Watervliet: When shutting down creates an environment for long-term success
August 8, 2012
- The Arsenal's "annual shutdown" creates an environment for intense, focused maintenance.
- For those who didn't take a vacation, this year's shutdown period meant hard work.
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- Was it a falsehood, deception, or simply an inappropriate use of words when Arsenal leadership said the manufacturing center was shutting down operations July 30 to Aug. 3?
Each year, the Arsenal leadership sets aside a one-week period when manufacturing stops or slows down to accommodate summer vacation plans. This is so the Arsenal does not have a surge of vacationers at an inopportune time during the summer months. But it is also a time when critical, focused maintenance can be conducted without impeding delivery schedules.
Thomas Herold, the Arsenal's Maintenance and Operations supervisor, said that the annual shutdown period is actually one of the busiest times of the year for his team and a challenge his team looks forward to each year.
"For this week, I was able to augment my 33-member team with 19 employees from manufacturing," Herold said. "Because of this team effort, we were able to do such tasks as run new power cables for outdoor lighting, clean storm drains, replace water piping, install eye wash stations, and get caught up on outdoor trimming and painting in addition to our scheduled maintenance requirements."
Scheduled maintenance included such tasks as electrical substation maintenance, elevator maintenance, boiler plant maintenance, and air conditioning maintenance.
This shutdown period was also a boon for the Chief of the Arsenal's Manufacturing Support Division.
"This was the first time in more than four years that we were able to completely shut down our production lines, which allowed us unmitigated access to every production area," said Tim Allard. "In fact, we have not only been able to achieve every maintenance task on our plan, we also have been able to do some extra work such as the calibration of some of our machines."
Allard explained the reason why the Arsenal was able to completely shut down its production lines this year was because of the extraordinary effort by everyone in production, contracting, and shipping to have all August delivery requirements ready for a 100 percent, on-time ship rate for this month.
Maybe one of the bigger, non-maintenance tasks was the movement of a box packaging operation from one building to another. This major move will position a critical shipping function closer to the production lines, which may result in the reduction of hundreds of manufacturing hours during the next year.
In all, nearly 150 Arsenal employees were directly tied to improving the maintenance posture of the Arsenal during this year's shutdown.
"This truly was an exceptional effort by everyone to work as a team making the Arsenal safer and more productive," Herold said.
Although the Arsenal leadership has always called this annual maintenance event a "shutdown," maybe for next year a better use of words could be used. After all, the Arsenal has continuously operated since 1813 and therefore, the word "shutdown" shouldn't even be in the Arsenal's vocabulary.
The Watervliet Arsenal's dedicated and highly-skilled workforce contributes to our national security by providing U.S. and foreign militaries the most advanced, high-tech, high-powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. The Arsenal is also DoD's sole manufacture of large caliber cannons, from 105mm to 155mm, as well as DoD's manufacture of choice for 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortar systems.