In Depth

A Dime a Day Drives Cost Away

February 15, 2017

Mark Hebert recognizes that small improvements add up to big savings. As an F-35 operations engineer on the flight line at the Fort Worth, Texas, F-35 assembly plant, Mark dedicates his days to finding simple solutions to simple problems.

A lot of the ideas he explores for improvements are based on suggestions brought up during regular Performance Management Team (PMT) meetings.

The PMT program was initiated by Lockheed Martin in 2014 to give front-line workers an opportunity to efficiently share their cost-saving and process improvement ideas to leaders in the company who can more quickly affect change.

“PMTs are an enabler and facilitator to enact quick responses to mechanics' suggestions and ideas that improve their daily tasks,” Mark explains.

Recently, an aircraft mechanic on the delivery operations team pointed out a simple issue involving the F-35C and brought it up in a PMT meeting. Because of its distinctly larger wings – 40 percent larger, to be exact – the F-35C requires different stands than the A and B variants. These stands are stored in a large hangar on the flight line, and the team struggled to quickly determine which stands were for the C variant from a distance, forcing them to search through the hangar until the correct stand was identified.

Mark and the team devised a simple solution to add red safety foam along the diagonal support to the F-35C stand in addition to the traditional yellow safety foam. This change came at a minimal cost and did not require large amounts of paperwork or approvals to implement; and as a result, the crew can now see the stand from a much further distance, which saves 45 minutes of maintenance time per F-35C.

“This is a great example of what we call nickel-and-dime savings,” Mark said. “They’re everywhere, and at full-rate production these small improvements really add up to a large, cumulative, sustainable savings.”

Sometimes it isn’t radical changes in business practices that make the difference – sometimes it’s as simple as using red foam.