TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. -- It didn't take long for Peter Ankner to maximize a job's potential by suggesting a better way to meet mission requirements here. His idea cost nothing to implement, and cut man hours and expenses in half.

The electronics worker devised a new way to perform software upgrades on thousands of KG-175D encryption devices by simplifying a cumbersome process. As a result, Communications Security (COMSEC) Division employees were also able to maximize work space. The division is part of the depot's Communications Systems Directorate.

The new set-up allows for more units to be upgraded at a time, said Frank Curtis, commodity engineer in Tobyhanna's Production Engineering Directorate. Additionally, units can be fully upgraded without cycling the power on the units. After the change was implemented, average weekly production doubled and repair cycle time was reduced, he said.

Ankner was on the job for little more than a month when he recommended using a 24-port switch to connect the KG-175Ds to the laptop and desktop computers used to load software upgrades. Gone are the days of rotating encryption devices between several laptop computers so that employees could perform the multi-step process using an 8-port switch. Now, the encryption devices are staged once on the mass modernization rack and the cables are switched once during the upgrade process.

"I knew the new switch would solve the issue and save time and money," said Ankner. "Employees were spending too much time turning each KG-175D on and off, unhooking various cables, and shifting assets around the mass modernization rack and work station to complete the updates."

Swapping a laptop computer for a desktop with dual screens has significantly improved performance, according Ankner. He explained that using the desktop keyboard and larger monitors helps prevent mistakes and improve work flow.

"During the process, we need to have a window open [on screen] for each device being upgraded, said Ankner. "It's difficult to manage numerous open windows using a small laptop screen. Ergonomically speaking, employees are happy using the new setup, and tracking the progress of each update is easier."

Ankner credits his military service for succeeding in the COMSEC field. Ankner began his depot career in 2007 as a painter. Skills learned while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and during a 2009 deployment helped him secure a job as an electronics helper and later as an electronics worker.

"I was a radio operator in the Marine Corps," said Ankner. "What is repaired here I've seen or used in the field. It's still hard to believe such a simple idea would gain so much attention."

The suggestion program is an incentive program to encourage civilians to submit ideas that increase the efficiency and productivity of the Army. It also improves morale by providing individuals with the opportunity to voluntarily take part in the improvement of operations and the quality of life within the Army.

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 3,500 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 Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., 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.