Most people hear the words Apple and think either a fruit or an electronic device, but for the 924th Fighter Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., it means efficiency.
The “Termites” were chosen by the Air Force Reserve Command to be the test unit to work directly with Apple in the development of an Integrated Maintenance Database System application. This application will increase productivity for the Airmen who work on the flightline.
“Whenever we accomplish a maintenance task on an aircraft, it is documented on the aircraft form and in the database and they both have to match,” said Master Sgt. Scott Jenkins, 924 FG quality assurance lead.
Jenkins has been in contact with AFRC since early this year in hopes of making the maintainers jobs easier with the implementation of the app.
“Documentation is a very crucial part of our job because it accurately tracks everything we do on the aircraft,” said Jenkins. “but when you have 60 Airmen all trying to use eight computers on a training weekend that makes it hard and we don’t want things to get missed.”
The app will allow the Airmen to document actions on the spot right next to the aircraft instead of waiting until they return to the building at the end of the day or whenever the can go inside.
“We maintainers used to have little blue books for our technical orders, then we switched over to tough books, and here recently we have moved to IPads,” said Jenkins. “Although we had these devices, we have only been using them as an e-reader. We know there is more capability, so we started trying to figure out how to use it and one step of that was to perform more aspects of our job on it kind of like a mobile workstation.”
Although the Airmen only have eight desktop computers to share, every Airmen is required to sign out an IPad, which holds their technical orders, before starting work on an aircraft. Therefore, the development of the app is a top priority for the unit.
“When AFRC reached out and asked us to take the lead as the test bed, my leadership accepted without hesitation,” said Jenkins.
In order to test the app, AFRC and Apple requested, at a minimum, an experience IMDS user and a brand-new Airmen to gauge how easy the new app is to use. Jenkin then reached out the 924th FG airframe powerplant general flight chief. “The people who document the most using this form is the APG Airmen, so it only makes sense to use the maintainers that used this form on a daily basis,” said Jenkins.
Master Sgt. Michael Mindziak, 924th APG flight chief, has been working with Jenkins to determine which Airmen are going to the Apple Headquarters and which screens are essential to the limited functional app.
“AFRC sent me a working list of screens they think are pertinent and I am able to work with Mindziak and the unit to determine what screen is necessary and what can wait, to really test out the app,” said Jenkins.
Mindziak thinks this project is a great step in the right direction.
“I think it’s awesome and a great honor to be a part of the initial steps in developing the IMDS app,” said Mindziak, “we need it.”
Mindziak understands that there will be challenges but for good reason.
“I know there will be glitches here and there but in the end, this will truly help the Airmen and create a great product for the Air Force,” said Minziak.
Going to the Apple headquarters may be overwhelming but Mindziak has one goal in mind.
“I plan on being a huge sponge for any and everything they share with me because it will only enhance our mission,” said Mindziak, “plus I hope to be the first stop for help with the app when problems come up.”
Mindziak continued to say that the overall perception around his unit is very good. The Airmen are excited about the prospect for more efficiency and better time-management.
The two chosen Airmen and Jenkins and Minziak are scheduled to head to the Apple Design Lab in California for a three days design session to work with Apple engineers and developers to beta test the app. The unit’s hope is that 25 IPADs will be ready to test within the unit by early 2018.