Fairchild paves way for project ‘Tesseract,’ improves aircraft availability

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Lawrence Sena
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Airmen and leaders from the 92nd Maintenance Group, 92nd Mission Support Group and 92nd Operations Group came together as part of an Air Force Headquarters Continuous Process of Improvement project focused on unit synchronization and improving mission efficiency.

Project Tesseract is one of the latest CPI projects set to be implemented by Air Force Headquarters A4L, who are responsible for logistics and maintenance branches, as a way to assist organizations with becoming more productive without additional cost or manpower.

“Project Tessaract initially started as a capstone study focused on innovation and synchronizing people within different agencies, and has grown into a project managed through the Theory of Constraints, while using CPI tools to mitigate those constraints experienced by our maintainers,” said Tech Sgt. Shanan Vigil, 92nd MXG senior process improvement manager. “A4L decided they were going test out three bases, and we here at Fairchild were the first pilot base tested using the TOC and CPI tools to improve mission operations.”

TOC is a management philosophy focused on building processes that identify constraints within an organization, using CPI tools to mitigate them. The Air Force CPI program is a program that allows Airmen to implement innovations and ideas as a way to create a continuous cycle of process improvement, with a goal to improve mission execution.

 “TOC works best in organizations with high variability in events outside of the organization’s control,” Vigil said. “We can’t control when an aircraft is going to break, but what this CPI process allows us to do is figure out how to manage it intelligently, allowing a better planning factor.”

After implementing Tesseract’s TOC and CPI process on every aspect of maintenance from a strategic scale, both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance became streamlined to produce 1,600 aircraft availability days for the 63 KC-135 Stratotanker fleet.

“This is important because we had a tidal wave of new incoming aircraft, and with those aircraft came annual inspections, 60-day inspections and bi-annual inspections, which can take up to 52 days to accomplish,” Vigil said. “With 52-day inspections and 63 aircraft, it’s extremely difficult to accomplish those inspections within a year and have tankers available to fly. We were able to streamline those inspections down to 14 days, meaning aircraft are now available 40 days earlier.”

Initial planning, coordination and testing for this program started in 2018, with almost immediate positive results from scheduled maintenance, cutting inspection time by up to 70%. Testing for this project finished in 2020, resulting in higher aircraft availability, high quality maintenance, and Fairchild paving the way for Project Tesseract to be implemented across the Air Force.

“It was a really amazing project for not just us here at Fairchild, but the entire KC-135 community,” Vigil said. “Because of the success as a pilot base, a contract was negotiated to implement this TOC to all other KC-135 active duty bases, and improve their mission efficiency based on their constraints.”

Team Fairchild’s success in the implementation of TOC and CPI tools set the standard for Project Tesseract’s success at other wings throughout the Air Force, and further enabled Fairchild Airmen to continue to innovate, and solve the problems they know best.

“Our efforts here are setting the ground rules for how Tesseract will apply to other wings across the Air Force,” said Col. Michael O’Connor, 92nd MXG commander. “The ability to successfully implement the TOC and CPI program with our assets has enabled us to improve not only our Global Reach capabilities, but set the standard across the Air Force on the importance of innovating to win for long-term mission success.”