KC maintenance

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U.S. Air Force KC-135s undergo pro-
grammed depot maintenance at the Boeing
Support Systems center in San Antonio.
Through a series of lean activities, Boeing is
shortening the amount of time each aircraft
spends at the center, allowing more flexblity
to the warfighter.

KC-135 maintenance                                                                                Photos by Tony Romero

New tools, techniques                                The Air Force, expected to select the
                                                 prime contractor for the fiscal year 2008
                                                                                                   and technicians only perform work that
                                                                                                   adds value, as defined by the customer.
boost customer service                           KC-135 Programmed Depot Maintenance
                                                 program in May, is requiring each aircraft
                                                                                                   This process discipline improves quality,
                                                                                                   schedule and cost, in turn increasing cus-
and help position the                            to complete PDM in about 175 days. “At the
                                                 beginning of 2005, we averaged about 214
                                                                                                   tomer satisfaction.
                                                                                                      Boeing has transitioned KC-135 PDM
program for the future                           days,” said Liz Cange, an industrial engi-
                                                 neer specializing in lean principles. “By the
                                                                                                   from a dual pulse line to a more-efficient
                                                                                                   single pulse line that includes eight cells,
By Ed MEMi                                       first Fiscal Year 2007 plane, we will be at       or work locations. Instead of cycling work
                                                 175 days or less.”                                teams, tools and equipment between the

       oeing and its supplier-partner Pem-           A KC-135 tanker typically requires PDM        two lines, the aircraft moves from cell to
       co Aeroplex Inc. are transforming         every five years. Boeing inspects the aircraft    cell. Everything mechanics need to com-
       the programmed depot-level main-          and performs necessary maintenance and            plete their work is located in the appropriate
tenance (major-overhaul) processes for the       repairs, ensuring readiness for five years        cell. The aircraft stays in each cell for an av-
U.S. Air Force KC-135 tanker fleet.              or more. Aircraft undergoing PDM are not          erage of 12 to 14 days, during what is called
    Through a series of Lean initiatives im-     available to support combat operations.           a “pulse interval.”
plemented at Boeing Support Systems in           Boeing’s role, therefore, is to complete its         About 60 maintainers and managers
San Antonio earlier this year and sched-         work and return a quality product back to         helped kick off the improvements during a
uled for full implementation at Pemco’s          the Air Force as quickly as possible.             one-week workshop. “We asked the people
Birmingham, Ala., facility this fall, the team       Lean maintenance is important, said           who work on these aircraft to tell us the best
is accelerating the aircraft’s return, thereby   Dave Ott, Support Systems Lean Enter-             way to flow the aircraft using a production/
enhancing the customer’s capabilities.           prise focal, because it ensures mechanics         preparation/process (3P) event,” Cange said.

26                                                                                                       April 2006 BOEING FRONTIERS
                                                                                                          INTEGRATED DEFENSE SYSTEMS

