Kadena airman full of frugal ideas
Stars and Stripes May 2, 2004
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Finding smarter, better ways to do things can help make anyone’s job easier. But finding a better way to do things also can save money — which made one Air Force servicemember’s wallet a lot thicker.
Staff Sgt. Laurence Littleton, an aerospace ground equipment craftsman with the 18th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, recently received $10,000 for a money-saving idea he proposed through the Innovative Development Through Employee Awareness program.
The IDEA program allows Air Force members to submit cost-saving ideas, said Littleton. If they’re deemed worthy and adopted as Air Force policy, the servicemember can receive a monetary award. Littleton said the servicemember would get 10 percent of the amount saved, with a maximum of $10,000 and a minimum of $200.
While working on a power logistics cell in a self-generating nitrogen cart, Littleton noticed a small plastic stem was getting broken off the unit’s oxygen sensor. When this happened, Littleton said, the entire cell was being replaced at a cost of just more than $635. Littleton figured there had to be a cheaper way of fixing the parts and made a few calls.
“I talked to the manufacturer and they sent two [of the plastic stems] for free,” Littleton said. “I then asked him how we could purchase the parts.”
Through his research, Littleton found the plastic part could be replaced at a cost of $39.23. He then knew he had an idea that could be worth some money and submitted it up his chain. He said the paperwork got kicked back several times but after one year, his idea got final approval; it’s now Air Force policy.
He said the Air Force estimates the cost to maintain the power logistics cell Air Force-wide now is $10,714; replacing the whole part cost more than $173,000. Littleton’s one idea will save the Air Force an estimated $162,000 or more per year.
Devising improvements isn’t difficult, he said, in part because the people who write the repair manuals don’t work on the systems every day. “When you get out there working on something, you say, ‘You can’t do it that way, it needs to be done this way,’” said Littleton, who added that he thought his plastic stem idea wouldn’t be approved. “It’s not hard … it’s just reading the tech manual and finding a better way to do things.”
The $10,000 award was the third monetary benefit he’s received through the IDEA program. Four of his improvement suggestions, lumped together, brought him $600; another was worth $1,100. With two more improvement suggestions now under review, even more money might be on its way.
He recently proposed using a $200 hand pump currently in the supply system for a tank dolly. Currently, when a hand pump goes bad, it is replaced with another costing $1,000, Littleton said.
His other pending proposal involves two parts on a generator used for testing electrical components on airplanes. Littleton said the current front axle assembly costs more than $4,000 for the generator, but he found an assembly of the same dimensions in the supply system for just more than $1,000. He also found a $39 overflow tank in the supply system that’s similar to the generator’s overflow tank, which now costs $438.
Littleton said once IDEA suggestions are approved, an e-mail tells all shops to make the change. He said the next time the technical manual is published, the change is put in writing.
As for the just more than $7,000 (after taxes) that he banked, Littleton said the money already is tucked away in his children’s college funds.