Maintainers improving system through AFSO21 Published Sept. 18, 2006 By Joe B. Wiles 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- If you could reduce the number of steps an Airman in the 92nd Maintenance Squadron's Periodic Inspection Element has to climb everyday, you could give him back a lot of time. It would also be an excellent example of Air Force Smart Operations 21 in action. Until recently, working inside the cargo area of the KC-135 was a cluttered space during periodic inspections. Panels were removed from the floor and stacked where they would hopefully be out of the way. When mechanics needed additional tools, they climbed down the cargo door platform stairs, went to their toolbox and climbed back up the stairs. Now, thanks to a locally built platform that is much larger, has storage racks for floor panels, work surfaces, a vice and a jumbo toolbox, the mechanics have more room in the aircraft and a lot less miles on their boots. "We asked the maintainers what they needed, what would make their life easier," said Master Sgt. Mark Jasenak, chief of the Periodic Inspection Element. The large stand in front of the cargo door was a result. According to Secretary of the Air Force, Michael W. Wynne, AFSO 21 is a dedicated effort to maximize value and minimize waste in Air Force operations. Keeping mechanics closer to their work and keeping their tools closer to them certainly qualifies. The Periodic Inspection Element keeps the 35 tankers at Fairchild flying, and is why the 50-year-old aircraft is still getting the mission accomplished, said Tech. Sgt. Prayon Kreutz, the NCO in charge of the element. "Periodic inspections are preventative maintenance." Of her 19 years in the Air Force, 14 have been spent at Fairchild taking care of the KC-135. "It's like an old Pontiac. You might have to go to the bone yard to get parts, but everything is accessible, everything is right there," she said. "We're not dealing with a lot of avionics or computer chips. Every answer we need is right here in this building." Initiatives like the large cargo door platform are critical in light of the Air Force's need to reduce the number of people on active duty. "We're losing a lot of people but we still need to keep the aircraft flying," said Sergeant Kreutz. "We'll need to find a lot of Lean initiatives." Lean initiatives are methods of cutting the waste from a process and continually pushing forward with technology and innovation. Just as the work space and tool box on the cargo door platform saves time, so will another initiative in the works. "We're putting a wireless computer capability in the work area," said Sergeant Jasenak. "The maintainers will have a laptop computer with them to input and clear jobs right on site." Currently, the mechanics have to go back to their shops or find an available computer to input data. "We have 21 new laptops and are just waiting for the wireless system to be installed sometime in October," said Sergeant Jasenak. Last March in a letter to Airmen about AFSO 21, Secretary Wynne recommended asking regularly, "What have I improved today?" The maintenance professionals in the 92nd MXS Periodic Inspection Element can certainly answer that question with pride.