ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Brig. Gen. Cedric George put it plainly in describing the significance of an award won by the C-130 overhaul maintenance team at Robins Air Force Base.
“This is the Super Bowl of depot maintenance,” said George, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, as he stood outside a C-130 hangar Wednesday.
The trophy that will be presented later this year, he added, is about the size of the Super Bowl trophy.
The award is the Department of Defense 2012 Robert T. Mason Depot Maintenance Excellence Award, and it’s the first time Robins has won it, George said. He noted the unit competed against depot maintenance teams in all branches of the military.
“We have the best production line in the entire DOD, and that’s tough competition,” George said. “It’s yet another example of what can happen when we work together as a team.”
George said as soon as he learned of the award, he called retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon and Col. Evan Miller. He credited McMahon, former commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, and Miller, as commander of what was then the 402nd Maintenance Wing, with leading the turnaround that helped win the trophy.
The base went from finishing 47 percent of its planes on time in October 2011 to a 95 percent on-time delivery rate. In fiscal 2011, the base registered 6,000 cumulative days of aircraft being late to about 100 this year, with one month left in the fiscal year.
The C-130 unit went from 18 percent on-time delivery to 98.2 percent today.
“The C-130 team led the way at Robins and now is leading the way across the Department of Defense,” George said. “They are the uncontested champions of depot maintenance.”
C-130 programmed depot maintenance is done by the 560th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, which employs 1,100 people. Squadron director Rich Fry was overjoyed when he learned of the award.
“You don’t know how much hard work this team has done,” he said.
The C-130 section has implemented a number of changes in the way it does maintenance, and the center of that is a new concept called high velocity maintenance. It emphasizes being prepared for each aircraft before the plane arrives by knowing its condition and what needs to be done. It lays out a specific schedule for each job, so mechanics know what they are doing each day, and support personnel can make sure the tools and parts are ready for that work to be done.
It’s aimed at improving the “burn rate,” which is the time mechanics are actually working on the plane rather than waiting or looking for items they need to do the job.
According to the application for the award, maintainers improved the burn rate from 122 hours per day to 220. The total time it takes to complete programmed depot maintenance dropped from 278 days to 176. The unit also saw a 60 percent reduction in customer reported defects.
Tony Yake has been a C-130 mechanic for four years. He said work is done differently today than when he first started.
“We pay more attention to detail, and that’s why we got the award,” he said. “We have more people coming behind you checking what you are doing.”
Robins leaders will collect the trophy in November at the annual Department of Defense Maintenance Symposium in Grand Rapids, Mich.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.