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 wing tip component not only saved money and downtime for the plane, but also made 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 this year's Innovation Symposium, held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) yesterday.
Changing any faulty LED lights on 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... the light bulb. So why couldn'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 was implemented in all F-15SGs in the RSAF early last year.
In-house ideas saved Mindef more than $190m in last financial year
It has also been approved by Boeing and incorporated into its technical manual for F-15 operators, benefiting others who use the aircraft.
Yesterday, at the Innovation Symposium officiated by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, 68 awards were presented to individuals, groups and units in recognition of their innovation and work improvement efforts.
Mindef said such efforts across the organisation led to savings of more than $190 million in the last financial year.
Dr Ng said the innovations and work improvements over the years have led to significant time, manpower and cost savings for the thousands of daily tasks performed in Mindef and the SAF.
The importance of saving time and money aside, the commitment to helping every employee realise his or her idea is an acknowledgement that without their contributions, the organisation cannot be transformed, 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 said.
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 roadblocks in the system and find the right resources to support their ideas.
Another innovation showcased was the army's next-generation asset preservation system, developed by the Maintenance and Engineering Support formation. Part of the system uses autonomous inspection vehicles to identify simple faults such as flat tyres or oil leaks.
A new vehicle battery-charging solution is also being tested that allows a vehicle's battery charge to be maintained at an optimal level without using the engine. This extends its lifespan and increases its readiness for operations.
These and other initiatives under the asset preservation system are estimated to result in cost savings of up to 25 per cent and manpower savings of 10 per cent.
To learn more about the projects, the public can visit the Innovation Symposium exhibition at the SUTD atrium today.