AUGUST 4, 2016, WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – At the core of every maintenance action is a maintainer’s determination to keep the Air Force’s fleet of aircraft mission-ready.
During periods where mission generation needs exceed local maintenance capabilities, backshops have historically relied on informal contacts and processes to increase capacity. Repair Network Integration, however, offers a single point of contact to help maintenance backshops explore all available supply and repair options to find an optimum solution.
RNI is a process-focused initiative to develop an enterprise-wide view of select off-equipment repair capability and provide integrated, agile support to the warfighter. RNI’s primary goal is to design repair networks and synchronize with the Air Force supply chain to better support and respond to mission generation needs.
This cooperative supply-maintenance relationship will enable an enterprise approach to repair, rather than leaving intermediate level and depot maintenance units to repair in isolation.
In coordination with major commands, Air National Guard, Air Force Sustainment Center and Air Force Life Cycle Management Center subject experts, the RNI team at Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command established specific repair networks to manage production across intermediate-level repair units such as backshops, centralized repair facilities, and potentially depots in the future. To date, RNI has established repair networks for engines, precision measurement equipment laboratory, and hydraulics — with avionics and electrical and environmental up next.
Each individual backshop, or node, is managed by a node manager and monitored by a repair network manager. The node manager is the wing-level operational connection to the repair network.
Tech. Sgt. Andrew Preston, an aircraft hydraulics system craftsman with the 56th Component Maintenance Squadron, is the node manager for the Hydraulics Centralized Repair Facility at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The Luke AFB CRF conducts intermediate-level repair of hydraulic parts for F-16 Fighting Falcons, F-15 Eagles, and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from Holloman AFB, New Mexico; Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; and Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
“As a node manager, my role is to manage shop activities to meet mission generation needs and report my shop’s repair capability and capacity to the RNM,” Preston said. “Our RNM oversees a network of nodes with similar repair capabilities. If our shop or another shop within our network needs help meeting repairs, it is communicated to the RNM, and they can bring the right parties together to determine the best solution.”
The RNM facilitates collaboration with affected backshops, major command functionals, appropriate depot-level repair shops, the Defense Logistics Agency, item managers and other applicable supply chain representatives to resolve repair constraints. The RNM aids in eliminating barriers between repair and supply entities managed by MAJCOMs and AFMC supply chain centers. This collaborative process enables efficient and effective communication of repair constraints and establishes a codified method to rapidly develop optimum solutions.
“Prior to RNI, if we had a constraint here at the shop, there was no standard way to resolve the issue. With the RNM, we have one direct connection to help us resolve a variety of constraints, from broken test stands to repairs awaiting parts,” Preston said.
The repair network concept is an evolution from the way repair has been managed, and feedback from the field has been supportive. In addition to improved mission generation support, RNI has had other positive effects on the Air Force repair enterprise.
“After the transition under RNI, we’ve gained a lot of apprentice maintainers in the shop, but it has provided great training opportunities for them,” Preston said. “They’ve had the rare opportunity to gain repair experience on multiple types of aircraft in one assignment versus having to learn them over multiple years and multiple assignments.”
As the scope of the repair enterprise expands to include more commodities and repair backshops, the supply chain’s flexibility to meet changing Air Force requirements will increase and create a more agile, robust Air Force repair network.
“Being part of a network has been great,” Preston said. “It is great to know we can support bases that may not always be able to keep up with their workflow, and that they will be there for us if we need them.”