A perfect storm of ideas transforms depot overhaul program
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A perfect storm of ideas transforms depot overhaul program
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A perfect storm of ideas transforms depot overhaul program
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A perfect storm of ideas transforms depot overhaul program
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A perfect storm of innovative ideas is transforming how Tobyhanna Army Depot overhauls tactical communications network equipment.

Team Tobyhanna embraced change to surpass the Army's call to cut the AN/TSC-167 Satellite Transportable Terminal (STT) repair cycle time (RCT) in half. Personnel tasked with helping sustain the system throughout its lifecycle, applied multiple disciplines such as employee suggestions, lean initiatives and project management techniques to streamline processes and reduce the RCT from 230 days to 114 within the last year. Officials are confident the RCT will reach their goal of 90 days as additional improvements are implemented.

Personnel here joined forces with the Army's PEO-C3T (Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications -Tactical) Project Manager (PM) Tactical Network (formerly known as PM Warfighter Information Network-Tactical) and U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command's Integrated Logistics Support Center (ILSC) officials to deliver the critical communications systems to the warfighter faster maximizing readiness and training opportunities.

STT overhaul, carried out at Tobyhanna since 2015, includes the replacement of cables, line replaceable units and a full paint job. The depot's overhaul effort brings aging equipment coming from theater to a like-new state. Employees in organizations throughout the installation play an active role in the success of the program.

Drawing on years of experience, change agents kicked off the massive process improvement project by altering how the Value Stream Analysis (VSA) was conducted. Instead of spending the first few days mapping out the current STT overhaul process, members of the team saved valuable time by gathering data beforehand. They arrived at the meeting ready to focus on areas that needed improvement.

"We were able to make better use of the group's time by going in prepared to solve problems right away," said Scott Hansen, process improvement specialist in the Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) Directorate. "Doing the homework helped us formulate the right questions to ask when we were all in the same room."

Hansen is leading a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project to reduce the RCT of the assembly and test section by 35 days.

The director of the Systems Integration and Support (SIS) Directorate said the VSA was an "outstanding" example of many organizations working together to produce a required result.

"The credit for the improvement in STT reduced cycle time and direct labor hours is a testament not only to the technical skill of our employees, but also an indication of the environment that exists at the depot to allow and encourage all of us to make recommendations to change, for the better, processes that are not working optimally," said Paul Borosky. "I am extremely proud of our entire team."

Project manager Keith Weinschenk assembled a versatile team of depot employees and leveraged their skills and abilities to reach the VSA goals.

"I have been very fortunate to be a part of this team because they undoubtedly know how to get the get the job done," Weinschenk said. "The mix of their skills is best fit for this project." He pointed out that each team member applied their unique skill set to different phases of the overhaul process.

There was one employee in the SIS Directorate's C4ISR Refinishing Center who had thought long and hard about how to improve the STT overhaul process. Some say it was Ted Krolick's plan that triggered the avalanche of reforms in use today. Krolick is a sandblaster leader in the C4ISR Finishing Division.

"Without him, none of this would have happened," Process Improvement Specialist Paul Brundage. "Ted arrived at the VSA with documents outlining changes that would improve how the depot did business. It didn't take long for everyone to buy into his ideas and start hammering out the details."

Following the VSA, team members took the time to familiarize themselves with the Army Suggestion Program. Ideas submitted by a number of people resulted in sustainable process improvement and better quality of life for their coworkers. Monetary awards are based on the tangible value of suggestions developed outside the VSA process.

A simple suggestion to modify the complex, time consuming process of carbon fiber repair on sections of the STT system shaved eight hours off the average repair time. Working together, depot personnel and the customer determined the job could be accomplished with fewer steps and switching to a fast cure epoxy. Composite Worker Kyle Oakley teamed with Carpenter Paul Stephanic to create the new process of repairing the STT antennas. The duo works in the Systems Integration and Support Directorate's Integration Support Division. Their idea will save the customer more than $800,000 over three years.

"The carbon fiber suggestion is an excellent example of how quickly and effectively we can evaluate ideas when a cross-functional approach is used," said Danielle Weinschenk, a management analyst who also administers the Army Suggestion Program at Tobyhanna. "By simultaneously bringing all of the stakeholders to the table, we were able to knock down hurdles and assess the idea together - as opposed to doing so separately, which is much more time and labor-intensive."

Employees used the suggestion program to improve two high-impact projects -- the antenna carbon fiber repair and shelter and trailer refinishing.

Josh Sheckler, sandblast leader, came up with a plan to make the hand sanding of two key components a thing of the past. His idea to use a silicone-like substance to seal nooks and crannies, thereby protecting the turret from foreign object damage, makes it possible to sandblast the shelter and trailer. The job can be completed in half the time.

Equipage Branch personnel sought ways to keep the repair cycle moving even if the asset was in a holding pattern.

"We looked at what could be done while other trades were working on the system or during wait times in other processes," said William Butts, STT lead technician. "Lean adjustments to two processes resulted in a six-hour savings and a review of the bill of materials helped trim excess materials."

A depot expert on the Industrial Product-Support Vendor (IPV) Program helped reduce the storage footprint for hardware used during the repair process from six cabinets to three cabinets. Items were organized according to size and bins were labeled providing easier access by shop personnel.

"Since the changes, the STT hardware is very shop friendly," said Joseph Alexander, industrial engineering technician. "Shop personnel are able to quickly locate what they need to meet mission requirements."

Matt Kalinowski, process improvement specialist, came on board to improve the kitting process. His new system is touted to be a best practice among the shops, according to his teammates.

"I have a knack for taking information and making it relatable to the work force," Kalinowski said. "I've always had an interest in how the kitting process works and developing better ways to get the job done."

The transformation of the AN/TSC-167 Satellite Transportable Terminal overhaul program will have a ripple effect on other programs. For instance, Tobyhanna recently inducted its first AN/TSC-185 Satellite Transportable Terminal and officials expect to adapt many of the new modifications to that system's repair process.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna's Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C4ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.

Tobyhanna's unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our Joint Warfighters. About 3,200 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, Maryland, 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.