The 402nd EMXG employs 1,407 people who test and repair avionics on a wide array of military aircraft.

The Shingo Prize is administered by the Utah State University School of Business. It is named after Japanese industrial engineer Shigeo Shingo, who helped create many aspects of Toyota’s legendary production system.

“It’s wonderful news,” said Sandy Faircloth, director of the 402nd Electronic Maintenance Support Squadron, which put together the unit’s 100-page award package. “It shows our people’s dedication to continuous process improvement. They really believe in it and have shown it works.”

Among the 402nd EMXG’s accomplishments, the staff trimmed 25 steps in the process of manufacturing circuit cards—from 127 to 102—eliminating 10 production hours per job. Unit members also reduced the number of flow days to produce Digital Automated Test Sets by 61 percent, and they reduced the number of safety violations by almost 60 percent.

It’s also garnered more than 50 individual and team awards at Air Force-, command- and center-level in recent years, including Air Force Outstanding Unit awards in 2006 and 2008.

Ms. Faircloth said while she would have liked to have seen the group get the top prize, silver is a significant accomplishment, especially considering that Shingo raised the standard for the award this year.

“We were competing under stricter guidelines than ever before,” she said.

“This is a very difficult and demanding evaluation process,” said Col. Jerry Whitley, the 402nd EMXG commander.

Plans are already in the works for the unit to compete again and try to win the top prize, the colonel said. An area of improvement that the group needs to aim for is to be able to shift workload faster.

“We’ve got to develop an operational philosophy where we can easily shift from one type of production to another,” Colonel Whitley said. “We may need to produce F-15 (Eagle) LANTIRN parts today, but tomorrow it may be C-130 (Hercules) color radar parts.”

Public and private organizations worldwide vie for the coveted Shingo Prize, which is the top honor. Silver is the next highest, followed by bronze.

The only other Shingo Prize awarded to a military organization was to the Logistics Command & Army Fleet Support, LLC-Lowe Army Heliport, at Fort Rucker, Ala. It received a bronze.

The awards will be presented May 5 at the Shingo Prize Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

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