Earlier this month, airmen who were assigned to the 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron from Travis Air Force Base partnered with Tesla in Berkeley to evaluate and improve existing vehicle maintenance procedures for installation. A total of 15 airmen toured the Tesla service center and were able to learn about the company’s vehicle acceptance process, along with managing mobile repair, parts warehousing, and databasing. They also got to see first hand the customer experience.
Air Force Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown Jr. shared his thoughts: “Accelerate change or lose.” Master Sgt. Jerry Voyles, a vehicle fleet manager at Travis, also spoke about how lucky he and the airmen were about the association. “We’re lucky to be near Tesla, one of the most cutting-edge and modernized automotive companies,” and then added: “We wanted to take an opportunity to get eyes on their processes, to learn how to incorporate new technology and innovative processes in how we manage the vehicle fleet at Travis, Air Mobility Command and the Air Force.”
The tour of the Tesla service center was provided by Blaine Huston, the manager. Huston highlighted that this was a great way to honor the airmen. “What better way to honor these individuals than invite them to our house, share with them cutting-edge information on how we provide service and manage our fleets.”
The U.S. Air Force’s press release noted that fleet maintenance has several processes that have the opportunity to be modernized. Some of these include mobile maintenance as well as inventory management. Some of the fleet’s processes aren’t set up to optimize the customer and the maintainer’s time or the vehicle downtime while getting serviced.
Master Sgt. Voyles is hoping for a better vehicle intake or mobile maintenance process. He pointed out that in an ideal world, the fleet on base could incorporate geotagging when requesting maintenance via smartphone. This would help them to know exactly where to send assistance when a vehicle needs to be serviced. It would also help them to determine whether or not the vehicle needed to be brought in.
He referenced a situation where a vehicle had a broken tail light as an example. Currently, a customer would have to bring the vehicle in, turn it in, and do the needed paperwork and repair the tail light. This would give the vehicle a lot of downtime. A better method of solving this problem would be to create a set-in-stone mobile maintenance procedure, which the master sergeant hopes to learn from Tesla. “About 25% of mobile calls could’ve been fixed by the customer,” he said.
In some cases, a customer will be out with a vehicle and something will quit working, he noted. The customer would then call the vehicle maintenance shop to see if someone could come out to repair the vehicle. When this happens, there’s not a process in place to record and compare historical technical issues that the customer could fix. Voyles pointed out that this isn’t a good experience for customers. “When the communication squadron has a customer who needs to troubleshoot, they have an existing list of troubleshooting steps to follow,” he said. “Giving our customers a troubleshooting list with collected data-analytics in the field will lower downtime for our office and their office.”
Voyles pointed out that for the bottom line, less downtime means that the mission moves forward faster. “Big picture, we want to take what we learn today and share that with units across the Air Force,” he said. The next steps, the press release noted, were for the 60th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle maintenance members to get existing processes audited and then incorporate some of those new processes they were able to learn from Tesla.
All photos taken by Nicholas Pilch, courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.