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Lean Avionics: Rockwell Collins

Within Lufthansa Technik’s product divisions one lean measure which has been implemented is a regular information exchange within the specific teams at the end of a shift to discuss performance, problems and possible solutions. In addition, for the clear indication of defects on aircraft, Lufthansa is using brightly colored marking tape.

LHT took in at least 80 new projects across its six divisions worldwide. When a Lean project

sees Lean not just as a tactical tool but as a strategic approach. Rockwell Collins has improved repair TAT by about 75 percent since


1998, he says. And on-time delivery to contract has risen from 94 percent to better than 99.8 percent over the period. Weber’s group started an initiative this year to reduce unnecessary

inventory. He anticipates a 10 percent improvement in inventory turn time. As part of this effort, the inventory planning and forecasting program’s algorithms were tweaked to more accurately reflect the needs of “declining platforms,” or aircraft nearing the end of their lifecycles. These commercial airplanes are flying fewer hours or are retiring, so that they require fewer repairs a year. The first step was to make the inventory planning and forecasting

program more reactive to recent consumption history. Otherwise, when the system looks backwards, it keeps planning what it had in the past, Weber explains. Rockwell Collins also looked at the demand forecast, based on aircraft retirements, something which had not been done before. The idea is to more proactively anticipate demand. In the automatic test equipment (ATE) production area the people

involved did their own Lean event to see how long it was taking and what the expensive parts were. They eventually eliminated about 10 percent of the cost. The services organization has also applied Lean to office areas. As a

result the rental exchange and assets management group has increased its volume by approximately 20 percent in the last four years without adding any people, Weber says. A process can even be in

Kirk Weber, senior director of service operations

someone’s head. Weber describes how Rockwell Collins analyzed the troubleshooting processes of senior test equipment technicians at its Wichita repair station and then turned these processes into standard work, which the company then used to design training programs for new technicians. The goal was to get down to eight hours — a good average for avionics work—and “they’ve done a pretty good job of that,” Weber says. The results were also applied to other repair stations.

22 Aviation Maintenance | | June / July 2011

vionics maintenance would also seem to be a tough nut for Lean to crack. But anywhere there’s a process, Lean can work, says Kirk Weber, Rockwell Collins’ senior director of service operations. He

produces unsatisfying results, it’s often because the goal wasn’t appealing enough to motivate people, Langer says. At one time LFT Philippines had a percentage- based goal for on-time A-checks. When Langer visited the facility three months later to see how the project was going, they had come up with a more appealing goal—the number of consecutive A-checks completed on time. The facility was at

48 in a row—a big number—and if they reached 50 in a row, there would be free pizzas. If they got to

100, there would be an even bigger prize. “You don’t want to be the one who screws up the A-check the next morning because that’s a big deal,” Langer says. Goals work best when they have an emotional element.

Langer recalls a line maintenance unit’s goal for reducing technical delays. They were already at a very high on-time percentage but wanted to go even higher. A mechanic told Langer about being called one day by the captain of a long- haul flight to fix a technical problem. An elderly lady on board recognized the mechanic as a technician because of his uniform. She asked whether he could fix the problem and he said he didn’t know yet. Then she told him she would miss her daughter’s wedding if the plane couldn’t take off. That information was a real motivator. The mechanic said he

had never worked that hard before. He felt that if he didn’t fix the airplane the old lady risked missing a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “We are always looking for figures that are in any way emotional for people,” Langer says. It’s important for technicians to understand that “it’s not just an airplane.” It’s a cabin full of people, at least one of whom has a special goal. The MRO is just starting to apply the methodology to

administration, Langer says. One of the challenges for administrators is how to identify their products. Another is how to measure the value created for the company. Preliminary results aren’t in yet, but he is confident of success.

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