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    Vertical lift modules raise the bar for storage options on F-35 line

    Vertical lift modules raise the bar for storage options on F-35 line

    Photo By Heather Wilburn | Kemp Wickizer III, a production control coordinator on the F-35 Lightning II...... read more read more



    Story by Heather Wilburn 

    Fleet Readiness Center East

    MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – New storage solutions are delivering big benefits on the F-35 Lightning II aircraft modification line at Fleet Readiness Center East, with everyone from aircraft maintenance professionals to program leadership noticing improvements in safety and efficiency.

    As part of remodeling efforts of the F-35 modification line, FRCE installed new vertical lift modules – also known as vertical stackers – to house aircraft parts and supplies. Collocated with each of the renovated modification bays, the system helps corral items that have traditionally been placed on carts and stands across the hangar area.

    “It’s really cleaned up our hangar deck,” said Wes Klor, the supervisor on the F-35 modification line at FRCE. “All of the parts racks and wagons that were used to transport and temporarily store the parts, the A-frames that hold the common hardware – all of those things are gone. Everything is inside the stackers, which takes a lot of things off the floor.”

    The tidier hangar deck has helped improve safety and cut down on foreign object debris (FOD) hazards, Klor said.

    “If you look at any traditional aircraft maintenance space, there’s stuff all over the place: parts, storage, hardware, toolboxes,” he said. “It’s not ideal, but it’s necessary. We don’t have to deal with that to the same degree now.”

    The stackers make good use of a space that is often overlooked, said Ike Rettenmair, F-35 branch head at FRCE. Going up instead of out in search of storage solutions on the hangar deck is a new concept at the facility.

    “Having these modules in place really makes the most of the space,” he explained. “Instead of being spread out around the hangar space, everything the artisans need is vertical in one location. Getting them was a worthwhile investment in the line.”
    The stackers were installed with space optimization in mind, agreed Matt Crisp, FRCE site lead for the F-35 Joint Program Office. When the office identified a need for additional F-35 maintenance stalls at FRCE and began renovating a new space to make it suitable for F-35 operations, it became clear that horizontal space was at a premium.

    “It was identified that, using our standard shelving, there was insufficient floor space available within the building to store all the parts removed from the aircraft,” he said. “The vertical stackers were identified as an ideal solution to more efficiently use the vertical space available in the hangar to store parts.”

    The stackers, Power Column 3 models produced by SencorpWhite, are the world’s largest vertical lift modules, according to the manufacturer. The systems each feature a welded frame, an integrated tray locating system and trays with a maximum load of up to 2,000 pounds each. Task managers and work leaders keep an inventory of which parts and hardware are stored in each tray, making it easy to quickly locate an item when it’s needed.

    The modules each measure more than 12 feet wide by more than 20 feet tall and contain 28 trays set at varying heights, customized to the tray’s contents. This configuration allows the stackers to store parts and hardware both large and small, with their locations documented in a database that is updated whenever items are added or removed. Operators access the tray retrieval system using a touchpad on the front of the column, which sends the lift platform to the appropriate height to retrieve the correct tray and position it in the retrieval window. The operator can then move the tray clear of the column using the column’s pick and delivery mechanism, an integrated carriage that facilitates easy access to the tray and its contents.

    Use of the stackers has produced such positive results that the possibility of using them in the remaining F-35 modification space is being considered, Crisp added.

    “An informal business case analysis was performed and showed significant return on investment from a reduction in part handling time and delays to maintenance activities waiting on delivery of parts, as well as increasing shop floor organization, cleanliness, FOD reduction and shop safety improvements,” he explained.

    Klor said he believes the bump in productivity is a direct result of the stackers providing a centralized location for everything the aircraft maintenance professionals need.

    “A big benefit is having everything you need for the airplane right there at your fingertips; there are no wasted footsteps,” he explained. “There’s no walking across the hangar to go get the hardware, there’s no moving parts back and forth from one building to another. When material gets ordered, it gets processed, brought here and it goes in the stacker until it’s ready to go on the airplane. Nothing for these airplanes gets stored anywhere else besides right next to the aircraft.”

    Kemp Wickizer III, a production control coordinator on the F-35 line, said he has noticed the benefits.

    “The artisans aren’t having to run back and forth to find the parts or hardware they need to do the job,” he said. “It helps us keep everything in one place, there’s a space for everything and they’re pretty simple to use – these are great.”

    Klor agreed, and said he hopes to see use of the stackers gain traction across the facility.

    “I didn’t have any idea how beneficial they would be until we started using them, and now I’m a big proponent of these things,” he said. “They’re a really great thing for us. If every product line could figure out how to find a footprint for them, I would highly recommend it.”

    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 $900 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.



    Date Taken: 12.10.2020
    Date Posted: 12.10.2020 14:13
    Story ID: 384686
    Location: CHERRY POINT, NC, US 

    Web Views: 112
    Downloads: 1