Story by SSgt David Owsianka on 08/29/2019Tech. Sgt. Cynthia Ward, 7th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment support section NCO in charge, attended an AFWERX inaugural Spark Collider event in Austin, Texas, Aug 14, 2019, where she received $125,000 to work on a project that encompasses building an automated AGE tracking system.
AFWERX is a U.S. Air Force program that helps Airmen develop solutions to the challenges they face within the Air Force through partnerships with private sector business entities, with particular emphasis being placed on collaboration with technology startups. The goal of this program is to foster a culture of innovation within the service.
"I felt motivated when I was awarded the money, because projects like this can be slow to generate support and it can take a long time to see measurable movement in the right direction," Ward said. "Having the people say we want to help you solve this problem' was a boost to our determination to see this project through and ensure we find a lasting solution."
During Ward's time at the event, she explained the drawbacks of the current manual tracking system and the potential benefits of an automated system.
With the current system, each driver has to spend an average of 20 minutes throughout their shift logging all movements onto a run sheet and an additional 30 minutes at the end of their shift transcribing the information onto an excel document. Also, if an Airman needs to find a piece of equipment through the current process, someone will need to scour the flightline and back shops to locate it. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours per asset.
The tracking system will ensure AGE Airmen are able to find an asset at any given time. Furthermore, it will automatically log every movement of every asset into an electronic database. This information will help determine which piece of equipment has been in contact with specific aircraft in the event of a maintenance issue or impoundment, which will prevent any further contamination to the fleet and prevent the AGE Airmen from having to pull multiple assets from mission capable status. With the automated tracking system program in place, all of the current issues will be negated and will save the unit an average of 40 man hours per week.
"Automating this process will give our Airmen more time to accomplish other tasks such as dispatches, servicing, spot inspections and training," Ward said. "It will also greatly improve the accuracy and ensure every movement is logged."
According to the AFWERX website, their ultimate aim is to solve problems and enhance the effectiveness of the Air Force. They enable thoughtful, deliberate, ground-up innovation across the Air Force through an innovation approach that combines startup urgency with the largest pool of motivated talent in the world to uncover opportunities to improve Air Force capabilities.
Dyess Airmen who are looking to solve problems and offer suggestions can go to https://usaf.ideascalegov.com/ and submit their ideas to the Dyess Spark 2020 campaign.
"I believe every AGE shop in the Air Force can benefit from an automated tracking system," Ward said. "I can also see this system being used to help facilitate any other unit and career field that provides support equipment to other agencies."