Idea saves Army millions
Rich Black discovers a simple, cost-effective way to do his job that saves the Army more than $1 million annually.

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - A Tobyhanna electronics technician's idea to restore malfunctioning Dewar Detector Assemblies will save the Army more than $1 million annually.

Through the process of trial and error, Rich Black [a Shohola resident] discovered that with a minor modification to the existing method of cleaning and re-greasing the thermal insulating chamber, several assemblies could be returned to like-new condition. Replacement assemblies cost $12,926 each.

Complexities in the approval process led officials to adapt Black's suggestion to a Value Engineering (VE) Project. Based on the results of an internal review, the Electro-Optics Night Vision Division employee expects to receive a monetary award of $9,665.

"Suggestions are normally completed with a minimum amount of documentation," said [Moscow resident ] Ray Watkins, industrial engineer in the Production Improvement and Innovation Directorate's Research and Analysis Division. "VE Projects are more detailed in nature and in this instance gave greater value to the suggestion and the ASP."

On average, Tobyhanna reviews about 350 suggestions a year.

"It's rewarding to know that we're providing a quality product to the warfighter," Black said. "I'm still amazed that such a simple change generated such a significant savings for the Army."

Records show that 85 percent of the Dewar assemblies sent here for restoration required replacement. Last year, 112 units were purchased and 12 units were taken from other Basic Sight Assemblies used on the

The sight assembly on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle is used to locate, determine range, and accurately track moving and stationary targets. The Dewar Detector Assembly is a component of the Basic Sight Assembly and is used in conjunction with a cryogenic cooler to sense and find heat signatures from distant objects such as personnel, vehicles and smoke. When the Basic Sight Assembly exhibits a low level output [a weak image], the Dewar Assembly is replaced.

Black explained that the previous method of repacking the chamber often resulted in an excessive amount of thermal grease in the unit, preventing it from transmitting the proper amplitude.

The VE Project recommends removing a part of the Dewar Assembly, cleaning the thermal insulating chamber with alcohol and acetone, and then repacking with one fifth the amount of grease.

"I experimented with the procedure, which has proven 100 percent effective and eliminates discarding essentially good, usable detectors," Black said, adding that using a smaller amount of grease increases the efficiency of the assemblies by up to 25 percent.

The new method also reduces the amount of time it takes technicians to complete repairs on the Dewar Assembly. They used to spend about 90 minutes replacing and realigning the component. The new method of cleaning and repacking doesn't require the removal of the unit, therefore realigning is no longer necessary. Technicians now spend about 60 minutes bringing the assembly back online.

Project data reveals Black's suggestion will generate a $1,293,173.39 savings within the first year of implementation.

The Army Suggestion Program (ASP) is an incentive program to encourage Soldiers and civilians to submit ideas that can increase the efficiency and productivity of the Army. The program provides cash award incentives up to $25,000 for adopted ideas that save government resources.

To be accepted in the ASP, a suggestion must benefit the Army or other U.S. government activities or present a problem or situation and propose a solution with sufficient rationale to support the requested new procedure.

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 5,500 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 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 March 21st, 2008 at 11:31