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Face of Defense: Sergeant Improves Process, Saves Time

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Arredondo
Special to American Forces Press Service

CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C., Aug. 11, 2008 – An airman with the 437th Maintenance Squadron wheel and tire shop has helped save man-hours with a better way of cleaning C-17 Globemaster III nose-wheel bolts that need to be inspected.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Recently promoted Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eddie Melendez cleans C-17 nose-wheel bolts with a power drill and brush cleaner July 24, 2008, at the 437th Maintenance Squadron wheel and tire shop at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. Because of a change he developed for cleaning the bolts, it now takes a minute and 15 seconds to clean 12 bolts compared to the more than an hour the process took prior to the change. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Arredondo, 437th Maintenance Squadron

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eddie Melendez, an aircraft maintenance craftsman, realized airmen in the shop were spending too many hours cleaning and preparing the nose bolts to be inspected by airmen in the unit’s “non-destructive inspection” shop.

Airmen in the wheel and tire shop typically have more than 450 bolts a week to be inspected by non-destructive inspection. To get them ready for inspection, anti-seize graphite has to be removed from the bolts. Anti-seize graphite is a compound that keeps the bolts from seizing up when nuts are screwed on to a bolt.

Before the new process was introduced, the bolts would have to soak in a parts-cleaning tank for 60 minutes. After that, 10 minutes would be spent manually cleaning one set, consisting of 12 bolts, with a wire brush to remove remaining anti-seize from the threads.

In total, the airmen manually clean about 1,260 bolts, spending more than 200 hours a year cleaning and more than 105 hours waiting for the bolts to be cleaned in the parts washers.

"Our objective was to increase the efficiency of cleaning the bolts," Melendez said.

To add to the time spent on cleaning the bolts, if the bolts were not entirely cleaned after being sent to non-destructive inspection, they could be sent back to the wheel and tire shop for additional cleaning, which would add to the time spent on a set of bolts.

To help decrease the time spent on cleaning a set of bolts, Melendez devised a way of speeding up the process by using a powered cleaning device to clean the bolts more efficiently.

Melendez decided the best way to create such an item was to use materials readily available and fabricate tools that could help with the process. A power drill was purchased along with a bolt cleaner that is cylindrical with soft bristles in the middle. He also asked the 437th Maintenance Squadron fabrication shop to make a jig, or small platform, with 12 holes and sockets to safely secure the bolts for cleaning.

With items purchased and made, the airmen now just need to brush off the anti-seize with the bolt cleaner without having to deal with the parts cleaner, and taking less time to do it.

With the new tool and jig, it now takes one minute, 15 seconds to clean a set of bolts. Because of the thorough cleaning the bolts now receive, the process also has cut back on the number of bolts that are returned from non-destructive inspection due to not be clean enough.

"We set out with one goal in mind: take one task that was both difficult and time-consuming and improve it," Melendez said. "What we found was a better way of doing the same job in less time and more efficiently."

Because of the introduction of the new process for cleaning the nose-wheel bolts, one airman said he thinks the new process is a great improvement.

"The old process just took so long, and it required more than one person to get the bolts cleaned in a reasonable time," said Airman 1st Class Quinton Valentine, 437th Maintenance Squadron wheel and tire shop crew chief. "With the new process, it has cut down the time dramatically. We don't have to use wire brushes, and there is no solvent that has to be used."

Because of the change in the way the bolts are prepared for inspection and the affects it has had on airmen, Tech. Sgt. Lamont Butler, 437th Maintenance Squadron wheel and tire shop section chief, also sees how the improvement has affected the way airmen are now looking at other areas for improvement.

"This trend has proven to be contagious," Butler said. "The airmen now actually see tangible results from thinking smarter. They are now looking at each shop-related task and brainstorming on how to improve it."

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Arredondo is assigned to 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs.)

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