MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. — Fleet Readiness Center East innovators are continuing forward in the design, development and prototype phase of the Innovation Challenge.
And according to much of the advancing innovators’ feedback, such a moment to participate in something that strengthens organizational safety, quality, throughput and cost (efficiency) has been long awaited.
"I was actually thinking of projects long before this was announced, and so when it was announced for FRC East I thought it was just a great opportunity to help my home base," said Eric Santure, aerospace engineer, whose team is the innovator of the Material Nesting Optimization idea aimed to reduce waste, improve quality and increase throughput.
Maria Gaskill, industrial material analyst, said she thought up the idea to design a New Tail Rotor Dolly about seven years ago, when she worked as a production controller in Shop 94801.
"Right away I realized the hazard the (ill-suited cart) presented to a person and the blades," she said, explaining the ergonomic challenges to a user and how it exposes blades to opportunities of being damaged in transport.
"A chance to make things go smoother … speed up the process" is what drove Samuel Chaisson, aircraft worker on the H-53 Production Line, and his team to think up the idea for a Drive Shaft Maintenance Tree or Cart. "We talk about stuff on a daily basis … but about the right stuff to make change happen and getting it in the ear of the right person to make things happen."
For John Burbine, composite fabricator, trying to hold a small component, of less than two inches in diameter, with oversized rubber gloves while blasting it with more than 1,000 pounds per square inch of blast media was counterproductive. He explained the challenge as well as how touching the part after blasting could compromise the cleaning procedure previously performed.
"This was a problem and we needed to come up with a solution," he said as he explained how the additively manufactured prototype of a Dynamic Component Liner Blasting Tool would remedy the issue.
The objective to improve people’s jobs and make things easier and faster to accomplish is the big reason Dani Curl, information technology specialist, and Albry Spence, Aviation Logistics and Maintenance Readiness Analysis Division director, combined their teams’ ideas to develop mobile applications and software for tablet devices.
"The biggest complaint was that users had to travel back and forth between their job on the floor and their desk to use the applications," said Curl.
The team is seeking to improve the functionality of the Aircraft Data Collection System software by enabling features that facilitate ease of data collection and instant sharing across a network, for example. And while a number of depot roles are likely to benefit from the innovation, the team is concentrating its efforts on the estimator and evaluator community of end users, first.
Though some of the contestants had previously tried to route ideas through formal suggestion programs, the Innovation Challenge format gives more hope of the ideas being realized.
"Before when you had an idea, you would submit it and you wouldn’t hear anything about it … you wouldn’t get any responses back," said Burbine. "I really feel the IC gave us the venue … for us with ideas to be heard. The people in the trenches working the parts everyday are really the people with half the solutions."
Gaskill’s dolly idea seemed to be gaining momentum when she first conceived it. She also had a prototype made. However, progression of the idea got bogged down due to organizational restraints.
"It was always on my mind to pursue a proper fix. This challenged opened the door to the opportunity," she added.
FRC East Commanding Officer Col. Clarence Harper III said he sensed that many felt their effort to contribute ideas was being stifled by systems constraints, administrative processes and other elements.
"My gut tells me there were some folks in the audience who said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this day forever,’" he said of the kickoff whistle-stop tour June 14. "It’s a breath of fresh air, particularly to our blue collar workforce, because those guys rarely get their voices heard."
He said the overall submissions reaffirmed his belief in the spirit of the workforce.
"The fact that we thought three would be a measure of success and we got 23 tells me there is a lot of hungry people out there who have a lot of great ideas," Harper said.
He added, "It means there is a large percentage of our workforce who is absolutely committed ... mentally in the game and you are committed to making this a long term investment in your future and the facility at large."
The Material Nesting Optimization idea aims to solve the problem of waste related to cutting composite fabric plies. The objective is to incorporate optimization software that takes individual composite ply shapes as inputs and outputs a ply pattern optimized to reduce waste. The innovation purports the following benefits: Speed to fleet, product quality or consistency, waste reduction, speed of decision making, reducing cost and cycle time.
The New Tail Rotor Dolly idea aims to address concerns for personnel health and safety, and product preservation presented by the current dolly used to transport H-53 tail rotor blades. The objective is to redesign the dolly so that operators can stand erect and blades are properly secured for transport, thereby eliminating ergonomic challenges and the risk of damaging blades. The innovation purports the following benefits: Speed to fleet, product quality or consistency, safety, employee morale, waste reduction, reducing cost and cycle time.
The Drive Shaft Maintenance Tree or Cart idea aims to reduce the amount of space taken up by the drive shafts on the production floor while also enabling better evaluation of the components before being installed on aircraft. The objective is to design and manufacture a single driveshaft support tree that will facilitate storage, maintenance and transportation of all the drive shaft, thereby reducing damage during transportation and increasing the versatility of the support equipment. The innovation purports the following benefits: Speed to fleet, readiness, product quality or consistency, organizational flexibility, safety, employee morale, waste reduction, reducing cost and cycle time.
The Dynamic Component Liner Blasting Tool idea aims to address the problems encountered when processing small .5 inch round liners for dynamic components. The liners are blasted out of a blaster operator’s hands and are very difficult to hold because of the oversized rubber gloves worn for protection from the media blast. The objective is to engineer a tool that will secure multiple liners of various sizes while blasting, thereby ensuring retention and integrity of the liners. The innovation purports the following benefits: Speed to fleet, reducing cost and cycle time.
Application Development for Mobile Devices represents the merger of two ideas aimed at making members of the workforce more mobile and data more portable. The objective is to improve the functionality of the data collection system software, allowing for real-time updates and data sharing, thereby making data more portable through the use of tablet and mobile devices. The innovation purports the following benefits: Speed to fleet, readiness, product quality or consistency, customer satisfaction, organizational flexibility, safety, cyber security, employee morale, waste reduction, speed of decision making, knowledge retention, reducing cost and cycle time.
The teams continue in the design, development and prototype phase further developing their ideas until December when they will present ideas and the associated benefits to a panel of judges. Visit Spark! to read more in-depth explanations of the Innovation Challenge ideas.
For more news from Naval Air Systems Command, visit www.navair.navy.mil.