Air Force keeps tools at the ready by putting them under wraps
By WILLIAM HOWARD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 11, 2017
RAF MILDENHALL, England — The 100th Maintenance Squadron at RAF Mildenhall has developed a simple money-saving procedure to prevent the corrosion of spare tools by coating them in candy-colored plastic.
The 100th Maintenance Group estimates that the process saves 653 man hours and 35,000 dollars per year by reducing the inspection time for more than 9,000 spare tools throughout the unit.
The innovation was put into practice two years ago, after Mia Tobitt, 100th Maintenance Squadron isochronal inspection support section chief, said she noticed that brand-new tools arrived in a similar coating.
“It turned out this is a fairly common practice within the machining world that once tools are manufactured, they’re covered in plastic to preserve them until sale,” Tobitt said. “We found that this is something we can utilize ourselves and brought it into our spare tools program.”
Staff Sgt. Ryan St. John, 100th Maintenance Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of the support section, said that after spending about $750 on a melting pot and 50 pounds of translucent red plastic, they were able to coat 10,000 spare tools.
The plastic coating gives the tools impact protection and prevents corrosion by eliminating exposure to air.
“We’ve covered $250,000 worth of tools in our section so far, and it provides protection for up to 10 years,” Tobitt said. “We can focus on the tools that are being used every day to ensure that they’re kept at peak performance.”
The 100th Maintenance Squadron inspection section not only maintains tools used by aircraft mechanics but also regularly carries out extensive examination and maintenance of entire airframes and systems of aircraft at RAF Mildenhall.
“With budget cuts and manning constraints, saving time is the way of the future,” St. John said. “We need innovations to save time so we can put our time and efforts back into the aircraft and the mission.”
Tobbit said that the procedure is now used across the 100th Maintenance Group and that Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, plans to implement it in the future.
“It’s been recommended as a benchmark (throughout U.S. Air Forces in Europe), so I would expect to see further application in Europe as well,” she said.
Staff Sgt. Ryan St. John, 100th Maintenance Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of the isochronal inspection support section, peels a protective plastic coating from a spare tool in his shop at RAF Mildenhall, England, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. The plastic coating gives the tools impact protection and prevents corrosion by eliminating exposure to air.
WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES