Working smarter: safety, efficiency focuses of Vehicle Systems Branch
December 6, 2012
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- In 2007, the Paladin/FAASV line in the depot's Combat Vehicle Repair Facility was reworked and streamlined, making it more efficient for the assembly processes required for those vehicles. At the time, the changes earned a Shingo award -- one of the most prized honors for an industrial center. As time has passed, however, the streamlined work areas have become much more valuable for their ability to transform when needed.
One such transformation is taking place now as Paladin and Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicle overhauls share the space with M113 foreign military sales repair operations. At any given time on the line, there may be up to 20 vehicles from a combination of seven vehicle platforms.
That can make for a lot of variables to control and the employees of the depot's Vehicle Systems Branch do it by falling back to what worked in 2007 -- organizing the parts and tools at each work station based on the job to be performed.
"The employees manage their own work stations," said Lavon Stephens, the branch supervisor. "Going back and forth between different variants or vehicle platforms is not the easiest thing to do, but these employees stepped up to the challenge."
According to Mark Magouyrk, a mechanic in the Vehicle Systems Branch, when each bay is set up correctly, anywhere from two to four people can work in it, each performing their own piece of the process before the vehicle moves to the next step in the next bay.
"Our assembly process can be broken down to work on any vehicle," said Magouyrk. "It's just a matter of getting the bays and the processes set up."
Last week, the branch completed a value stream analysis to streamline everything required to assemble the large number of vehicles and variants. Mechanic Kevin Colburn was part of the VSA, assisting with information needed on the M113 line.
"We have a great plan, but it's going to take a lot of corrective actions to get it to function," said Colburn.
The employees of the Vehicle Systems Branch are accustomed to making those changes and corrections, as is evidenced by safety modifications throughout the area.
"Safety is something you always have look at," said Scott Prestridge, the branch's safety monitor. "We just try to keep everything up to specifications -- from our work to fire prevention and safety."
Walking through the area, it's easy to see some of the changes. Wires and hoses extend from the walls or columns to hooks temporarily affixed to each vehicle, keeping tripping hazards to a minimum, and lockout/tagout instructions are in sight on each large piece of equipment.
Prestridge said the safety culture runs deep among these employees. During the morning meetings, employees are encouraged to bring up safety topics and talk through solutions to safety concerns.
While most topics center around the work environment, such as a recent one on the proper disposal of aerosol cans, employees are encouraged to talk about safety at home as well.
"One topic last week was about the fire hazard posed by Christmas lights," said Prestridge. "We want to make sure we're safe while we're here, but we also want to make sure we are safe in our home lives."