Phillips was recognized with the award for his work in providing exceptional service to FMS customers.

Tito Visi, president of V&N Advanced Automation Systems, right, discusses use of the recently installed computer-controlled cadmium plating furnace to materials engineer Howard Whang, center, and equipment engineer William Castillo in the FRCSW plating shop in Building 472. The new plating furnace offers a higher component capacity than its predecessor and can complete the cadmium coating process in approximately half the time.

FRCSW Fires Up New Cadmium Plating Furnace

To help ensure its cadmium-plated aircraft parts are manufactured under the highest possible standards, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) replaced its 45-year-old cadmium plating furnace with a new computer-aided design (CAD) model.

The new furnace, which arrived in the plating shop in Building 472 on Dec. 5, can accommodate parts as small as bushings to components of up to 5 feet in length by approximately 2 ½ feet in width.

Unlike its predecessor, the new furnace has two holding racks: one stationary, and the other with an option of motion that ensures a more even coating process.

“Not only does this new one have a higher component capacity, but it can complete the coating process in approximately 50 percent less time,” said Martha Hoffman, Capital Investment Program (CIP) project manager. “The old furnace required the operator to remove and turn the components as part of the coating process, which can add up to an additional 30 minutes to the overall procedure.”

FRCSW artisans underwent a five-day operator training seminar by Tito Visi, president of V&N Advanced Automation Systems, manufacturer of the furnace.

Training included the use of the unit’s 500-gigabyte computer/control panel to input production commands and print reports. The CAD system is user-friendly, operating through common programs like Microsoft Word™ and Excel™.

A successful cadmium coating procedure is dependent upon a variety of requirements, Visi noted.

“The fewer molecules of air you have in the chamber, the better coating you are going to have. So for this, we have a mechanical pump and a booster pump which brings the atmosphere to a regulated air pump (RAP) vacuum,” he said.

“We bring the pressure down and when we hit the base pressure needed for the coating, we are able to evaporate the material (cadmium) to stick to the part. That takes around 20 minutes. Then, argon is introduced to cool down the part which eliminates any contamination. We don’t use oxygen or air, because the part could oxidize.”

When complete, the part is removed and moves on through the plating process.

Costing approximately $990,000, the new furnace will not only be used to coat F/A-18 Hornet and E/2-C/2 aircraft parts, but LM2500 engine parts, as well.

AIRSpeed: Solving Problems to Increase Efficiency

Aircraft mechanics Mike Chi, right, and Dang Nguyen replace the fuel cell of a legacy F/A-18 Hornet in Building 94. The fuel cell shop had recently undergone a Green Belt project to increase and improve the flow of its production system.


Systems analysts James Brown and Marty Hernandez are looking to change things. Things like work place cultural and how to effectively solve problems that get in the way of aircraft production.

Brown and Hernandez are assigned to the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) training department. They are two of seven “Black Belts,” or those who have achieved an advanced skill set in the continuous process improvement program they teach: AIRSpeed.

AIRSpeed was introduced to the Navy in the early 2000s, and first taught here about 13 years ago at the then-Naval Aviation Depot North Island (NADEP).

AIRSpeed, itself, has not changed. But the way it’s used, and its perception at FRCSW has:

In the past, Brown said, people were having AIRSpeed “done to them.”

“An AIRSpeed team would come out to a work center and tape out production areas. Now the whole point is project management. AIRSpeed is used to find out what the customer thinks his problem is, and then dissecting that to see what is causing it,” Hernandez said.

“People simply see the issues in front of them. They don’t know what caused them, they just know they’re there.”

New employees learn the value the command places in AIRSpeed within their first 90 days of reporting here, as they are required to attend “Yellow Belt,” or basic skills AIRSpeed training.

The course covers the process improvement tools of “Lean,” or identifying waste (time, material, etc.) in a production process and developing remedies to find efficiencies and reduce time, and Six Sigma which strives to improve production and services by eliminating variation in a process.

During Yellow Belt training, employees move through production areas to see examples of existing and previous AIRSpeed projects and applications. Training is augmented by charts, explanatory digitals and films, Hernandez said.

“By going on the floor and then showing them the films, it clicks better. We’ve seen a difference especially with the last class, they got it a lot faster; so visual representation, and instruction along with film gets them to the `Green Belt,’” he said.

The Green Belt course is one-week long and is the intermediate level of AIRSpeed. It teaches the Theory of Constraints which is used to identify restrictions to processes, and targets eliminating organizational conflicts to optimize a system flow.

