TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, PA. - Depot employees have earned a Shingo Bronze Medallion following a Value Stream Analysis and multiple Lean events that yielded efficiencies to the repair process for Sidewinder Missile guidance and control sections (GCS).

The AIM-9 Sidewinder is a heat-seeking, short-range, air-to-air missile. Sidewinder technicians have been repairing the missile GCS since 2000.

Branch Chief Russ Strausser estimated that the improvements to the Sidewinder processes resulted in an estimated $5,000 cost avoidance per GCS. This was accomplished mainly by reducing the repair and test time (or repair cycle time) by 15 percent in 2008, from 60 to 45 hours.

Strausser said they applied Lean techniques to the entire process, from receiving to shipping, to increase efficiency and reduce the repair cycle time.

"We started two and a half years ago and stressed employee involvement," he said. "The technicians are the subject matter experts, so they were the main drivers in this effort."

The Shingo Prize program recognizes private and public sector organizations that successfully apply Lean Six Sigma techniques to improve the quality and efficiency of their operations. It is regarded as the premier manufacturing award recognition program for North America.

As part of the Shingo Prize mission and model, the prize highlights the value of using Lean/world-class manufacturing practices to attain world-class status. Lean is a quality improvement and business strategy that emphasizes reducing defects, repair cycle time and costs.

"When we started, there were two lines, one for the Air Force and the other for the Navy and Foreign Military Sales," Strausser said. "The mission was changed from complete overhaul to a repair as necessary process. This change resulted in lower consumption of parts, which lowered the [cost]."

The Single Line concept was implemented to reduce costs, and the entire shop floor plan was reconfigured.

"We divided the process into cells, which allowed for a better work flow," said Herb Sims, electronics mechanic leader, Command, Control and Computers (C3)/Avionics Directorate's Tactical Missile Division. "In the original layout, test equipment and work benches were scattered throughout the shop. The clean room, where seeker repairs are made, was also reorganized to provide a more user-friendly layout."

"We have not missed a [deadline] in over a year," Strausser noted.

He cautioned that the branch did not see dramatic results as soon as they started implementing Lean techniques, but rather gradual results. Standardized checklists were made, and then refined two or three times.

"We consider them to be living documents, so they will be refined further if necessary," Sims said.

GCS storage was reorganized so that when the seeker is removed from the GCS for repair the GCS body is stored in a designated location using a matrix system. When the seeker is repaired and ready for installation, the technician can easily identify the location of the GCS body.

"Technicians would spend up to an hour looking for the GCS that matched the seeker," Strausser said.

A "tagging" system was developed to identify the oldest GCSs in the shop. Technicians now repair these specific units before repairing an "untagged" GCS. The "tagging" system reduced RCT and allows the shop to consistently meet the production schedule within the RCT standard.

Although technicians are cross trained to be certified to work in different areas of the branch, all technicians will eventually cross train for certification in all areas within their grading structure.

"Most technicians are certified for four of the cells and a handful can work in almost all areas," Sims said. "Employees will train each other to reach our new goal of 100 percent cross training."

Strausser said they receive positive customer feedback all the time. "The Sidewinder Program Office is very satisfied with our work. With the Lean improvements, we've been able to consistently meet or exceed schedules."

"This was a total group effort. Every one of these employees is committed to continuous improvement. I am proud to be part of their team," said George Bellas, C3-Avionics director.

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 Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16