ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- A safety issue in Anniston Army Depot's Bridge Assembly and Repair Branch quickly turned into considerable time savings for the organization.

In February, an employee removing rivets from a bridge panel was injured during the process.

At the time, the heads of rivets were removed in the Combat Vehicle Repair Facility then the remainder of the heavy, metal fasteners were removed using a punch and hammer. For particularly stubborn rivets, a sledgehammer had to be employed.

Following the February incident, where vibrations from the sledgehammer injured an employee's arm, the Safety Office, depot engineers and employees from the shops involved sought a better way to remove rivets.

Ultimately, they determined a new use for an existing machine in the depot's industrial area was the best course of action.

In 2013, ANAD installed a five-axis vertical machining center, which Marcus Staples, supervisor for the bridging branch, and Phillip Swain, a general equipment mechanic leader for the organization, believed could provide a solution.

The machine could be used to cut more length off each rivet prior to removal.

"After we began the new process, some of the rivets were falling out of the bridge panels on the way back to the shop," said Joe Lackey, chief of the depot's Manufacturing Division, which operates the new machining center.

"We used to bring a section of the bridge into the shop and it would take two or three days to get the rivets out," said Swain. "This process cuts a day of work from each section."

Staples said the new procedure came at the ideal time. With an increase in production, particularly requests to transform 60-ton bridges into 70-ton ones, employees are grateful for the added efficiency.

"The process adds a little time on setup," said Ben Stewart, toolmaker supervisor for the Machining Division. "But, once the machine is set up, it takes little to no time to disassemble each bridge panel.

Lackey said the new process is a good example of teamwork in process improvement and safety.

"We want everyone to leave at the end of the day the same way they arrived," said Lackey.