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AFSC Focus: Engineering & Technical Management

These two devices are demonstration items that the Engineering and Technical Management Directorate of the Air Force Sustainment Center, based at Tinker, uses to promote the concept of 3D printed aircraft parts. The one on the right is called "Brain Gear" and was printed on a 3D printer in one piece, as is. “It’s a plastic material, and we use this kind of printing in our MX shops today to fit check parts that we need to manufacture locally,” said EN Director Angie Tymofichuk. The other item, a titanium part, also was 3D printed but in a different fashion called Additive Manufacturing, using a laser. “The technology to make those things exists in industry today,” Ms. Tymofichuk said. “What we're pushing is standards, testing, qualification, etc., for using that technology to make parts on-demand, not having to keep stock in warehouses or having to wait on deliveries." (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

These two devices are demonstration items that the Engineering and Technical Management Directorate of the Air Force Sustainment Center, based at Tinker, uses to promote the concept of 3D printed aircraft parts. The one on the right is called "Brain Gear" and was printed on a 3D printer in one piece, as is. “It’s a plastic material, and we use this kind of printing in our MX shops today to fit check parts that we need to manufacture locally,” said EN Director Angie Tymofichuk. The other item, a titanium part, also was 3D printed but in a different fashion called Additive Manufacturing, using a laser. “The technology to make those things exists in industry today,” Ms. Tymofichuk said. “What we're pushing is standards, testing, qualification, etc., for using that technology to make parts on-demand, not having to keep stock in warehouses or having to wait on deliveries." (Air Force photo by Kelly White)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- In the Engineering and Technical Management Directorate of the Air Force Sustainment Center, "We are about 'engineering the possible'," Director Angie Tymofichuk said recently. "Through AFSC's engineering workforce, we evaluate what needs to be done and then we engineer a solution."

With just under 100 people at three sites, the directorate has functional management responsibility for approximately 4,500 scientists and engineers in AFSC.

Before the Air Force Materiel Command implemented its "5 Center Construct" in 2012, the Engineering and Technical Management Directorate concentrated on "whiz-bang weapons system technology," Ms. Tymofichuk recalled. "We used to be focused on weapon system programs, not on industrial processes."

Now, though, the directorate devotes its attention to organic repair capability and supply chain.

She pointed to a plastic-handled device on her desk used to scrape sealant off A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft. The scrapers, which look like an oversized plastic razor, were not doing the job. "We found that repairmen were improvising and using other things to scrape off" stubborn sealant that wouldn't come off with the plastic scrapers. As a result, the skin of the A-10 "Warthogs" was inadvertently being gouged.

"So we leveraged the power of the Air Force Research Laboratory and engineered a better tool," she said. And now they're working together on a robotic laster-assisted paint removal process.

"Our big activity is Complex of the Future," Ms. Tymofichuk said. The Complex of the Future is "a strategic visioning effort to define the future state -- 20 to 30 years out -- of what our organic repair facilities will look and feel like, including all support functions such as supply," she said. The Complex of the Future is a joint venture among AFSC, AFRL and the Life Cycle Management Center.

It's all in keeping with the AFSC leadership model, which focuses on people, processes and resources, she said. And as Lt. Gen. Bruce Litchfield, the AFSC commander, has said, the linchpin that binds this model together is AFSC's ability to continually improve its processes.

One of the Engineering Directorate's key objectives is to improve cost-effectiveness by maximizing a mindset of continuous process improvement.

The AFMC reorganization had an immediate, beneficial effect on EN, Ms. Tymofichuk said. "We had three separate logistics centers among 12 centers in AFMC, each with different opinions, preferences, commanders and EN directorates. Now we have one voice out of five, a stronger united front." For EN, that has meant highlighting -- internally and across the AFMC -- "the world-class scientists and engineers we have," as well as the unique technical issues and needs of the organic repair and supply chain communities.

"We are world-class and we can still lean on and learn from each other," she said.
Ms. Tymofichuk emphasizes workforce development, recruitment and retention in her directorate. This emphasis "also covers the engineers in LCMC who are co-located with us under an arrangement titled 'Site Senior Functional'," she said. "We hire 100 to 150 electrical engineers each year," for example. Another EN objective is to ensure that 95 percent of all critical acquisition positions, and 85 percent of all non-critical acquisition positions, are Acquisition Professional Development Program-certified.

One of the Defense Department's initiative areas is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), she noted. "It is an important part of our mission to ensure a viable pipeline of scientists and engineers." Therefore, one person on Ms. Tymofichuk's staff at Tinker is assigned solely to STEM outreach.

Of EN's 4,500 engineers, their levels of education range as high as Ph.Ds, although the vast majority of them have a bachelor's degree. "We don't have a technical track in AFSC, so we're working with LCMC, AFMC and the Air Force Personnel Center to develop one," Ms. Tymofichuk said.

Another key EN objective, she related, is to provide sound technical advice through a reliable, agile, and responsive organization that is focused on engineering the possible.
A principal goal of EN is to provide support that helps the Air Logistics Complex produce "on time, every time." If Engineering doesn't provide timely responses, "We may impact critical path, and on-time delivery will be impacted," Ms. Tymofichuk said. "We are working with AFSC and LCMC engineers to redefine engineering support to maintenance, to include Delegated Engineering Authority to Maintenance."

Now, EN's office at Tinker AFB, as well as its operating locations at Hill AFB in Utah and Robins AFB in Georgia, are "all playing off the same sheet of music," Ms. Tymofichuk said. Across the AFSC, "We all do the same things the same way," and communications among the three sites have improved dramatically since the reorganization. "It's the AFSC Way."