ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala.--An invention here is helping workers more easily roll up tank tracks in the maintenance process.

The track roller was first used in early June and is the brainchild of Tim Stewart, supervisor of the vehicle systems branch.

"We knew we were going to be repairing 140 vehicles in a short amount of time and needed to find something that could roll the tracks quicker and in a safer way," said Stewart.

While Stewart's production line is usually focused on the assembly of tracked vehicles, the new work order would require the same assembly line to also disassemble the Paladin and the Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicle.

Disassembly requires the removal of both tracks from the vehicle's wheels. And, to move the track through the production line, it must be rolled up and placed on a pallet.

"The old way caused damage to the forklift, and it was time consuming," said Stewart.

Before using the newly built track roller, the process of rolling up tracks involved the forklift making direct contact with the track. Workers used one of the tow motor's forks to begin the rolling process and then the driver of the forklift would push the mast of the forklift onto the track to finish rolling it up.

Mike Norton, lead mechanic for the FAASV and Paladin, said it's always been dangerous work without a proper track roller to help with disassembly. "Bumping, hitting, knocking and pushing it (the track) with a forklift wasn't safe," he said. "Now it's just easier on everybody, the equipment and even the floor."

Stewart said that now, workers can roll the 40-foot tracks for the Paladin and the FAASV "in a matter of seconds, safely and without damage to the equipment." He estimates that the track roller is knocking 30 minutes off the time it takes to repair of each vehicle.

The track roller, a metal, box-shaped mechanism that is lifted and used by a forklift, eliminates the need for the forklift to make direct contact with the track. The fixture contains two sets of wheels; the larger set pushes the track where the forklift mast used to make its contact, and the smaller set forces the track to roll upward and helps prevent the track from gripping the ground in mid-roll.

And, the designers of this new fixture didn't leave out lean.

Lean manufacturing, the reduction of wasted time in a process, remains on the minds of the entire work group. "We're lean brainwashed," said Stewart.

The track roller fixture has mounted to it all the tools and equipment required for the job. Its tool box, which contains items like a wrench and wire cutter, is 'shadowboxed, meaning the small tools are placed in cut-outs that keep the tools in place, making them easier to find.

Behind the scene

In his 35-year career at Anniston Army Depot, Stewart has seen several attempts to make a track roller. He said most involved tube rollers that would operate on a conveyor. The track roller in use today "worked right out of the box."

"This time, there were so many people who stepped it up when their assistance was needed," he said. "And we thought we'd need to make several adjustments after it was first made, but it worked perfect."

Engineers in the Directorate of Engineering and Quality drew the blueprints for the track roller, which was then manufactured by the machinist and welders in the Directorate of Public Works.
The tool box affixed to the fixture was fabricated by machinists in the Directorate of Production.

"These are all true team players," said Stewart.

Though no one's determined how much money is being saved, one thing is certain: the team in DPW won't need to repair the forklifts as often since the equipment is no longer being damaged in the process.

Stewart said the depot plans to use the same track rolling concept to build a fixture for rolling up larger, wider tracks like those on the M1 Abrams.
Inspecting and repairing a vehicle requires moving, or rolling, a track twice throughout the process.

The track rollers are expected to cut customer costs and make room for additional work.

Page last updated Thu June 25th, 2009 at 14:18