How the workforce of Corpus Christi
Army Depot repositioned itself for tighter times
By Mr. Curtis Titus and Ms. Brigitte Rox
Since 2011, Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) in Texas has made sweeping changes to its business culture and practices that not only reduced the depot’s consumption of government funds and material resources, but also positioned CCAD to continue providing top-quality support to the nation as military spending diminishes.
The U.S. government cannot afford to purchase new aircraft for each mission. Rather, it must rely on the organic industrial base (OIB) to modify aircraft and components to handle the specific needs of the next mission. As the largest helicopter, engine and component maintenance facility in all of DOD, CCAD has a number of capabilities found nowhere else, including its state-of-the-art bearing reclamation facility and transmission test facility, the only one capable of testing AH-64D Apache, UH-60A/L Black Hawk, CH-47D Chinook and OH-58 Kiowa transmissions. It can also provide overhaul, repair and modification of rotor heads and controls for any joint-service helicopter. CCAD’s workforce of some 5,000 civilians continues to evolve by adding capabilities that will be needed for the future of defense.
The drawdowns from Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with reduced budgets, have signaled a number of challenges for the Army and for CCAD. The depot’s workforce has met those challenges by treating the OIB as a business and finding smarter, more efficient ways to invest in its people and technology, in the spirit of better buying power.
With a complete organizational restructuring, strategic planning and fundamental cultural change, CCAD shook off a complacency that had developed over years of high-volume operations and prepared the organization to weather current and future storms.
THE PRICE OF PROSPERITY
After 9/11, CCAD thrived in a war-driven climate for 10 years, maintaining the Army’s aviation capability for the UH-60, CH-47, AH-64 and OH-58. CCAD experienced exponential growth, with a tenfold increase in production orders and a sixfold increase in revenue between FY03 and FY11.
CCAD welcomed this spike in production, but the volume created process and capacity issues that had to be resolved quickly. Initially the depot responded by spending more money and hiring more contractors to alleviate the issues, but this strategy could not be a stable, long-term solution while the root of the issues remained. Meanwhile, labor rates shot up. This push to produce also compromised the depot’s financial responsibility to the customer, employee development, product quality and continuous organizational improvement.
The depot’s rate of production would not be sustainable in the long run if the workforce failed to adapt its business practices to peacetime operations and limited budgets. This would compromise CCAD’s status as a premier aviation maintenance facility, which could lead to a loss of work, capabilities and human capital.
CCAD responded to this challenge in 2011 with an organizational restructuring to shore up weak points in internal communication. Depot personnel paired this with the launch of an internal messaging campaign encouraging a professional recommitment to the depot’s core values of financial responsibility, customer service, product quality, employee empowerment and organizational improvement.
This outline, known as the balanced scorecard, became the CCAD standard by which all production and support areas were measured continually. (See Figure 1.) This plan would enable the depot to achieve organizational change, increase production rates and lower costs to survive the effects of reduced budgets and fewer troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The plan called for:
- A depotwide evaluation and reorganization based on benchmarking commercial industrial organizations.
- Business metrics of performance.
- Organizational culture change.
- Continuous process improvement.
- Investment in human capital, including leadership and professional development.
BUILDING A NEW CULTURE
CCAD’s long-term viability required a comprehensive reorganization to align its processes while ensuring integration of the Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) into its core business functions. A team of experts designed a new organizational structure that would better align with the six core processes of LMP (order fulfillment, demand and supply planning, procurement, asset management, materiel maintenance and financial management). They reviewed organizational studies and interviewed subject-matter experts and aerospace industry leaders. They developed a business case, rules for change and a staffing plan based on the new structure.
The team also developed an Army staff structure for industrial support operations by coordinating with the depot’s higher headquarters at the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Command and Army Materiel Command. Then they adjusted the Table of Distribution and Allowances to conform with the new structure, and rewrote CCAD’s missions and functions.
Any change of the magnitude of deploying an enterprise resource plan (ERP) requires a depotwide culture overhaul.
To achieve this, CCAD needed a sound and established method to guide the organization toward the business’s new direction. Inspired by the leadership and business theories taught by Dr. John P. Kotter, professor of leadership, emeritus, at Harvard Business School, CCAD developed a plan to lead change. With a goal to be better, faster and cost-effective, depot leaders introduced the workforce to Kotter’s concept of “the big opportunity” to create a sense of urgency.
CCAD’s former commander, COL Christopher Carlile, implemented a strategic internal communications campaign through his public affairs team to achieve visibility and strengthen the sense of urgency within the workforce. The commander made sure that he had senior leadership buy-in to successfully deploy the reorganization. He communicated the overhaul to his workforce at every level, actively engaging with employees to incorporate their feedback and suggestions in developing the plan.
