Personnel safety is of prime importance to all our armed services and so the aircraft that the U.S. Air Force flies must be in A-1 condition at all times. The complex systems and sub-systems of a jet engine require individual attention including varying degrees of maintenance required to remain in top condition. And so, decision makers for a U.S. Air Force fleet needed to decide whether to commit to a preventive maintenance program, an on-demand maintenance program or an opportunistic maintenance program in an attempt to lower costs and keep the aircraft in superior condition. A wrong predictive maintenance decision could involve millions of dollars and/or create a hazardous working environment. The right maintenance optimization program would safely extend the lives of the engines, efficiently allocate maintenance resources, and improve readiness and availability of the fleet and keep personnel safe while saving costs over the long term.
Software Tools to Support Decisions
RJ Lee Group developed and implemented a series of innovative software tools to provide access to information to those responsible for equipment maintenance. Using these tools decision makers could determine the right mix of preventive maintenance tasks based on data gathered from engineering studies, maintenance teams, and the engines themselves. These tools provided ready access to information such as:
- Predicting the reliability and availability of propulsion systems by using engine configuration as a means of establishing priority for maintenance.
- Ways to evaluate and reconfigure engines so working components that don’t require service are paired up with other working components allowing engines to return to field operations quickly.
- An easy to understand process for completing the most effective maintenance for the lowest cost that compared all maintenance options with system availability, reliability, and its depreciating value.
- How shops can prioritize their time and resources based on a custom maintenance strategy for each engine.
- Procurement strategies for replacement parts based on the reliability prediction.
- Optimized maintenance based on information provided by other tools. The action plan establishes a schedule for opportunistic inspections and repair.
The key to making the best decision is more than having the right information at the right time; it’s having the command tools that consider all of the components before determining a comprehensive solution. Implementing such a program reduced unscheduled engine removals, increased time between failures, and optimized the engine’s time ”on wing” by extending the safe, healthy life of the engines. Cost per flying hour was reduced yet readiness and availability of the fleet increased. An independent study concluded that this solution will save the Air Force $2.5 billion over the next 15 years on a portion of the fleet F100 engines by properly allocating resources and extending the life of assets. RJ Lee Group is currently working with the U. S. Air Force to implement maintenance optimization solutions for other engines and systems such as the T56, F110 and TF39.