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KNOXVILLE — With help from the University of Tennessee’s Center for Executive Education, the Aviation Center Logistics Command at Fort Rucker, Ala., significantly improved its aviation maintenance operations and won a 2007 Shingo Bronze Medallion.

The maintenance and supply operations are conducted by a contractor, Army Fleet Support – L-3 LLC. This is the first government-owned, contractor-operated team to receive this award.

The Shingo Prize — dubbed “the Nobel Prize for manufacturing” by Business Week magazine — recognizes business excellence and creates an increased awareness of the development and implementation of lean manufacturing principles and techniques.

Training for the Fort Rucker team was provided by the College of Business Administration’s Lean MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) and Lean the Process Flow courses.

“Lean Six Sigma techniques were introduced in early 2004, to optimize operations and reduce operating costs in the shortest amount of time,” said Maj. Gen. James H. Pillsbury, then commanding general, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command LCMC. Pillsbury estimates the streamlined operations helped the Army avoid $40.2 million in needless expenditures.

One project in particular — improved engine maintenance on a helicopter — led to the command winning the Shingo Prize. Improvements were so significant that Army officials nicknamed this effort “the Midas Project.”

Using concepts learned in the UT program, the Fort Rucker team revamped engine maintenance processes on its Bell Helicopter 206B (known as the TH-67 Creek within the Army) and reduced the average engine repair turnaround time from 78 day to 46 days.

That success allowed the team to reduce engine backlog from 10 to zero and increase the number of engines ready for installation from zero to three. The project returned a cost savings of $1.5 million and reduced annual overtime by $150,000.

Other Army projects also benefited from lessons the Fort Rucker team learned at UT.

For example, the team applied Lean MRO concepts to reduce scheduled-phase maintenance of the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from 38 days to 18 days. This improved the maintenance process so much that three helicopters were able to be transferred from the training effort at Fort Rucker to operational units in support of the war effort — meaning the Army didn’t need to buy three new planes, a savings of about $30 million.

Robert Hill, deputy to the commander at the Aviation Center Logistics Command, and Tom Green, Army Fleet Support general manager, initiated the improvements at Fort Rucker. They arranged for 35 people to attend two weeklong, non-degree lean courses to learn how to apply lean to the aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul business.

The government-owned, contractor-operated maintenance activity at Fort Rucker includes 100 government personnel and 3,400 contractors. It provides maintenance and supply support to 436 helicopters assigned to the U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center at Fort Rucker. The Warfighting Center uses the aircraft to fly about 240,000 flying hours per year in training more than 1,200 U.S. Army, Air Force and allied rotary wing pilots.

The Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing is named in honor of the late Dr. Shigeo Shingo, who helped create, train and write about many aspects of the renowned Toyota Production System.


Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu
Cindy Raines, (865) 974-4359, craines1@utk.edu