Mother of all Planes: Robins maintenance pros annihilate workflow, set record

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

An aircraft with an interior and exterior combined paint weight of 2,600 pounds, more than 100 miles of wiring, over five miles of control cables and can haul 58 Cadillac’s or six standard Greyhound buses, the maintenance demands are extreme.

The Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex is one of only three ALCs in the Air Force with principal players in the sustainment of aircraft, components and software. Since the C-5 fleet is an aging one, with an airframe built throughout the late 1960s, the WR-ALC has its work cut out for them to keep this complex and unique plane flying.

“Through the use of AFMC's ‘The Art of the Possible’ tenants; we have increased the efficiency of our machine processes but also more aligned these processes across the various installations,” Roy Rudd, C-5 Production Flight Chief, said.

Last year, C-5 Depot Maintenance was asked to reduce their customer completion requirement of 265 days to 190 days. Not only did they meet that request but they exceeded it by further reducing to 185 days.

The C-5M maintenance machine is currently made up of six gates where work is segregated for better management, monitoring and execution.  

In order to meet the "Art of the Possible" goal of 185 flow days vs. 265, the Squadron held an "Enterprise Value Stream Mapping" session in the spring of 2016. During this week-long event, many of the C-5 team members gave input on the “how to.” This "how to" plan, or better known as "road to goal,” reduced the required 265 flow days down to 185 by utilizing various LEAN initiatives ranging from removing the horizontal stab with a "mobile crane" vs. tail enclosure to accelerated inspections and identifying parts needs sooner.

“When the field gives us a plane, they expect it back on day 266,” explained Rudd. “With our current system, we have that aircraft scheduled to complete 80 days ahead of schedule.”

Despite a regularly large amount of unplanned workload within the 559th Machine, the team is committed to a reduced flow day mark of 185 flow days. This feat is better understood when the numbers are looked at. The average "planned" hourly package for a C-5M Galaxy is approximately 72,000 hours requiring 265 flow days. On top of this, adding in the "unplanned" or "over and above" work that is typical for this aging fleet routinely brings the standard requirement to 292 flow days vs. 265.

However, through recent LEAN initiatives, Value Stream Mapping event and good old "service before self" attitudes, the 559th AMXS team has managed to do what many thought impossible and produced their first C-5M MSG aircraft in less than 240 flow days despite it accumulating over 82,000 planned/unplanned required maintenance hours.

“Aircraft 85-004 completed its PDM package of approximately 82,000 hours, more than 10,000 hours above planned,” Rudd explained. “Despite a manpower shortage and other obstacles believed difficult if not impossible to overcome.”

All six gates within the machine had to cut their required days down in order to meet the goal of 185. An example of this cut can be seen at the inspect gate. This gate was previously scheduled to take 30 flow days to complete yet the C-5 team reduced this requirement to 16 flow days. By completing the aircraft inspection sooner, the supply chain now has more time to get the needed parts sooner for subsequent repair and build-up gates.

Due to the increasing needs of the aging fleet, this was a must. However, it must be recognized as a huge accomplishment considering the C5 maintenance team has been able to inspect the Air Force’s  largest cargo aircraft in half the time previously required.

Many other areas of the six-gate machine have been similarly reduced and have proven achievable. Although 85-004 was the first C-5M to be produced in less than 240 flow days, there are others projected to complete even sooner. Aircraft 85-002 and Aircraft 85-009 are both projected sooner than the 238 flow day mark 85-004 achieved and although the 559th Maintenance team realizes there will be obstacles to overcome, their track record shows they’re capable of overcoming and achieving what once was unachievable.

Having  the unique inspection and repair capabilities as opposed to buying replacement aircraft is a tremendous strategic value to the Air Force and nation. The repairs, overhauls, upgrades and modifications done by Team Robins keep this aging fleet flying.

The WR-ALC is one of the key reasons the Air force is able to continue to safely fly the 47-plus-year-old C-5 Galaxy.