Generator user community to gather and provide feedback
June 9, 2008
Project Manager, Mobile Electric Power (PM MEP) is inviting its user community to examine its fleet of generators and to have a voice in the evolution of its present and future products.
This gathering of those who use, develop and support Department of Defense (DoD) generators, will occur during the PM MEP Users' Conference, which will be held from 10-12 June at Davidson Army Air Field at Fort Belvoir, Va. There, the key note speaker will be Maj. Gen. (P) Mitchell H. Stevenson, the Incoming Army Chief of Staff for Logistics G4.
Break out sessions held during the conference will allow those in attendance to examine the generators' present performance levels and develop a list of needed improvements. In one break out session, users will receive a firsthand look at new and old equipment and speak with PM MEP engineers. Another session will focus on requirements and authorizations. Representatives from PM MEP will also explain the concept of Tactical Operation Center (TOC) Central Power, a concept that will optimize power generation and lessen the amount of generators fielded in each TOC, and provide product and program specific briefings.
The break out sessions will be arranged into small groups to encourage interaction.
"We hope that this user conference will give us a lot of feedback," said Mr. Alan Coady, PM MEP's logistics division chief. "We will make it as easy for the warfighters to interact, as possible."
The conference is limited to 150 attendees, but PM MEP is willing to pay for mid-range non-commissioned officers, warrant officers and above to attend. The organization also hopes to have representatives from each Major Army Command (MACOM) in attendance and is willing to pay for between 8-10 members of each to attend, Coady said.
Members of the Marine Corps will attend to talk about the manner of which they set up generators, which differs from that of the Army.
In the Army, generator set up and maintenance is an additional duty for the operator of a separate system, Coady said. The operator of one of the systems in the TOC is often given the additional duty of ensuring the generator is operating and maintained. The Marine Corps provides a specific soldier who has the duty of operating and maintaining generators.
The Army trains soldiers of the 52 Delta military occupational specialty (MOS) to operate and maintain generators, but those Soldiers are not always deployed forward with the TOC. PM MEP is working with Army to develop a plan to deploy 52 Deltas forward, as soldiers who posses more generator knowledge will need to be present with the unit, said Mr. Paul Richard, deputy project manager for MEP.
Now as the Army focuses on digitization in the TOC, a generator operator needs to be more knowledgeable in areas such as power distribution. A PM MEP-supplied product such as Power Distribution Illumination System, Electrical (PDISE) now distributes power through multiple wires and still relies on human decision to maintain the distribution level.
Electrical power is fed in three phases. In a partial power failure at an office building, for example, a computer might not work while the lights remain on. This typically occurs when one phase fails, while others still provide electricity. The scenario also tends to arise on the battlefield.
"With PDISE boxes, what typically happens is soldiers overload one phase," Richard said. "They will think they have 60 kilowatts of power and when you split it into three phases, power is split into 20 kilowatts per phase. They try to put 60 kilowatts on one phase, the breaker trips and they think it's a bad breaker. They need to know to distribute the power evenly with each phase."
PM MEP is developing intelligence systems that will automatically balance the power load of separate generators.
"If they bring in 60 killowatts internally, it will automatically shift the load down to the other phases," Richard said.
Developing an intelligent system will minimize the burden on the unit to operate and maintain the generators, so its members can concentrate on other systems, he said.
Presently, warfighters are responsible for ensuring the same level of preventive maintenance, checks and service of generators as is required for all other Army equipment. They are required to check a generator's fuel level and control panel every eight hours and ensure all of its gauges are functioning properly. They are also required to perform regularly scheduled maintenance activities every 800 hours which includes oil and air filter changes.
"If (maintained) properly, there is no reason why these systems shouldn't last for 15 years and even longer," Richard said.
When PM MEP learns of an issue with a generator fielded in theater, it works with its CECOM Life Cycle Management Command (LCMC) matrix support to resolve it.
"We try and induce the same type of failure conditions here to see if we can duplicate the failure," Richard said. "If it is something that we see as a problem, we develop a fix to it and get it out there right way."
PM MEP's staff remains available to assist with critical issues related to homeland security or in theater.
"We have a core group of essential personnel that whenever it is necessary anytime in the day or night they will report in as needed," Richard said. "From there, if we need to pull in anyone else from the staff to address whatever priority there is, we'll do it."
When situations arise like Hurricane Katrina, "there is no shortage of people willing to stand up to help do what they need to," he said.
PM MEP generators and staff supported first responders during the aftermath of the storm which struck the Gulf Coast of the United States in September 2005.
At PM MEP, all other matters are set aside when critical issues in theater must be addressed, Richard said.
"Our number one priority is that the warfighter comes first," he said.
Normally, feedback from the warfighters who use PM MEP's products are collected from the CECOM LCMC Logistics Assistance Representatives who support them in theater. PM MEP furthered its efforts to obtain that information during a LAR conference held last fall.
Richard hopes to obtain input from soldiers that will improve future versions of PM MEP's equipment.
"It's a tool we're trying to start to obtain user feedback," Richard said. "If it's successful this year we'll continue to do it each year."