March 24, 2008 (by A1C Chase Skylar DeMayo) - The Airmen who maintain the Low Observable aspects of the F-22 took part in an Air Force Smart Operations of the 21st Century event Dec. 3 through 7, 2007, making the Raptor LO process of Langley maintainers more time efficient.
With help of the 1st Fighter Wing AFSO21 facilitators, 1st Equipment Maintenance Squadron's Airmen were able to significantly improve their day to day operations as well as their work environment.
"The Airmen get to make the changes," said Lt. Col. Dave Morgan, 1st Equipment Maintenance Squadron commander. "Leaders listened to them, and in turn, major changes will be made to benefit the Air Force."
The 1st Fighter Wing AFSO21 office conducted a rapid improvement event to look for efficiency gains in the low observable coating process for the F-22 Raptor. The 1st EMS Airmen who conduct repairs on the LO system spend 50 to 60 hours a week through weekends and holidays on a 12-hour shift schedule.
"The F-22 LO process was identified as an AFSO21 candidate because the process is extremely manpower and time intensive," said 1st Lt. Christine Bolton, 1st Maintenance Group AFSO21 officer in charge. "Currently, the average LO process flow time can take 88-110 hours to complete."
Col. Tyrone Strachan, 1st Maintenance Group commander chartered the event to analyze the LO process and identify ways to reduce the total flow time including wasteful actions and specifically make working conditions better for his Airmen.
"The Airmen's participation and feedback was immensely significant," said Colonel Strachan. "First of all, it gave the people who are doing the work a voice of how to improve maintenance and their overall work environment. Second, it cemented the fact we in the maintenance group value our Airmen's opinions and not just our senior noncommissioned officers and officers. Finally, it gave the Airmen even more a sense of pride and ownership."
"Improving LO means improving combat capability by improving F-22 availability," the commander added.
The sense of pride resulted in a raise of morale throughout the 1st FW and 192nd FW. Morale isn't the only thing that has changed for the Airmen since the event.
"I've seen a lot more involvement from the wing, group, squadron, flight and so forth who's stepping forward to making things better in and out of our shop," said Senior Airman Dale Aguda, 1st EMS Low Observable composite repair facility Airmen. "Granted the improvements we had summed up don't just happen over night, but will make things better for the newer LO troops coming in the future."
Thanks to the event, Langley and its Airmen are not the only ones to benefit greatly from the results.
The team of Raptor LO subject matter experts from Langley AFB
, Tyndall AFB, Fla. and Elmendorf AFB, Alaska met for a week and utilized the AFSO21 LEAN tools to identify and implement changes to the process.
"The implications are huge for the F-22 program," said Colonel Strachan. "We are developing groundbreaking procedures that will help the other F-22 bases already established but especially the ones who are just beginning to get the F-22. We will pass our knowledge to Elmendorf and Holloman so they will have much easier time setting up their LO sections and being more efficient from the start."
Although this event took only five days, the results were tremendous.
"The outcome was a reduction of flow time by 39 percent," said Lieutenant Bolton. "This not only enhances mission capability but also reduces the LO work center constraints."
Changes are being made daily throughout Langley, but, the changes at the 1st EMS LO facility is an example of how commanders, lieutenants, senior noncommissioned officers and Airmen can significantly improve the mission as a team.