Tobyhanna Inspectors: The Final Quality Check
March 5, 2007
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. (Army News Service, March 5, 2007) - Nothing leaves Tobyhanna Army Depot without a seal of approval from one or more of the 35 quality inspectors who work in the Quality Improvement Division.
Inspectors carry the burden of responsibility for ensuring repair and overhaul work completed here meets established standards and customers receive a quality product.
"Every piece of equipment that comes to the depot will be examined by several inspectors throughout its stay," said Michael McCawley, electronics mechanic supervisor, Productivity Improvement and Innovation Directorate. "We're the eyes of the customer, making sure requirements are being met."
Inspectors perform more than 626,000 inspections annually. From the smallest part to the largest vehicle, inspectors check each phase of work performed by hundreds of employees in shops around the depot.
"The depot workforce takes great pride in its work," said Brad Jones, PII director. "Inspectors are entrusted with being the final safeguard to ensure that every product repaired at Tobyhanna embodies that same consistently high level of quality."
To manage the workload, inspectors fill positions in four disciplines: electronics equipment, machinist work, heavy mobile equipment and finish work.
Machinist work inspectors inspect sheet metal, fabrication and shelter repair. Heavy mobile-equipment inspectors inspect all vehicles to include generators. Electronics-equipment inspectors inspect all electronics shops and finish inspectors work in all the support shops.
"All of our inspectors are first-rate," said McCawley. "They're experienced, highly skilled and knowledgeable."
With a practiced eye, most inspectors perform hundreds of inspections a month. Using years of experience, they monitor and evaluate the work process according to military standards as well as customer requirements in the statement of work.
Inspectors use published documents, drawings and technical manuals to apply strict quality standards to all the equipment at the depot. With the depot's war-related workload increases, inspectors are assigned to all three shifts.
"For the number of work orders we have, our success rate is extremely high. The reject and warranty rate is very low," McCawley said. "It's a reflection of the caliber of the employees in the workforce.
"I've always known quality was the most important thing you could do," he said. "Low cost is one thing, but without a quality product it means nothing. It's good to know the warfighter is getting a quality product that will work properly every time."
Bob Hokien has been working with heavy mobile equipment most of his career. He was a truck driver and loader operator in the Marine Corps, before coming to work at Tobyhanna in 1971.
Hokien got the job of his dreams just a few years after starting work at the depot. Then, in the mid-1980s he moved into the quality division and became the heavy mobile equipment inspector, he explained.
"I inspect what I like to call 'heavy iron' - 5-ton trucks, Humvees, AN/ASM 189 and 190 electronics repair vans and generators," Hokien said.
One particular road test on a new Humvee revealed a possible problem with the brakes, Hokien recalled.
"I knew something was wrong right away. Every time I touched the brakes the vehicle would pull hard to one side. After the road test, we discovered the brakes had been installed wrong from the manufacturer."
Hokien believes he and the other inspectors are here to not only monitor the process and requests of customers, but to ensure that Tobyhanna maintain its reputation for producing a quality product.
"Employees who work here are good, knowledgeable people supporting the warfighter in every possible way," he said. "I try to be honest and fair with the mechanics on the floor; after all we're all working toward the same goal."
Mike Scalzo and Ed Pitcavage are finish inspectors who work in support shops such as sandblast, canvas and leather, carpentry and the main paint shop.
"Somewhere along the way, we're going to see everything that passes through the depot," Pitcavage said. "An inspector's job is vital to ensuring the depot meets the customer's needs and the military member gets the best possible product."
The type of work accomplished on each piece of equipment dictates the type of inspection performed, he explained. For instance, if a piece of equipment was sanded and masked, said Scalzo, "we'd check to make sure holes are patched, there are no loose pain chips and the item was washed."
He explained that smaller items like nuts and bolts take little time to inspect; however, a Humvee can take up to an hour or longer.
"At times, we also make sure the hundreds of rivets in the ESV vans are covered," Scalzo said.
Both inspectors find their job challenging and said they never know what to expect from day to day.
"I learn something new every day," said Scalzo, who joined the quality division about one year ago. "The tasks may be the same, but the variables surrounding each inspection are always changing. There's a lot more to this job than I ever imagined."
Scalzo joined the Tobyhanna team three years ago, bringing with him a knowledge of quality and inspection processes from previous employment.
Charles Zeisler, electronic equipment inspector, agrees that no two days are alike. "My area of responsibility covers the AN/TPQ-36 systems and Firefinder components; however, I've inspected in almost every shop that requires inspection at the depot," he said. "Requirements can change daily and at times hourly depending on depot demands." Electronics equipment inspectors inspect all electronics from circuit boards to complete systems.
Zeisler remarked that inspectors should be familiar with all aspects of producing a final system from receipt to shipping, including everything from pressure/vacuum testing, rain testing, system burn tests and then be able to determine if the results are within specified requirements.
Pitcavage considers the name Tobyhanna to be synonymous with quality and works hard to make sure the customer receives a good product. He's worked at Tobyhanna for seven years and has been an inspector for three years.
Tobyhanna's inspectors may not know everything about each item inspected, but they do know everything about the jobs being done within their work area, remarked Pitcavage. "We have great workers here," he said. "They work hard and take a lot of pride in what they're doing."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.
About 4,400 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the C-E LCMC. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., C-E LCMC's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.
(Jacqueline Boucher writes for the Tobhanna Army Depot Public Affairs.)