17-Apr-2023 Source: US Marine Corps
One Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) team recently earned recognition for its contribution to improved flight line readiness for the MH/CH-53E heavy lift helicopter. The Naval Air Systems Command Heavy Lift Helicopters Program Office (PMA-261) honored the FRCE Fuel Control Shop as PMA-261 “Gold Stars” during a March event.
The Fuel Control Shop worked with a team led by Naval Supply Systems Command that included representatives from FRCE’s Fleet Support Team Engineering and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Engineering, to eliminate backorders and increase stock on hand for the T64 engine’s 416A and 419 main fuel control units. The team’s improvement of fuel control readiness over the past two years ultimately resulted in a 15% increase mission capable readiness for the MH/CH-53E community, said Col. Kate Fleeger, the PMA-261 program manager.
“The work being done in the Fuel Control Shop at FRC East makes a positive, real-world impact that is being felt by our Marine Corps and Navy aviators on flight lines and flight decks around the globe,” Fleeger said. “The cross-disciplinary team of professionals tackling these readiness constraints has provided critical support in raising the mission capable rate for the H-53 platform, and the heavy lift community appreciates their efforts.”
Donald Jeter, director of the Engines and Industrial Processes divisions at FRCE, said the recognition is a testament to the skill and dedication of the Fuel Control Shop artisans.
“The Fuel Control Shop wouldn’t see results like this without a highly skilled, professional workforce on the shop floor,” Jeter said. “This team has so much expertise and experience doing what they do, and they put it to use every day in support of our nation’s warfighters. What they’ve been able to do, in terms of reducing high-priority backorders and stocking the shelves for the Fleet, is nothing short of amazing, and they are without a doubt deserving of this recognition, and so much more.”
The fuel control units occupy just 1 cubic foot of space but are composed of more than 1,200 individual pieces. Fuel Control Shop supervisor David Lawrence said boosting fuel control availability also required a lot of moving pieces to work together as a whole, much like the fuel control unit itself.
“It starts with the dedication and expertise of the shop employees, their mechanical skill and the years of knowledge that a lot of these guys have with the unit,” he explained. “With engineering’s help, we’ve managed to overcome some supply constraints and meet some major milestones. Then add in our excellent group of testers, our quality analysts, our planners and estimators, our production controllers and the network we have here to support us, and we’ve been able to overcome the hurdles we’ve run into.”
Lawrence said over the past two years, the shop has seen a steady increase in production of the fuel control units week after week, experiencing a higher first-time pass rate on testing and yielding more ready for issue units to ship out to the Fleet. Communication has been key in these efforts, he noted. Daily meetings with key internal and external stakeholders allow for the identification and resolution of factors that might inhibit production. If an issue can’t be solved at the shop level, Lawrence is able to elevate it to his leadership for action.
“It’s been very effective,” he said. “We’re able to highlight the issues that come up with parts, for example, and let upper management see if they can help us resolve some of these issues. Often they can help expedite something that might take us a little longer to get done at my level.”
These meetings also give the shop’s artisans a clear picture of the fuel control needs of both FRCE’s engine line and the Fleet, which gives them a sense of ownership in the process, Lawrence said.
“They’re not working just to be working – they’re working toward a goal. They know what that goal is and they know how their work affects that,” he added. “They see the impact of their work when they know where those parts are going, and when they see recognition like this award from the program office.”
Communication between the shop’s artisans and testers also plays a role in repairing the fuel control units and returning them to the Fleet in working order, said shop work leader John Stilley.
“The testers and the builders have such a great relationship,” he noted. “We have so many parts inside the unit, and there’s a great deal of troubleshooting that goes into this and it’s done on both sides. The communication between the builder and the tester is incredibly important; it can’t just be a matter of ‘it failed.’ The tester needs to be able to explain what they noticed, what flows are failing, how certain flows work in correspondence with the bad flows. As a team, they compile all this information, and that’s when they decide what’s happening. That helps them determine what the actual problem would be.
“Just because a test failed at a certain spot does not mean that one part is what’s bad,” Stilley continued. “It could mean a part upstream could have caused the problem downstream. Determining that requires experience, and it requires a little bit of humility to not be stubborn and think you’re just automatically going to be right every time. Success is a matter of working together – it’s teamwork.”
Lawrence said while process changes and enhanced communication have streamlined some of the work and improve outcomes, the skill and dedication of the artisans and support staff in the Fuel Control Shop have always been apparent.
“This shop has a lot of leaders in it, and the success all comes down to that. It’s leadership: taking ownership of that job and giving the Fleet the quality product that they deserve,” he said. “Between that, the mechanical skills and attention to detail, this team has a lot to be proud of. Whenever something comes up, they step up and show great teamwork and a willingness to go above and beyond. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this team.”
FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.