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Clearing the backlog: Blackjack engineers tackle “Work Week”

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Arron Vens, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron pavements and equipment journeyman, cuts a portion of a hangar roof into a more manageable size for removal on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 12, 2017. The 21st CES operations flight took a week in January to catch up on older, low priority work orders, in addition to new high priorities from the recent wind storm. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Arron Vens, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron pavements and equipment journeyman, cuts a portion of a hangar roof into a more manageable size for removal on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 12, 2017. The 21st CES operations flight took a week in January to catch up on older, low priority work orders, in addition to new high priorities from the recent wind storm. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Christopher Stevenson, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning and Refrigeration craftsman, troubleshoots electrical wiring for a chiller at Air Force Life Cycle Material Command on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 12, 2017. The operations flight from 21st CES cancelled meetings and fitness training for a week to attempt to get the backlog of work orders under control. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Christopher Stevenson, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning and Refrigeration craftsman, troubleshoots electrical wiring for a chiller at Air Force Life Cycle Material Command on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 12, 2017. The operations flight from 21st CES cancelled meetings and fitness training for a week to attempt to get the backlog of work orders under control. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Thomas Meyer, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron pavements and equipment craftsman, removes an old, unnecessary section of fencing at the 21st CES compound on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 13, 2017. The 21st CES Blackjack Engineers took a week in January to put extra effort toward tackling the backlog of corrective work orders. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Thomas Meyer, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron pavements and equipment craftsman, removes an old, unnecessary section of fencing at the 21st CES compound on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 13, 2017. The 21st CES Blackjack Engineers took a week in January to put extra effort toward tackling the backlog of corrective work orders. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airmen from the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron water and fuels systems maintenance section remove an old hot water system in preparation for a new one at the Child Development Center on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 10, 2017. The new installed system will included an additional water heater and bypass line, making it possible to have a heater go down and still provide hot water to the building, thus eliminating a single point of failure. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airmen from the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron water and fuels systems maintenance section remove an old hot water system in preparation for a new one at the Child Development Center on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 10, 2017. The new installed system will included an additional water heater and bypass line, making it possible to have a heater go down and still provide hot water to the building, thus eliminating a single point of failure. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Brian Foxworth, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning and Refrigeration craftsman, repairs a unit heater in the 21st CES compound’s mechanical room on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 11, 2017. The operations flight from 21st CES cancelled meetings and fitness training for a week in an attempt to get the backlog of work orders under control. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Brian Foxworth, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning and Refrigeration craftsman, repairs a unit heater in the 21st CES compound’s mechanical room on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 11, 2017. The operations flight from 21st CES cancelled meetings and fitness training for a week in an attempt to get the backlog of work orders under control. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight uses a sky lift to fix portions of a roof on a hangar along the flightline on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 12, 2017. The 21st CES Blackjack Engineers took a week in January to put extra effort toward tackling the backlog of corrective work orders. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight uses a sky lift to fix portions of a roof on a hangar along the flightline on Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., Jan. 12, 2017. The 21st CES Blackjack Engineers took a week in January to put extra effort toward tackling the backlog of corrective work orders. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, dedicated time Jan. 9-13 specifically for tackling the backlogged corrective work orders they weren’t able to get to in 2016. The team minimized appointments and meetings, and cancelled physical training formations to dedicate as much time as possible to achieving their goal.

The 21st CES has a priority system in place to ensure appropriate response to incoming work orders, which is based mostly on manning, but also on funding and infrastructure requirements, said Capt. Matthew Akaydin, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron chief of engineering operations.

When 21st CES receives work orders, they are cataloged based on priority. Emergencies always take precedent and are a tier one priority. Tier two priorities consist of preventative maintenance, followed by corrective maintenance in tier three.

“For that one week, all we did was emergencies and then tried to tackle as many of the backlogged work orders as we could,” he said. “The idea was to knock out as many things as we could.”

Every month, regularly scheduled preventative maintenance is done, in addition to the emergencies that seem to continually keep the Blackjack Engineers on their toes. After that, the other priorities are pushed to the back. This isn’t because those work orders go “into a queue of one to 1,000,” but rather get placed into the priority system with the higher priority jobs completed first, he said.

To find a way around continually pushing lower priority work orders to the back burner, Akaydin said they came up with the “21st CES Work Week.” The operations flight cancelled as many meeting and appointments as they could, doubled up on maintenance work in weeks leading up to the “work week” and focused soley on tier three, corrective maintenance issues.

Normally, preventative maintenance is completed first. As an example, he said the operations flight would change the filter on an HVAC system before they would fix the entire system if it wasn’t working. He used the analogy of changing the oil on a car before changing a flat tire.

“It sounds a little odd at first, but when you peel back the layers of the onion, you see that what’s happened over the years is we have been so busy changing tires, in this analogy, that we never actually changed the oil,” Akaydin explained. “(As a result), the cars actually seize up and creates bigger problems down the road.”

In a typical week during 2016, 21st CES receives an average of 116 work orders and only closes out 105. That creates a backlog, which currently is about 900. During the “work week,” they closed out 219 work orders, an 89 percent increase from the average week. Due to a wind storm taking place in the same week, which caused plenty of new emergencies, they also opened 222 additional work orders.

About 100 Blackjack Engineers tackled as much as they could, but weren’t able to make as big of a dent in the backlog due to subsequent tier one priorities that flowed in from the wind storm. However, Akaydin said they were able to tackle some work orders they normally wouldn’t have been able to complete.

This was the first time 21st CES attempted a “work week,” he said. Based on the results, they may look to continue it on possibly a quarterly basis. Hopefully next time Mother Nature cooperates and allows them to tackle even more tier three jobs.



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