WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Air Force Materiel Command’s goal of increasing the Air Force’s agility recently reaped another success when a Headquarters AFMC-led program yielded increased aircraft readiness and improved supply availability.
The Repair Network Integration, or RNI, program, managed from within the AFMC Directorate of Logistics, establishes a networked support structure that gives an Air Force-level view of available maintenance manning and equipment for select off-aircraft repair activities.
“Ultimately, RNI provides better situational awareness of who is doing what, where and when,” said Col. Matt Sanford, chief of the RNI Program Management Office. “That way, when an issue arises with aircraft maintenance, it’s just a speed bump and the job still continues.”
In late 2016, hydraulics, the latest product repair group to undergo RNI efforts, reached full operational capability. The scope includes seven networks with more than 130 nodes throughout the Air Force, including five centralized repair facilities supporting nine major commands.
The network is overseen by a repair network manager and is comprised of node managers at locations throughout the world that manage aircraft maintenance backshops, CRFs, and depot maintenance shops with similar repair capabilities. These node managers are among the first to identify a repair constraint that might cause a maintenance delay or, in extreme cases, the grounding of aircraft.
With a repair constraint identified, the RNM reaches out to a network of stakeholders to form a collaborative problem-solving team that spans the Air Force. These “collaboration calls” include not only node managers, but other major commands, maintenance shops, and Air Force supply chain experts.
“These networks operate like a 911 call center,” said Brian Ward, deputy chief of the RNI Program Management Office. “The caller, or node manager, identifies the issue; the RNM contacts the appropriate organizations or experts based upon the issue; a plan of action is developed and the affected nodes and supporting activities implement the plan.”
This enhanced communication process has already demonstrated the value of the repair network. Multiple collaboration efforts have culminated in the temporary workload transfer from units with constraints to those with available maintenance resources and authorized level of repair. These efforts resulted in shorter repair times for broken parts, ultimately keeping aircraft ready to fly.
Prior to RNI implementation, a repair constraint might be identified, but communication about the issue was limited to personnel who serviced a particular airframe within a certain geographic region. Now, networked communication gathers the input of personnel throughout the entire Air Force to work the fix together, with the added benefit of cross-cutting all the service’s major commands and establishing lessons learned for the future.
“This allows for collaboration calls between, for example, a supply chain analyst working in a cubicle at Tinker Air Force Base and a maintainer working somewhere in a backshop,” Sanford said.
The initiative not only broadens communication among personnel but also makes it more efficient.
“We now have subject matter experts engaged sooner and at a much lower level,” said Ward.
The hydraulics product repair group, along with propulsion and precision measurement equipment laboratory, were three of eight groups selected as candidates for RNI efforts. The next RNI product repair group slated to reach initial operational capability later this year will be aircraft avionics.