Inventive ideas worth millions at Tobyhanna
May 29, 2014
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. -- Creative changes are being tracked here to see if they add up to big bucks.
Supervisors in two directorates recently discovered their employees saved more than $200,000 by developing and implementing three internal process improvements. The branch chiefs were able to verify each cost center's savings by submitting an Internal Efficiency to the Productivity Improvement and Innovation (PII) Directorate's Process Improvement Division. At the end of March, the depot's internal efficiencies were valued at more than $2,000,000.
An internal efficiency is an implemented process or idea that reduces time and generates savings specific to a cost center.
Documents submitted by members of the Systems Integration and Support (SIS) Directorate's System Preparation Branch described changes that generated $102,850 in savings. Additionally, the Command, Control and Computers (C3)/Avionics Directorate's Transponder Branch submitted an internal efficiency outlining the use of a new ruggedized faceplate that generated $148,928 in savings.
"Cost centers have embraced continuous improvement and continue making advances through their own efforts," said Lead Process Improvement Specialist Keith Weinschenk, Process Improvement Division.
The System Preparation Branch prepares all major assets and components for refinishing through a variety of paint removal and cleaning options, such as sandblasting. The SIS Directorate cost center will save thousands of dollars by implementing new sandblasting procedures for the AN/TSW-7A Air Traffic Control Center and the AN/MST-T1V Mini-Multiple Threat Emitter Systems (MUTES) pedestal and counterweight. Combined, both processes have an estimated savings of $39,299 during fiscal year 2014 with a projected savings of $102,850 over a three year period.
The AN/TSW-7A provides communication capabilities to assist with aircraft landing, takeoff, ground-control and air traffic. Tobyhanna employees Reset the system, part of which requires sandblasting in preparation for painting.
It all started with a time-saving idea that would better protect the air traffic control center's multiple windows during the sandblast process, according to Branch Chief Howard Slinger. The new process cut the completion time by half, from 80 to 40 hours.
"The new process decreased the turn-around time significantly," said Slinger, who submitted the documentation that established the Internal Efficiency.
Previously cost center employees would tape an asset's windows and sandblast around the edges to prevent any damage. The new process consists of taping cardboard on the windows and covering the cardboard with metal cutouts designed by employees in the Sheet Metal Branch. With the cardboard and metal cutouts, the cost center is able to sandblast an entire asset without risking damage to the expensive windows.
Introducing a new safety process significantly decreased the amount of time it takes to sandblast Mini-MUTES pedestals and counterweights. Employees are required to use the buddy system when sandblasting an asset is in the blast booth, Slinger explained. If a system and employee were in the booth, someone had to stand watch.
The process change was simple -- have two employees work in the same blast booth on two separate components to eliminate the idle watcher. This way, both employees are following safety guidelines and completing work at the same time.
"It's the workers that come up with the different ways of generating savings," Slinger said. "They are always thinking of how to make the job easier, quicker and faster while maintaining the same quality product."
Employees are preparing to establish another Internal Efficiency to validate recent changes to the wash operations they perform. The cost center suggested power washing entire assets to eliminate the need to wipe them down with cloths, which left residue and required additional cleaning.
"The new process has already reduced the direct labor hours performed on all systems," Slinger said.
Branch Chief Gene Golembeski established an Internal Efficiency in response to a challenge. By exchanging a plastic component with a metal one, Transponder Branch employees succeeded in saving $148,928 in fiscal year 2013. The Internal Efficiency for the new faceplate was validated at $480,000 over a three year period.
"During the continuous process improvement for supervisors training course, the instructor challenged us to complete and submit an Internal Efficiency and we did just that," Golembeski said.
Branch employees overhaul, repair, modify, test, and install Identify Friend or Foe common transponders and interrogator systems.
Remote control units for Common Transponders including the AN/APX-118(V) and AN/APX-123(V) require a ruggedized faceplate to protect the unit from sand and dirt. Users found these elements would clog the garter spring, making the unit ineffective. The plastic faceplates were unreliable and fragile, often breaking during the cleaning process, explained Golembeski.
Last year a suggestion to make ruggedized faceplates out of metal instead of plastic was approved and implemented. Tobyhanna enlisted the help of an aviation company to create a prototype that employees could use to make metal faceplates, according to Golembeski. The new faceplate eliminates the need for cleaning and is more durable than plastic.
"Since implementation, the new ruggedized faceplate has reduced the turn-around time and direct labor hours," Golembeski said.
Cost centers can document an implemented process or idea that reduces time and generates savings on an Internal Efficiency A3.
The document is available on Tobyhanna's intranet page under Lean and Six Sigma, Reference Documents and Links.
Both cost centers were able to generate these high dollar savings by continually improving their processes.
"It is important for managers to complete an Internal Efficiency A3 to ensure their savings are validated and receive the proper Lean savings credit they deserve," stated Weinschenk.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna's Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C4ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.
Tobyhanna's unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, technology insertion, modification, and global field support to warfighters.
About 3,500 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.