Innovation Takes Flight: Team Little Rock CTK shop crafts cost-efficient foam inserts for toolboxes

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Julian Atkins
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

In the realm of C-130 maintenance, precision, organization, and efficiency can be paramount. Recognizing the importance of these values in their workspace, Tech. Sgt. Elijah Roy, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron consolidated tool kit noncommissioned officer in charge, developed an innovative way to increase job efficiency and save money at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.

Traditionally, organization in a maintainer’s toolbox involves pre-made foam inserts. However, this often comes with a larger price tag and may not perfectly accommodate the unique array of tools used on the line. Faced with this challenge, Roy decided to take matters into his own hands.

“When I was on the flight line, the foam in the toolboxes was a problem,” Roy said. “It was always falling apart and wasn't held together very well. It also caused problems with foreign object debris, or FOD, on the flight line.”

Roy began brainstorming ways to address the problems the pre-made foam created. He realized that creating custom foam inserts tailored to the specific tools used in C-130 maintenance could not only improve organization but also mitigate FOD risks and greatly reduce costs.

Drawing on his expertise as a C-130 crew chief and past experience with digital design, Roy began his DIY project.

“I developed outlines and started vectorizing tools, and utilizing a laser Etcher, I developed new foam inserts for all the toolboxes,” Roy said.

The result was a set of custom foam inserts that not only provided a secure and snug fit for each tool but also addressed all the major issues with the old foam.

The benefits of this DIY approach quickly became evident. By tailoring the foam inserts to their specific needs, the maintenance crew could also optimize the use of space within their toolboxes, ensuring that every tool had a designated place.

“Everybody who uses these toolboxes now has a visual indicator of what specific tools go where. By giving each tool a designated spot, it helps everyone keep track of their tools easily. It saves time searching for lost tools and reduces the risk of FOD hazards," Roy said.

In addition to these operational benefits, Roy's DIY approach resulted in significant cost savings for the unit. By creating the foam inserts in-house, the unit avoids the need to purchase the expensive pre-made inserts.

“When I ran the numbers, it would initially save us $185,000 to re-do all the foam inserts in the CTK,” Roy said. “After five years it would save us around $650,000, and after 10 years it would save us over $1.2 million.”

Looking beyond the immediate impact within his unit, Roy harbors hopes that his innovative solution will extend its benefits to other maintenance units across the Air Force.

“I really hope this expands to other shops and bases because honestly, it's something that can benefit everyone,” Roy said. “Anybody can do this. All you must have is the passion for it and desire to do it.”

Not only could this initiative lead to substantial cost savings and enhance efficiency for maintenance operations on a larger scale, but it could also foster a culture of resourcefulness and problem-solving within the maintenance community.