If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get, what you’ve always got
Ever had management or a supervisor complaining about the aircraft not getting out on time, and yet when the next one rolls in, were directed to do the same exact things we did on the last aircraft that was late to leave? Have you ever heard crazy defined as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results?
There is a concept called process improvement that has basically revolutionized the manufacturing industry. Many of you may be too young to remember the first Toyota cars that came to the United States. And you might be surprised to know they were junk, poorly manufactured automobiles that had no longevity. Toyota embraced the process improvement concept and today, the quality of their cars, and the size of their company is a direct result of process improvement.
Process improvement is not limited to manufacturers, it’s not a secret club you join, and it is certainly not off limits to aircraft maintenance. It absolutely baffles me why more aircraft maintenance shops and technicians have not been trained in these simply techniques to enhance the safety of aviation through the delivery of a better product, reduce cost, and meet or exceed delivery schedules.
There is a ton of information available on the web, and in your local bookstores. One of the best books I have read on the subject is the Toyota Way. It explains in great detail how Toyota became the giant they are today, and how they will continue to improve their process, because process improvement has become a way of life for the folks at Toyota.
One of the phrases that hit home with me was: “Anywhere we remove waste, we have replaced it with intelligence.” I would strongly urge you saturate yourself for just 30 days, with anything and everything you can on the subject of process improvement. Learn these extremely common sense techniques of process improvement and pick something you want to improve. I promise you, you will be blown away at how simply these techniques are, and how dramatic the improvements. You will be asking yourself, “Why Haven’t I Been Doing This All Along?”
The steps are pretty simply, you select something to improve, say the time it takes to complete a 100 hour inspection. You map out what you are currently doing in pretty good detail. You cannot bypass this step, because when you see it on paper, it clearly shows you where your waist is located. Implement your improvements, and then measure your results. The measurement of your results is very important too, because it proves your changes to be good changes or bad changes.
Let’s look at some of the basic steps in a 100 hour inspection:
- AD & Records Research
- Operational Check of all Systems and Components
- 100 hour Inspection of Airframe
- 100 hour Inspection of Engine
- Engine Power Check or Compression Check
- Order the Parts to Rectify the Discrepancies
- Rectify the Discrepancies
If we were to look at what might set us back as far as time goes, I’m thinking something wrong inside the engine. If something is not up to par inside that engine, we may have to pull the engine, break it down, or send it off, and this eats up time. Doesn’t make much sense to inspect the external parts of the engine (100 hour Engine Inspection) first until we know the guts are good. For this reason, I’m thinking Engine Power Check or Compression Check first. Then possibly the engine AD’s just to make sure there is no reason I am going to have to pull that engine. If the engine is going to get pulled, I am going to want to perform my operational check of all systems and components before the engine gets pulled so I don’t have to wait until the engine gets put back in to identify which components or systems didn’t work.
Knowing the VHF radio doesn’t work properly on the front end causes me to pull the cannon plug on the Receiver/Transmitter (R/T) looking for loose pins, check the ground, and take a closer look at the antenna when I am performing the 100 hour airframe inspection. Likewise, I am going to want to get all my parts on order as soon as possible, so I am not ordering parts in the 11th hour of this effort. Meaning I want to inspect the cowlings as I take them off, instead of finding discrepancies when it’s time to put them back on.
Nothing says you have to inspect the aircraft or engine in the exact order as it is written on the checklist. You can inspect in the order of probability of defects, and inspect in the order of; if a defect is found what would cause the greatest time delay in getting parts on hand or repaired. The objective is to try to get the biggest and the ugliest identified first. This allows you to manage the rest of the effort around them.
The real magic to process improvement is that you do it over and over again, further refining each and every step you take to remove waist and replace it with intelligence. There is a tremendous value to a Technician possessing and employing the skills of process improvement into their daily activity. Whether you are looking for advancement or looking to be a better wrench, having process improvement skills in the tool box that sits a top of your shoulders will get ya there a lot faster.
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get, what you’ve always got.