97 MXS wins AETC competition with automated tool tracker

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kayla Christenson
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 97th Maintenance Squadron participated in the Air Education and Training Command “iChallenge,” winning the $225,000 top prize to further develop software that helps aircraft maintainers keep track of tools found in toolboxes.

The iChallenge is a competition that evaluates innovative ideas and awards funding to the best ones.

“The focus of this innovation tool system is to provide 100% inventory, 100% of the time,” said Donnie Obreiter, 97th MXS director. “This will improve our maintenance team performance drastically because it cuts down on costs and unnecessary man hours.”

Under the current system, when a toolbox is checked in after working on an aircraft, a maintainer provides inventory for every tool down to the nuts and bolts. Once the maintainer turns in their toolbox, another person inventories its contents.

“There are already so many hours that go into making sure no tool is lost,” said Obreiter. “When a tool is lost, there are many more hours that go into finding the tool, so this software will eliminate that process and cut down on lost tools immensely.”

Jeff Gobielle, 97th MXS superintendent, was one of the five members who pitched the idea of using the software for the A-Team’s toolboxes.

“We get an empty toolbox, install this software and choose what kind of tools we want in it,” he said. “Then we report those tools back to the company and they can program the software to recognize the tools. The toolbox has a scanner that scans the size and shape of the tool along with foam padding that detects the weight of it. Also, every person that opens the toolbox has to use an I.D. so that it tracks who has what tool.”

Obreiter said he hopes the tool continues its development and enhances the efficiency of the 97 MXS mission.

“This all happened very fast. Within the first month of the idea, we were winning the AETC award,” said Obreiter. “So, now we are keeping that same pace and have already bought our first toolbox. We are excited to test out the software for the first time. We hope it all works out smoothly and eventually can save time and money.”