CORPUS CHRISTI - The Corpus Christi Army Depot and it's 6,000 employees are one of the cornerstones of our local economy. As we reported last night, it appears ready to weather the coming budget storms.

A lot of credit goes to the facility commander, Colonel Christopher Carlile, who has modernized the depot. His efforts have also caught the attention of Pentagon officials who realize the need to do more, with less in the 21st century.

CCAD is the U.S. Army's premier helicopter repair facility. It's a big operation with lots of employees and a reputation for good work. But when Col. Carlile was named commander in 2010 depot operations hadn't change much in nearly 50 years.

"We had folks trying to move material trying to build trying to order parts trying to bring this entire process together in many cases using old spreadsheets.. some butcher paper on the board.. and it worked, but it was always difficult to pull it off," says Colonel Carlile.

The Colonel took advantage of recently acquired software called Enterprise Resource Planning and he used it to help reinvent the way the depot is run.

"I went from a software that we utilized, that we had to wait until we were completely done with the process before we could see any problems, any issues," said Enterprise Data Branch Chief Cheryl Green. "Whereas now, our bosses, such as the wonderful commander, can look at this and tell you right now how much that's costing, and whether it's good or bad or if we need to do something... or if we're doing it great the way it is."

That alone is a powerful tool. But Col. Carlile took it a step further getting his workforce to buy into change making them part of the process. At first, some were skeptical, but he asked for volunteers to lead change teams looking at everything from how a job is done to solving the morning traffic jam at the gates to the base.

"We went from an hour, up to an hour, waiting in line out on that road to 5 minutes no more than that. All done by a team of 16 people some of them had worked here maybe a year and a half and that's the difference. Wen that started taking off that was one and it's just like wildfire. Today there's over a hundred leading change teams. Like a young girl Sara, I won't use her last name, but Sara works up in rotor head she came up with an idea that saved us a half a million dollars in one year in our Apache rotor head program," said Colonel Carlile.

"The little things as far as the way we handle everyday business, they way we handle tools... and the way we handle hardware and stuff like that. that has actually taken a big effect on the whole process... and actually made it streamlined and made for a better end item product," said engine mechanic Aaron Saavedra.

Investments in state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies have produced huge dividends giving the depot the same or better capabilities than companies like Boeing or Honeywell.

A computerized laser cutter used to make all sorts of things like fuselage panels now replaces what an artisan used to work on for 2 weeks.

The changes have caught the attention of top Pentagon officials who've called CCAD the gold standard of the future.

"This depot postured the way they are and the way we're investing in the intellectual capital of our employees, and insuring that we have a balanced approach and a balanced scorecard in how we go forward with measuring the business... it'll be here for the next 50 years," says Colonel Carlile.

Page last updated Wed February 20th, 2013 at 00:00