                                                                    Brian More, a Boeing
                                                                    maintenance lead, installs      the tools to Lean
                                                                    a new stinger for a belly
                                                                    skin change on a KC-135         Here are some of the Lean tools used on the
                                                                    undergoing programmed           KC-135 Programmed Depot Maintenance (PDM)
                                                                    depot maintenance at            program. These tools support the companywide
                                                                    San Antonio.                    Lean+ initiative.
                                                                                                    aircraft Condition analysis tool: Analyzes the
                                                                         Integrated         Gold    history of each aircraft, by tail number, to more
                                                                     (I-Gold).     This    third-   accurately forecast needs.
                                                                     party business-planning        Boeing on-line management applications:
                                                                     database      provides     a   This Web-based application gives users quick,
                                                                     wealth of reports to track     easy access to C/KC-135 engineering data. It
                                                                     progress and improve pro-      also lets engineers make faster decisions.
                                                                     cesses. I-Gold integrates      supply chain integration: Supply chain person-
                                                                     inventory databases with       nel are matched with and support the new
                                                                     the shop floor manage-         production system, ensuring material is available
                                                                     ment programs, allowing        as needed.
                                                                     them to work together as
                                                                     a total enterprise package     Job management system: This software tool
                                                                     and eliminating paper-         provides managers visibility into continuously
                                                                     dependent        processes.    updated cost, quality and schedule metrics. With
                                                                     Using the integrated plan-     a click of the mouse, they can determine the per-
                                                                     ning system, workers build     formance against contract requirements for each
                                                                     job kits based on what the     site, aircraft and cell. Users can retrieve data on
                                                                     data tells them is needed.     open or closed work; against a specific tail num-
                                                                         iCapture.      Mechan-     ber; and by a specific person, date, aircraft zone,
                                                                     ics use this third-party       part number. The data helps managers plan daily
                                                                     wireless tablet computer,      activities and address problems quickly.
                                                                     which is linked to I-Gold,     nonconformance management system: The
                                                                     to document aircraft con-      program uses this automated tool to log defects,
                                                                     ditions that require repair    create work orders and route work to the appro-
                                                                     or maintenance. “Our fu-       priate teammate. Used with iCapture, it allows
    The team is pleased with the results.         ture state is to become totally paperless and     inspectors to access data that helps speed the
    “It is amazing how much of a dramatic         to allow mechanics to access graphics and         inspection process. The system’s repair history
improvement is made by treating the me-           engineering drawings instantly at the point       feature helps Boeing predict the incoming condi-
chanic as the centerpiece of the production       of maintenance,” Ott said.                        tion of an aircraft and thus pre-position parts.
system,” said Sam Ferguson, Boeing Lean              Kitting. This effort delivers to the point-
manager. “By bringing in everything and           of-use all parts, tools and consumables that      shop floor management Visuals: These visual
optimizing it for the person who adds the         a mechanic needs to perform a task. Kitting       aids control the work cell by visually regulating
value on the production line, it’s a huge shift   also involves team tools and task boxes,          operations and showing their status. Displays
in terms of performance.”                         which prevents mechanics from checking            include location indicators, signboards, status
    The floor of the Boeing facility is filled    in and out with personal tools or having to       boards (inclusive of performance metrics),
with color-coded markings, so team-               use a remote tool crib.                           checklists, diagrams, area maps, etc.
mates know what equipment belongs in                 task packages. Boeing has divided              support cells: Teams of estimators, supply
each area.                                        PDM work into easy-to-track task packag-          specialists, disposition experts, quality assurance
    “The concept is much like how a sur-          es of less than eight hours work. “By break-      personnel and industrial engineers are assigned
geon operates on a patient,” Ferguson said.       ing the work packages into less than eight-       to support the eight PDM cells.
“The tools are laid out in a standard way,        hour tasks, you can know halfway into the
and the operation is conducted in a stan-         day whether the mechanics will complete
dard pattern. Ideally what you are doing is       that job, and you can more easily and ac-            “When an unplanned maintenance ac-
minimizing the variation, and therefore you       curately determine status of the work,”           tion is required, and we have seen it or
get a higher quality product a lot faster with    Ott said. Workers can easily see if they are      something similar before, we are able to
consistent results.”                              making appropriate progress, while man-           readily access documentation and planning
    Boeing is investing $6.5 million to           agers know whether they are on schedule           information using our iCapture tool,” Ott
implement lean improvements on the                and budget. Also, Boeing can better ac-           said. “This improved process allows us to
KC-135 PDM program in San Antonio.                commodate customer changes by rebalanc-           more efficiently define, order required ma-
Pemco is making similar investments in its        ing the work line.                                terial and schedule the repair.” n
facility; once completed in September, that          About 50 percent of PDM work is un-                
site’s KC-135 PDM line will look exactly          planned (repairs found needed when the air-
like the one in San Antonio.                      craft is inspected), and most of that work is
    In addition to the pulse line, Boeing has     repetitive. As such, Boeing is taking a stan-
implemented                                       dard repair approach.

BOEING FRONTIERS April 2006                                                                                                                        27

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