Lean event smoothes Firefinder upgrade
Bill Stevens (seated right) works with Spc. Jerome Solt (standing), a Firefinder radar repair technician, and Pfc. John Eisenhauer, a Firefinder radar operator, to map out the repair process for the AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder as Chris Simko observes. The Soldiers are with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's 55th Heavy Combat Brigade, 1/109th Field Artillery. The event was held at Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa.

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - Two Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldiers recently worked with employees here to improve the depot's support of a key military radar, the AN/TPQ-37 Firefinder system.

The Soldiers, assigned to the Guard's 55th Heavy Combat Brigade, 1/109th Field Artillery, were on hand to help improve the Repair Cycle Time for the Firefinder Reliability Maintainability Improvement program.

The radar, which automatically back plots the trajectory of enemy artillery rounds and missiles, is repaired in the depot's Counter Fire Division.

Spec. Jerome Solt, a Firefinder repair technician for the brigade, said the Lean event, called a Value Stream Analysis (VSA), was held to reduce the turnaround time, or Repair Cycle Time (RCT), for the Reliability Maintainability Improvement (RMI) upgrade. Lean is a quality improvement and business strategy that emphasizes reducing defects, cycle time and cost.

"The RMI makes the radar more user friendly and makes components easier to replace," Solt said. "It also has the ability to have less down time in the field."

"Our goal is to reduce the RCT from 352 to 180 days for the RMI kit installation," said depot commander Col. Charles Gibson. "This VSA was based on the first five kits being installed now."

The radar was already reliable as long as it's maintained properly, noted Pfc. John Eisenhauer, a Firefinder operator. "Now it will be even more reliable and more effective because it will be more accurate."

For the Value Stream Analysis, employees and the Soldiers went through every step of the teardown and rebuild process to look for ways to reduce the time to install and test the upgrade.
It was Eisenhauer's introduction to the Lean process and he found it to be a good process to shorten the repair time, noting that the VSA yielded ideas to combine multiple steps into one.

Solt said he was impressed with how people from different branches got together and went through the whole process. "They even looked at how to shorten or eliminate the need for technicians to move from one building to another."

Solt's and Eisenhauer's participation was the result of a partnership between Tobyhanna Army Depot and the 55th Heavy Brigade Combat Team established by depot Sgt. Maj. Kelvin Spencer and the 55th commander, Col. Wilbur E. Wolf.

"Future plans under the partnership include having other Soldiers participate on future Lean events and training as well," Spencer said. "The warfighter is the ultimate customer and end user of all the weapons systems we repair; their involvement is key."

This Value Stream Analysis was [Lehman resident] Richard Williams' third. He views a Value Stream Analysis as a method to streamline a process in order to get a quality product to the warfighter when they need it.

Williams, a Firefinder electronics mechanic leader, said that some redundant steps in the process were removed and issues that needed attention were brought light.

"This VSA was different than the other ones I have been on mainly because of the team we had. I myself had the opportunity to see the big picture," he said. "All the key players from the top down had input in this event. Having the Soldiers on the team made it real. It put into perspective why we do what we do here at Tobyhanna Army Depot."

Although Williams provided input, he feels that the subject matter experts, meaning the technicians, drove the VSA. They are the individuals who will be implementing this process.
"It is their process; they built it, they perform it, they own it," he said.

After the participants established a future model of the process, called a 'future state' in Lean terms, Williams said [Elmhurst Township resident] Steve Kinney suggested that all the technicians on the shop floor should review the process before moving forward. The morning after the suggestion was made, all the technicians from first and third shift reviewed the process and made suggestions. Williams said that was a key accomplishment that made the VSA a success.

"The guys on the shop floor have proven time and time again that they can streamline just about anything," he said. "I don't see that changing in the near future. Reduction in RCT is the main goal and due to the dedication of the people that work the Q-37, I see that happening again soon. Give them the ball and they will run with it."

Gibson praised the group, calling them professional, technically competent and dedicated to the warfighters' needs.

"This is my second VSA, but my first with the work force," he said. "We used the best business practice of involving technicians from different shifts, leaders and customers, Pfc. Eisenhauer and Spec. Solt. The facilitators, [Scranton resident] Bill Stevens and [Beaver Meadow resident] Chris Simko, said it was one of the best VSAs they had experienced."

"There was lots of discord and disagreements, but that is good," Gibson said. "You get several opinions and from that you can get the best solutions to problems."

He noted that is it important to him as a commander to lead by example, so he welcomed the opportunity to participate.

"There are some who aren't sure they like Lean," he said, "but it is proven that implementing Lean techniques always decreases costs, increases quality and improves delivery time."

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 the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.

About 5,600 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 CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., 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.

Page last updated Mon August 23rd, 2010 at 08:26