Airmen team with Army depot to learn 'Lean' process
March 26, 2014
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. (March 26, 2014) -- Air Force aircraft maintenance mechanics recently teamed up with depot employees to standardize processes for work performed on a satellite communications system and tactical radios.
Lean proponent and former Tobyhanna Army Depot employee Senior Master Sgt. John Sosko brought four Reservists from Pope Army Airfield, N.C., here to benchmark the depot's Lean Program and participate in two Lean events -- a value stream analysis and rapid improvement event.
Lean is a program of continuous improvement based on eliminating unnecessary steps in a process, such as rearranging an area to improve work flow, to improve efficiency. Value stream analysis is a program to identify what can be improved. A rapid improvement event targets a specific area to improve organization.
"It's always good to gain a fresh perspective and capture great ideas," said Sosko, Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant superintendent at Pope. "Tobyhanna is at the forefront of Lean thinking and will always be our first choice to learn more about the program."
The Satellite Transportable Terminal is new workload being inducted now. The Value Stream Analysis was used as a planning event to define, develop and document a standard process. The mobile satellite system provides communications virtually anywhere.
"It was very rewarding for us to have the opportunity to work and interact directly with the Airmen," said John Scott, process improvement specialist in the Productivity, Improvement and Innovation Directorate's Process Improvement Division. "We learned a great deal from them."
According to Scott, the Satellite Transportable Terminal program is another opportunity to develop a process built around predictability, standardization and visibility.
"Putting quality products on the battlefield is our number one priority and who better to get feedback from but the users themselves," Scott said.
Process improvement specialist Clark Ross explained that the AN/VRC-104(V)6 Joint Tactical Radio System is one of four joint (used by more than one military service) radios that are overhauled at Tobyhanna. The Rapid Improvement Event was held to adjust for an 83 percent average monthly increase in workload.
"Our goal was to standardize the overhaul process, document the standard process and reduce over runs," said Ross. Furthermore, the team mapped the process and verified the processing time needed to complete the radios on schedule. Ross noted that lessons learned from this event will be applied to the other joint radios.
This was the second visit for personnel from Pope Army Airfield, according to Sosko. What is learned here will be applied to processes at their home station.
"This time we were able to use the depot's manufacturing and repair experience to Lean out our isochronal (thorough examination of the entire aircraft) inspection process. We came here to benchmark ideas on saving steps and time to create a better product with less waste," he said.
Sosko and his team also looked at several product lines and intend to incorporate standard tool boxes and automated key receptacles for signing out the tools.
Visits like this are "definitely value added," said Tactical Satellite Systems Branch Chief John Nicholoff, explaining that everyone brings something to the table. "It's a face-to-face sharing of ideas and problem solving that benefits the warfighter."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C4ISR, Systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna's Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C4ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.
Tobyhanna's unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, technology insertion, modification, and global field support to warfighters.
About 3,500 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.