Instructors from the Air Force Institute of Technology’s School of Systems and Logistics provided theory of constraints and critical chain project management consulting resulting in the highest home station sortie rate in five years for the 140th Maintenance Squadron at Buckley Space Force Base and reduced F-16 wing change replacement time by 50% for the 56th Maintenance Squadron at Luke Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Lotz)
Air Force Institute of Technology instructors provided Theory of Constraints and Critical Chain Project Management consulting to two maintenance groups. The result was the highest home station sortie rate in five years for the 140th Maintenance Squadron at Buckley Space Force Base and reduced F-16 wing change replacement time by 50% for the 56th Maintenance Squadron at Luke Air Force Base.
In late 2021, AFIT School of Systems and Logistics course directors Maj. Steve Riedl, Karl Kuwik, and Gary “Mitch” Nogrady met with teams from the two organizations to help apply key concepts from their courses on ToC and CCPM. These concepts drive significant performance improvements through relatively simple changes in scheduling procedures, management tools and processes, and organizational requirements.
The 140th Maintenance Group was struggling to meet the F-16 daily flying schedule without costly overtime. Using a defined process, Kuwik and Nogrady helped the team understand the flow of production and how there are resource, policy, and practice impediments to that flow.
“We started with academics and then went through some simulations which identified four ways that they were making poor decisions. That’s when they had an ‘ah-ha moment’ because the simulations emulated exactly the problems that they were having,” said Kuwik.
The root cause analysis identified core issues with scheduling processes, poor communication, and multiple competing priorities.
“We took their specific knowledge of their unit’s typical management planning and scheduling activities and were able to drill down on how those issues contributed to problems hampering their sortie production effort,” said Nogrady.
Lt. Col. Jason Kneuer, commander of the 140th Maintenance Group, commented that applying the lessons learned from the consultation project resulted in the “highest sortie production rate in five years for the home team while the rest of us were deployed.”
“They were motivated people, but they were following the wrong process to optimize the flow of work,” said Kuwik. “Once we exposed the flawed thinking, they bought in almost immediately; there was no resistance. They couldn’t believe that the fix could be so easy without major, earth-shaking changes. Just change the way you schedule your work, make it realistic, and it will flow much better.”
“The idea behind theory of constraints is you don't have to solve all the problems at once,” explained Nogrady. “If you can knock out some of the core problems that put you in the vicious cycle then you can see significant results immediately.”
After implementing similar ToC and CCPM concepts, the 56th Maintenance Group reduced F-16 wing change replacement time from 344 hours to 168 hours by building a network diagram to correctly identify and sequence all of the work activities.
“We reduced the wing change time by 50%, even with a significant engineering support delay that took four days. If they didn’t have that delay, they would have finished in one third of the planned schedule time so I would call that a huge success,” said Kuwik.
The results were so dramatic, the concepts are now being applied to reduce F-16 fuel cell replacement cycle time.
Capt. Tia Robles, 56th Component Maintenance Squadron Director of Operations, was the lead coordinator for the consultation project and Tech. Sgt. Carl Walker, Assistant Section Chief, Fuels, led the application and data collection on the wing change process for the 56th CMS Fuels Systems repair section.
Robles has noticed a culture shift in recognizing the importance of deliberate planning within the maintenance group. “Our maintenance culture is sometimes predicated on being reactive in nature (unscheduled maintenance actions) or being stuck in dynamic environments with perceived minimal influence on the external environment. Through the use of interactive courses, engaging instructors, and incorporation of home station techniques, the AFIT faculty have helped teach our team to effectively plan for maintenance contingencies and become more proactive in a dynamic environment.”
“Consulting is an essential pillar to the School of Systems and Logistics mission,” said Lt. Col. Barbara Shephard, head of the department of logistics management. “Through consultation, our knowledgeable faculty are able to use their specific expertise and skills to assist our customers in solving difficult and complex problems.”
The School of Systems and Logistics is the Department of the Air Force's provider of professional continuing education courses in the areas of data analytics, acquisition management, contracting, financial management, logistics management, and systems and software engineering. With more than 155 courses and seminars, the school plans, develops, and conducts courses to satisfy the technical management educational needs of acquisition, contracting, and logistics customers from the Air Force, DoD, and other federal agencies. Faculty teach an average of 17,900 students a year through in-residence, distance learning, and on-site instruction. Contact AFIT.LS.EducationSupport@us.af.mil or visit www.afit.edu/LS for more information.