SINGAPORE - An idea by a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) engineer to replace just the lights on the F-15SG fighter jet instead of the whole component has not only saved money and downtime for the plane, the Singapore project has found its way into the technical manual for F-15 operators all over the world.
It was among the innovations the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) lauded at the annual Innovation Symposium, held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) on Tuesday (Oct 29).
Changing the faulty LED lights at the wing tips of an F-15SG jet used to mean the aircraft would be down for two days, affecting its availability.
According to the technical manual by the aircraft's manufacturer, Boeing, the entire Wing Position Lighting assembly, which houses the lights that make the aircraft easier to spot, had to be changed.
But Military Expert 3 Ng Yong Yong, 47, realised that they could replace just the LED module, instead of the entire assembly. It was more than 99 per cent cheaper to do it this way and the whole process took just three man-hours instead of two days.
"It's actually rather simple. When fluorescent lights in our homes are defective, we just change out the light bulb. So why can't we do the same for the aircraft?" said the air force engineer, who has been in service for 26 years.
After doing the necessary trials and getting airworthiness approvals, the new process has been implemented for all F-15SGs in the RSAF since early last year.
It has also been approved by Boeing and incorporated into its technical manual for F-15 operators, benefiting other countries who use the aircraft.
On Tuesday, a total of 68 awards were presented to individuals, groups and units in recognition of their innovations and work improvement efforts at the Innovation Symposium which Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen officiated.
Mindef said in a statement that such efforts across the organisation led to savings of more than $190 million in the last financial year (April 2018 to March 2019).
The symposium, previously called the Pride (Productivity and Innovation in Daily Efforts) Symposium, has been held annually since 1981.
Dr Ng said that because of the innovations and work improvement movement over the years, thousands of daily tasks performed in Mindef and the SAF have resulted in significant time, manpower, and cost savings.
While it is important to save time and money, the commitment to help every employee realise their ideas is a recognition that without these contributions, the organisation cannot transform, said Dr Ng.
"Because your organisation is basically made up of people. And if you energise the people within the organisation - in your department or unit - and if they feel empowered and they can change processes for the better, you'll have a very powerful culture, and a compact and progressive unit," he added.
To help strengthen the innovation culture and provide tools to help in this process, initiatives such as the Innovation Playbook have been launched, said Dr Ng.
The playbook aims to help servicemen get around road blocks in the system and find the right resources to support their ideas.
Among other projects featured at SUTD was a system for security checks to be performed on the under-side of vehicles.
Known as the Portable Under-Vehicle Surveillance System, it was developed by a group of full-time national servicemen from 606 Squadron, which is responsible for security at Sembawang Air Base.
The system involves a fisheye camera embedded into a portable speed bump, together with a one terabyte hard disk drive to store the footage, and a lithium ion battery that provides about 12 hours of battery life.
Instead of using a mirror to check the undercarriage, which took about a minute per vehicle and could mean certain blind spots were missed, a security trooper can now take about 20 seconds with the portable system.
This system complements the Under-Vehicle Surveillance System, which is embedded into roads, especially when this permanent system is down.
Since July, the portable system has been available at all RSAF bases and camps, including Tengah, Murai, and Chong Pang camps.
It has also been used at the National Day Parade this year in the Padang area and for the Asean Summit in November last year.
The army has also rolled out a next-generation Asset Preservation System. It consists of a few projects using, for example, autonomous inspection vehicles to identify simple faults such as flat tyres or oil leaks.
A new vehicle battery charging solution is also being tested. It allows a vehicle's battery charge to be maintained at an optimal percentage without using its engine - extending its lifespan and increasing its readiness for operations.
A vehicle's battery is traditionally charged by running the engine, which ends up burning fuel and incurring maintenance costs.
This and other initiatives under the asset preservation system developed by the Maintenance and Engineering Support formation are estimated to result in cost savings of up to 25 per cent and manpower savings of 10 per cent.
Military Expert 4 Ang Yong Quan, 25, who is deputy project lead, said the three main benefits of this system are an increase in operational readiness with a reduced turnaround time, reduced manpower requirements, and cost savings.
Separately, a team from the navy have designed an unmanned security and safety system to keep watch over ships that are docked in a shipyard for maintenance.
Currently, this job is outsourced to a security company which deploys guards for patrols and control personnel access.
The proposed plan, which has been trialled earlier this year, includes components such as CCTVs stationed on a ship. With video analytics, they are able to help detect fires, smoke, or flooding within 10 seconds.
An unmanned checkpoint can confirm the identities of individuals heading into the shipyard and check for unauthorised metallic objects.
Project lead Military Expert 3 Cathsy Chue, 43, from the Ship Superintending Engineering Centre, told reporters that the system will mean faster access for authorised personnel. It reduces the security clearing time for 100 shipyard workers and their bags to six minutes from 30 minutes.
To learn more about the projects, the public can visit the Innovation Symposium exhibition at the SUTD atrium until Oct 30.