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News | May 8, 2019

FRCSW Hydraulics Shop Captures NAVAIR Commander's Award

By Jim Markle

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest's (FRCSW) component IPT hydraulics shop in Building 472 was honored as the Best FRC Shop at the 19th annual Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Commander's Award ceremony April 17 in Patuxent River, N.J.

The Commander's Award recognizes teams and individuals in eight categories across NAVAIR who exemplify the standards and dedication to improving readiness and mission focus. This year's winners were selected from a field of 64 nominees.

Manned by 55 artisans and approximately 12 contractor personnel operating in two shifts, the hydraulics shop refurbishes flight control components to F/A-18 legacy and Super Hornets, the E-2/C-2 airframe, and CH-53 and H-60 helicopters. Components to the LM2500 turbine engine are renovated, as well.

DIPT Jakob Grant attributes the shop's success to its artisans work with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and a focus on Commander, Navy Air Forces (CNAF) initiative to achieve 341 mission-ready F/A-18 Super Hornets by 2020. He said the number of Super Hornet Issue Priority Group 1 (IPG1) aircraft --- aircraft that are down for a component --- dropped from 107 to 34 in only seven months. And the shop's production numbers for Super Hornet fighter components increased more than 100 percent this fiscal year (FY).

"The artisans came up with outside-of-the box ideas to increase the quality of the components we were working on and reduce defects and costs caused by mishandling of components traveling through the shop," Grant said.

For example, to alleviate magnetic damage to electro hydraulic service valves (the EHSV valve sends a hydraulic signal to a flight control actuator which determines aircraft movement controlled by rudders and nose landing gear), protection during transportation was developed and wooden storage racks were built to replace metallic ones.

A board for artisans to voice their ideas and concerns was established to promote their participation in driving the shops production procedures. This helped in the overall process of changing the shop, supervisor Shannon Covington said.

"We were able to field all of the information in with ideas flowing from day shift, second shift, day in and day out. One suggestion resulted in an improved approach to kitting parts for the components. There was a lot of confusion as to identifying the parts for the kitting," said pneudraulics systems mechanic Brett Lee.

"Typically, there's more than 50 parts per component kit, and these include the kits for rudders, ailerons, leading edge stabilizers and trailing edge flaps. Working with production control, components were cross-kitted creating an easier and more efficient working environment for the artisans. Some of what we're doing here is new ground in how were changing the workflow. And that is making its way into standard operating procedures and filtering out into some of the technical aspects," Covington noted.

A complete reorganization of the shop was equally crucial to increasing production: work areas were decluttered in five days, and the shop restructured in only five more.

"The mindset we were given was to think in hours and minutes, not weeks and months," Grant said. "And the relocation of personnel throughout the shop to improve the workflow was also a contributing factor to increasing production. But there is no way we could've done what we did in the timetable that we did it if not for the support of facilities, the industrial engineering technicians, riggers, the maintenance crews and engineers," he said. "Every support group that had a stake in the shop answered the questions that the shop as a whole had on what was stopping the production. That buy-in from the outside support groups was key."

To help resolve production issues, support groups participate in the shops daily meetings. Participants include Defense Logistics Agency, quality assurance, production control, engineering and production managers.

"These people represent about 90 percent of any issues we may have. They are the drivers of the process," Grant said.

"We all bought into something that fosters and drives transparency. And that's evident throughout the transformation of the shop," Covington said. "You can see where issues are, and it spurs leadership. And in our meetings, it allows the responsible parties to take that action and answer for it. Every person here is aware that that is what we are driving for: 'What did you get done yesterday?' 'What did you get done today/'"

The same formula that earned the hydraulics shop the NAVAIR Commander's Award is being applied to other FRCSW production lines including the LM2500 engine program, avionics, generators and canopy shops.

Though they are no longer actively involved in operations, BCG continues to check in with the hydraulics shop weekly and has expanded its services to other FRCs.        

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