Down to Earth: Award-Winning Project Streamlines NASA Facility Maintenance

NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover “Perseverance” is now on Mars, which was a feat of science and engineering that made headlines across the globe. For Continuous Improvement Analyst Michael J. Newbeck, it means adjusting his award-winning maintenance schedule at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Keeping up Perseverance’s home on Earth is one example of how PAE’s team supporting Base Operations and Spaceport Services under Newbeck prioritized work in different facilities. The routine, 13-week maintenance cycle strategy they developed and implemented is part of a project that won PAE’s Continuous Improvement Kaizen Competition in the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control – or DMAIC – category.

“This plan allows us to get to the place where we can prioritize the work that’s in these facilities,” Newbeck said.

The Kaizen competition highlights continuous improvement projects across PAE with a focus on improving efficiencies and cost-savings. Continuous Improvement Director John Bennett said employees who have taken the company’s Lean Practitioner or Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Continuous Improvement trainings are eligible to submit their projects to the Kaizen competition.

“The Kaizen competition is one of the ways in which we try to broadcast CI to the entire organization and get them interested in doing continuous improvement on their own,” Bennett said.

For every repair or service that BOSS provides, a specific number of units are earned, proportional to the labor hours and material costs expended. In the first full 13-week cycle of the workload management plan, or WLMP, cycle maintenance crews were assigned work in 35 anchor facilities and 75 satellite facilities on a repeating and predictable schedule. The crews generated 29,212 units resulting in $1.3 million in invoiced revenue.

Prior to the WLMP, crews were sent to work locations based on the target completion date. Work schedules depended more on “what was due today,” no matter the location of the facility, rather than what could be accomplished most efficiently. The Facilities, Systems, Equipment and Utilities Continuous Improvement Team, led by Newbeck, used historic data to strategically divide the Kennedy Space Center into four zones: two in the north launch complex area and two in the south industrial area. Repeating targeted maintenance windows were set up for key anchor facilities – priority facilities requiring the most maintenance – within each zone.

Newbeck helped develop the WLMP with Operations and Maintenance Manager Jim Welter and a team of schedulers and supervisors. Currently, Newbeck is certified as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt working toward his Master Black Belt certification with Bennett. Newbeck has already completed multiple Continuous Improvement projects and the WLMP will also count toward Newbeck’s Master Black Belt certification.

The development of the WLMP allows for adjustments before, during and after the 13-week period. If a certain facility no longer has the same amount of work it did when the period began, then the window can be shortened or altered.

Every Tuesday, there is a meeting with the schedulers and facility managers to discuss the work within the four zones. The meetings determine whether teams are waiting on materials, need support, or have access or outage issues. The WLMP is then adjusted depending on what is discussed.

“In the very beginning, when we first started putting this out and going to the meetings, I mentioned that this is not Mike Newbeck’s workload management plan,” Newbeck said. “This is our plan.”

Newbeck was very proud to be considered for the award and emphasized Quality Assurance and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt Brandon Johnson’s and Bennett’s insight and mentorship that allowed him to submit the current iteration of the Kaizen project for consideration.

Workload management at the space center is growing and Newbeck’s team is working on incorporating an integrated master schedule. Program managers will help create a complete work schedule encompassing everything from task orders, preventative maintenance, scheduled corrective maintenance, and service orders.

In addition to the master schedule, Newbeck’ s team is working to create quick response teams. These QRTs would be dedicated teams that work outside of the more predictable WLMP and are always ready in the field to respond to unscheduled work such as emergencies, routine trouble calls, and a new category of work being added to the contract called quick response trouble calls. The addition of the QRTs will help bolster the effectiveness of the WLMP by shielding the cycle maintenance crews from being pulled off planned work.

Going forward in 2021, the WLMP will continue to evolve with its major aim being to free up labor hours to re-invest in other revenue generating endeavors.

“If we could go ahead and free up resources to hit the task orders, that’s what we’re really shooting for,” Newbeck said.