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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany


Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Maintenance Center workers' aim: DoD's best;

By Cpl. Joshua Bozeman | | August 1, 2002

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MCLB Albany Maintenance Center leader wants to be the best maintenance depot in the Department of Defense. The workforce there is proving they are more than capable.It all began with a series of changes. Not everyone welcomed the idea of doing things differently, and some even saw the changes as going out on a limb.But with production up, cost down and some of the best working conditions around, critics are running out of negative remarks. It's hard to argue with success. According to Trent Blalock, deputy commander of the Maintenance Center, the reason for the recent boom in success at the Maintenance Center is a highly motivated workforce that works together as a team to provide their customers quality products, on time, at or below cost. "We aren't trying to sell anything," said Blalock, "we just want people to see the facts. You don't have to listen to a word I say, just come down and take a look at the Maintenance Center and see for yourself."A lot of the motivation has come from the implementation of the Theory of Constraints.With the new process, the Maintenance Center has reduced production time, in some cases by as much as 50 percent or more. The MK-48 is the line of equipment where the Theory of Constraints first proved to be successful. The process has now been implemented on 17 lines and Maintenance Center personnel and their customers are reaping the benefits.The main goals behind the Theory of Constraints are to increase the amount of work going through the Maintenance Center, to reduce the repair cycle time, to make schedule at least 90 percent of the time, and to decrease the amount of work in progress, or WIP. So far, as proven with the MK-48 line, all of these goals are obtainable, practical and very beneficial. Leaders went through each section of the Maintenance Center that a piece of equipment would go through to find out how much time each section needed if they had all of the supplies and tools ready. They totaled that time, cut away any unnecessary corners without skirting quality or safety, and set it as a reasonable amount of time to spend for work on that particular piece of equipment.The new step-by-step process helped focus attention where it was needed, when it was needed. This was referred to as 'critical chain.'But because Murphy's Law applies to everyone, the Theory of Constraints planners used the time they came up with, plus half. For instance, if a piece of equipment took 50 days to go through the Maintenance Center, they added half that time to the total -- 25 to determine an output time of 75 days. If everything ran perfectly, they would get the equipment out ahead of schedule, but if problems arose, they had 25 days of protective capacity to work without interfering with the customer's schedule. The new process is designed to get equipment out as soon as possible. That way, the customer is always satisfied and satisfied customers represent repeat business.The Maintenance Center is also a much cleaner place to work now, thanks to the Lean Thinking initiative. MCLB Albany has been able to use the benefits of Lean Thinking, thanks to cooperation from Robins Air Force Base, Warner Robins, Ga., which periodically gives tours to Maintenance Center personnel. To keep the workers free to do what they need to do, responsibility is kept at the top of the chain of command. Workers are no longer being multi-tasked, said Blalock. Work is scheduled in advance, so it is constant and fluid. According to Wayne Chauncey of the Theory of Constraints Office, it's hard to tell that more work is going through the center than was last year at this time because everything runs so smoothly now.One reason for the smooth transition is the quality of life, said Chauncey. Lean Thinking helped create a less stressful environment, which makes clears the way for more effective work. So the Maintenance Center can lower the production cost and raise the production value. The improvements make it easier to come to work in the mornings, he said. Though it's somewhat unexpected in a Maintenance Center, the clean atmosphere adds to healthy working conditions, which boosts morale. This aids in the leaders' efforts to make it fun to work there. The fall picnic, open house, and presentations of awards and retirements are just a few ways workers enjoy their jobs.Even with all of the changes, safety is still a number one priority for the center, along with keeping the team concept and supporting equal employment opportunity.According to Blalock, the union relationship is the best it's been in 13 years and he would like to keep the communication lines clear.According to Col. Stephen Foreman, Maintenance Center commander, he asks that everyone provide a fair day's work for a fair day's pay and intends to keep everyone on the same page to work through problems. He also intends to listen to the workforce and stay open to new ideas while working on improving programs already in place. The Maintenance Center is still, however, in uncharted territory. Leaders are taking steps day by day because they want to see large benefits over the long haul. The leaders understand that there are pitfalls on the way to success, but they have developed plans for dealing with difficulties. Financially, physically and mentally, TOC and many other initiatives have changed the Maintenance Center."We are still working out chinks in the armor, but [we are] daily moving in leaps and bounds," said Blalock.
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