Robins group earns excellence award

The Warner Robins Air Logistics Center has won a coveted Shingo Prize for manufacturing excellence in the testing and repair of avionics components.

The Shingo Prize is administered by the Utah State University school of business and has been labeled the Nobel Prize of manufacturing. It is named after Shigeo Shingo, credited with developing a host of efficiencies at Japanese manufacturing giant Toyota.

The 402nd Electronics Maintenance Group at Robins won silver recognition in the four-tiered Shingo award system. The other levels are platinum, gold and bronze. The local unit was one of two Defense Department agencies recognized by the Shingo evaluation team. The Logistics Command and Army Fleet Support LLC at Fort Rucker, Ala., won a bronze award. The group will receive the award at the Shingo annual conference in Nashville, Tenn., which runs May 5-8.

Donna Frazier, 402nd deputy director, said her people were extremely proud after hearing of the Shingo results.

“Our folks have done an outstanding job with continuous process improvement,” she said. “They’re the ones who won this award. We were very pleased with the results of the audit we had.”

The local center has been a pioneering agency in the Shingo process. It was the first Defense Department gold level recipient in 2005 for depot maintenance on the Air Force’s C-5 cargo fleet. The center won three additional Shingos in 2006 — a second gold for C-5 depot maintenance and two bronze-level awards for F-15 airframe and avionics maintenance.

The Shingo Prize was established in 1988 to recognize world-class, lean organizations. The agency’s Web site lists the selection criteria as customer satisfaction, quality, cost and delivery, lean core operations and worker empowerment. Lean is a process first developed by Toyota to eliminate waste and unproductive processes.

The Electronics Maintenance Group, with more than 1,400 employees, was cited for trimming 25 steps in the manufacture of circuit cards and eliminating 10 hours per job. The group also reduced flow days for digital automated test sets by 61 percent and cut the number of safety violations by almost 60 percent.

The seven-person Shingo inspection team also was impressed with the group’s model cell concept and the ability to deploy the improved processes across the organization.

“They toured a large number of model cells and then went into the other areas and looked at those same processes,” Frazier said.

“After the F-15 avionics area won a Shingo bronze in 2006, we took the results of that audit and went groupwide. We put a plan in place to bring the entire group to another level and this is the result of that effort.”

The highly sophisticated Robins unit offers a broad range of technologies — from maintenance on 1940s vacuum tubes used in components for the B-52 bomber to work on avionics for the Air Force’s newest air superiority fighter, the F-22.

“The Shingo team definitely saw a wide range of technology and repair processes,” she said.

A related goal for the group has been to marry process improvement with a focus on the voluntary protection program, a centerwide emphasis on worker safety.

“We’re improving our processes and safety together so that we’re improving across the board,” Frazier said.

Some of the 402nd individuals responsible for winning the award will represent the organization at the Shingo conference in Nashville.

“They will attend the conference and the workshops to learn more about process improvement,” she said.

To contact Gene Rector, call 923-3109, extension 239.