It became obvious to me that ASAP is not necessarily about the process or even about the “big success story.” ASAP is about well-intentioned maintenance employees, in 70 plus companies, voluntarily reporting hundreds of hazards that contribute to risk every day. ASAP is about the corporate and regulatory commitment to collect and analyze the reports and then deliberate to improve maintenance practices accordingly. ASAP is about a work culture that takes the time to report hazards, to justly consider a worker error and remediation, to improve every appropriate process, and then do it over and over again. That “big success story” turned out to be a four-letter word; ASAP. OK, it is an acronym.
The big success story is ASAP. In order to claim such a title ASAP must be comprised of hundreds-thousands of small stories. These stories show that ASAP reports helped to not only highlight a potential safety hazard but also offer high value corrective actions. Every story does not have to be a big one. Safety, after all, is insured by a long list of small actions.
An example success story
When one needs a specific success story, it is easy to find one in the databases of voluntary report systems. Nearly every ASAP report has value.
One company tells of experiences associated with installation of a tang axle washer on a particular Boeing aircraft. The washer is required on some, but not all aircraft. This situation contributes to possible confusion and installation error. It is located between the outer wheel bearing and the axle nut as shown in Figure 1. These washers come in various sizes, the most common being approximately .25-inch wide.
The washer is necessary to ensure that there are sufficient axle threads to properly tighten and torque the axle nut. Without the washer the axle runs out of threads before the wheel is properly tightened. This result is a loose wheel assembly that eventually vibrates and then wears the axle shrouds, the bearing, and the wheel. The error is discovered from either a pilot report of vibration or when a wheel shop employee finds the washer stuck to the grease of the old wheel assembly. Aside from parts, logistics, and labor there is sometimes a flight delay because of this flight line wheel assembly replacement.
Workers used ASAP to report the failure to replace the tang axle washer. The initial ASAP corrective actions centered on increased employee training and warning posters in the flight line break rooms. The posters showed the picture and explained the issue. The problem diminished but did not go away. Finally, an ASAP report suggested placing a large warning sticker on every wheel assembly destined for aircraft requiring washers. The sticker is large and obvious saying “Tang Axle Spacer Installed?”
In the eight-month period following the stickers there were no incidents of missing spacers. The problem appears to be solved. Let’s try the FAA’s return on investment process and software to calculate the return on investment. (See March 2012 Ground Support Worldwide or go to www.mxfatigue.com for more on ROI).
In the one year prior to the application of stickers the company had about 15 ASAP reports related to the washer. There were other washer events but the company chose to base the ROI on only the 15 events reported to ASAP. That is a conservative number. The estimated cost of the missing tang axle washer averaged an estimated $14,000 per event. That average includes events ranging from a quick inspection to situations requiring an axle replacement at an outstation resulting in a substitution aircraft or lengthy delay; a wide range of consequences.
That includes the price of damage to wheels, bearings, axle shrouds, premature tire and wheel rework, and related logistics costs. It also estimated about $10,000 parts and labor for line replacement of the axle and wheel assembly if at a maintenance hub. For this issue the company estimated approximately four hours of flight delay during the year at an estimated $15,000/hour on a wide body aircraft ($60,000).
The cost of creating, testing, and installing stickers was about $18,000. In the eight-month post sticker period approximately there were no occurrences of the event. The annualized estimate in reduction is 15 events at an estimated savings of about $210,000. The ROI is about 10 to 1. Yes, that is a 1,000 percent return in the first year alone.
The savings is attributable to ASAP reporting and the corrective action (tire sticker). This is an example of one of many success stories. Usually M&E departments do not take the time to calculate ROI and brag about every successful intervention. They are too busy tackling the next challenge. In many cases the ROI is so obvious that calculation is unnecessary as evidenced here. The company management must remain mindful that each of these small interventions results in large savings thus improvement to profits.
General aviation and airline maintenance solutions
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