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Aerospace corporations join Air Force-MIT effort to boost war fighter readiness

Boeing and Chromalloy join Lean Sustainment Initiative

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Two aerospace industry leaders have joined the Air Force-MIT Lean Sustainment Initiative (LSI), a move that signals new industry commitment to streamlining the Air Force's $5.3 billion dollar maintenance, repair, and overhaul operations (MRO). As a joint military-industry endeavor, MRO forms a core part of the Operations and Maintenance effort that involves one-third of Air Force personnel and costs $28 billion a year.

The Boeing Company and Chromalloy Gas Turbine Corporation each contributed $100,000 to LSI research on applying lean production principles to the sustainment operations, business processes, and enterprise integration that keep the backbone of America's air defense system -- old airplanes like B-52s, F-15s, F-16s, KC-135s -- in the air. Boosting sustainment efficiency could increase the percent of US war fighters that can go into immediate action - now about 75 percent.

In 1997, the US Air Force initiated, then funded, LSI's research on making their sustainment enterprise faster, cheaper, and more efficient. The effort was pioneered by the Air Force Materiel Command, the Manufacturing Technology Program of the Air Force Research Laboratory, and the three air logistics centers. "Now we have industry seeing the opportunity to influence change and to collaborate to improve overall support for the nation's war fighters," said LSI Director Wesley Harris, professor of aeronautics and astronautics.

Cooperation between government and industry is crucial since the Air Force obtains 50 percent of its depot level maintenance services from industry contractors. Greater efficiency in managing repair of very complex systems and replacement of hundreds of thousands of parts is essential to a strong US military defense and a viable aerospace industry. And the industry is sizable. The worldwide MRO industry supporting commercial aircraft operations alone forecasts $42 billion in revenue in 2001.

Rande Cruze, Director of Boeing Repair, Overhaul, and Exchange Services and an LSI co-director, says LSI has created valuable neutral meeting ground. "LSI enables government and industry to collaborate on breakthrough improvements to transform the US aerospace MRO industry. Working together to identify key areas of improvement will enable all of us to save time and money. Boeing is committed to good business and good defense."

In case studies and by identifying best practices, LSI has targeted areas where data coding and communication problems have prevented accurate forecasting of parts needs and developed a joint approach to problems that face both the government and industry maintenance services suppliers. "MIT research has directly influenced the implementation of pilot projects at several USAF MRO locations," Harris said. "These pilot projects, budgeted at more than $16 million through the USAF Manufacturing Technology Program, are test beds to evaluate the impact of LSI research-based recommendations on enhancing the effectiveness and efficiency of operations."

Both industry and government have much to gain from this collaboration. According to Chromalloy representative Kenneth Eickmann, speaking for Dr. Martin Weinstein, CEO of Chromalloy, "LSI is a new approach to government-industry cooperation with great potential. Chromalloy is making a commitment to that potential."

The Lean Sustainment Initiative is an Air Force-industry-academia partnership supported by the Center for Technology, Policy, and Industrial Development, a multi-industry research enterprise that applies intellectual tools from engineering, management, and the social sciences to critical industry issues. CTPID's nine research programs investigate sustainable, global solutions to challenges in aerospace, automotive production and transportation, Internet technology and policy, materials systems, and technology and law. For more information, visit the CTPID website:

For more information on LIS, visit the LSI web site.

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