One aspect of this campaign involved a depotwide survey to evaluate the workforce’s attitudes toward the current organizational structure. The results showed that 98 percent of employees were dissatisfied with the current work climate and wanted to see improvements that would maximize production and support at the lowest cost and with the quickest turnaround possible. At that point, the commander deployed a program to encourage employees to volunteer their ideas for improving and shaping the products and processes they knew best. Teams of volunteers, known as “leading change teams,” became active in clearing obstacles and achieving quick wins more effectively than any methods used in the past.
CCAD previously had established an Office of Continuous Improvement with staff specially trained to streamline processes. While the office achieved savings through a number of “quick win” efforts such as hosting projects in production shops, these event-driven projects fell short of promoting a cost-conscious culture at the shop-floor level. The change teams were much more successful, as they relied on employees with the drive to improve the jobs they were doing. The depot invested in these teams by providing them Lean Six Sigma training and by joining teams of like-minded employees so they could ignite improvements in their shops.
This concept had an immediate impact on the workforce as they turned their ideas into reality. One change team resolved long wait times at base gates by staggering work shifts. Another team made quality improvements in aircraft assembly and flight test. One team reduced equipment duplications and established a free-issue site to redistribute available equipment effectively. By the official launch of the reorganization on Sept. 1, 2012, the CCAD workforce was already demonstrating how effective an employee-led, cost-conscious culture could be.
CASE IN POINT: BLACK HAWK RECAP
These organizational strides were key to the success of CCAD’s UH-60 Black Hawk recapitalization program, which represents just one example of how CCAD is achieving the highest possible return on capital assets and investments.
The depot has become the cornerstone of sustainment for the Army’s Black Hawk fleet. The Black Hawk recap program, introduced more than a decade ago, maintains the Army’s combat readiness by updating aircraft already in the inventory to meet the evolving requirements of modern warfare. Recap, part of the Army’s efforts to reduce platform sustainment costs, avoids the expense of replacing aging helicopters with new ones.
Specifically, CCAD’s Black Hawk recap program saves taxpayers approximately $12 million with each rebuild. Since 2003, the program has saved the taxpayer more than $20 billion, cutting time and costs while making smarter choices in workload.
CCAD’s new proactive and efficient culture enabled the workforce to recapitalize more Black Hawks than ever—50 A-to-L models—by improving systems and processes in workshops with innovative technology, lean methodologies and best business practices. The Aircraft Support Division, for example, reduced turnaround time 17 percent in FY12, and the trend continues today.
CCAD did not expect to have the capability to produce 50 A-to-L-model Black Hawks until FY15, having achieved only 48 aircraft the year before. Now the depot is also rebuilding U.S. Air Force Pave Hawks, as well as Customs and Border Protection Blackhawks, and is in talks to include the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard in the recap program.
In another example of newfound efficiencies at CCAD, during FY12, UH-60 main rotor blades were not available in sufficient quantities to maintain fleet readiness. Despite numerous space and capacity constraints, the depot ramped up output within 90 days. By maximizing workflow and increasing productivity, CCAD was able to increase monthly production on Black Hawk blades from 120 to 160.
Measured another way, in FY11 the Rotary Wing Division increased monthly production of Black Hawk main rotor blades by 43 percent, from 70 to 100 blades. In FY12, UH-60 tail rotor blade production increased 18 percent, from 85 to 100. AH-64 main rotor blade production increased 50 percent, from 40 blades in FY11 to 60 in FY12. Altogether, the division increased production by 30 percent in one fiscal year without incurring any additional cost or expansion.
Overall, FY12 was CCAD’s best year for continuous improvement in its history. The workforce shattered the original goal of achieving $50 million in financial benefits by executing 49 projects valued at $65.1 million in internal cost avoidances and savings to their customers.
The CCAD workforce has demonstrated the synergistic effects of an enterprise approach to operations. By reorganizing and transforming its business culture, CCAD has positioned itself to survive the drawdowns and the downturn in military spending and be ready for the future, reducing the overall costs of aviation and turning every dollar saved into more capability for the Army.
Leaders now have a way to measure depot operations against commercial industrial benchmarks using a proven ERP. An established balanced business scorecard allows leadership to routinely assess the depot’s commitment to and success of its priorities and values. Managers and leaders can measure individual and team performance through transparent business metrics, enabling them to reward top performers and correct areas of concern.
By transforming their collective mindset from a culture of complacency to one of activism and cost-consciousness, the CCAD workforce achieved savings in cost, schedule and human capital while maintaining the superior quality for which CCAD is known.
For more information, go to http://www.ccad.army.mil/ or call the CCAD Public Affairs Office at 361-961-3627.
MR. CURTIS TITUS is chief of CCAD’s Administrative Support Division. He served as management analyst for the CCAD Reorganization Team and later as executive assistant to the commander. He has a B.A. in general science from Excelsior College. Titus is a retired NCO who served in the Army for 20 years as a counterintelligence agent.
MS. BRIGITTE ROX is a public affairs specialist at CCAD. She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English from Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, where she also studied journalism.
- Previoulsy published in Army AL&T magazine (Jan-Feb 2014 edition).