Green Belt training, unlike Yellow Belt, is not required by the command. Instead, employees must request the training through their supervisors and have a definitive problem or project they wish to address.

Participants receive hands-on training and learn the sequences of AIRSpeed to resolve and conclude the project.

“Once people start understanding the methodology and how to look for issues, they start looking below the surface for the root causes that are causing problems,” Brown said. “What was done in the past was just band aids put on the problems, but we show them how to get to the root cause, and how to mitigate that to eliminate it. This is essential to project management.”

“If you know what it is you’re going to fix and what causes it, then you have to know how to manage it,” Hernandez noted.

Concentrating their efforts within the F/A-18 Hornet production line in the Building 94 hangar, Hernandez and Brown cited the Hornet fuel cell shop as an example of how a Green Belt project resolved production barriers and improved readiness.

Because there was no established schedule for them, the shop’s artisans had to wait when servicing the fuel cells that are located behind the cockpit on top of the aircraft. Only the hours to perform the work were allotted.

“If you don’t schedule a process to be done and give it the time it needs and it’s spread all through the overhaul of the aircraft, the continuity or the loss of continuity could cause something to be missed,” Hernandez said.

Fuel cell personnel must be finished with the aircraft before it continues through assembly. Power runs, checks and operations are not possible with an artisan working in the cell.

To remedy the issue, a work schedule was set and other improvements within the shop were made.

“We have a schedule of 14 days now to complete work on the five fuel cells in the legacy Hornets. And we have our own designated area for installation that includes storage,” said Vidal Nuno, fuel cell work leader and one of the Green Belt project participants.

“We also received new fuel stands about eight months ago which don’t require harnesses, and one more set is on order,” he added.

Prior to their relocation to the hangar floor, the shop was located in the building’s mezzanine. Artisans had to walk seven to 10 miles a day to carry their gear to aircraft work sites. It now takes them about 40 steps to gather what they need.

“Anytime you have to walk to do something it’s a waste because it’s taking time away from doing your job,” Brown said. “When you walk a process that someone says takes about 10 minutes to do, you often find they may stop to get a tool they need, or stop to get rags or hazmat, and it can turn into an hour. This is what we look to mitigate.”

Meanwhile, the mezzanine has been converted to the shop’s kitting area.

“Material storage cages are used in the kitting area. Before, the shop couldn’t pull its inventory. Now they know exactly what they’re supposed to have, can track it, and when they are supposed to have it by compartment on the aircraft,” Hernandez said.

Artisans enter the fuel cell through a 17-by-12-inch hatch where they remove and install the fuel bladder and work among the cell’s components.

“Parts that are removed have to be dispositioned. They go through an evaluator and examination (E & E) to determine if they can go directly to kitting, or are good but in need of slight repair, or if they need to be scrapped out and a new replacement part ordered,” Hernandez said.

The recent addition of E&E and production control personnel have significantly increased the efficiency within the kitting area and the shop’s timeliness in meeting other requirements, Nuno noted.

Procedure turn-around time (TAT) is another factor commonly evaluated through an AIRSpeed project.

“With TAT we are looking at time available divided by customer demand. That gives us an idea of how much time we have to work on something,” Brown said.

TAT also serves in determining work center staffing requirements based upon the number of people needed to complete a procedure in an allotted amount time.

If or when a process fails, it may usually be attributed to either training, communication or accountability, Brown noted.

“We continuously validate the processes to make sure they are still working. That’s part of the continuous process improvement, because the Theory of Constraints (restrictions to processes) will always move. Theory of Constraints works well in a manufacturing environment, but here, because we have different configurations of aircraft, we have different requirements like a Planned Maintenance Interval 1 and 2, so it depends on the hours on the aircraft,” he said.

Though AIRSpeed is the vehicle to efficiency in program readiness, the changing culture of the FRCSW work force is the catalyst to its implementation.

“The biggest change I’ve seen in this group (F-18) and others is the ability to walk them through an area in work or completed in work and let them ask the questions: `how, why, when, who, where and what,’ and then show them through the training how it all connects,” Hernandez said.

“There are cultural barriers, but what makes this program successful for the F-18 is that Marty and I are out there all of the time, and now that the work force knows we are there to help them, someone may stop us and say, `Hey, I’ve got an idea,’ whereas that really wasn’t happening before,” Brown said.

“People are seeing the value in the training and we pack a class of 30 people every session for the Yellow Belt, and we have people waiting to get in to the Green Belt training,” he added.