By Mrs. Jennifer Bacchus (AMC)January 24, 2019
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- A new testing procedure, implemented in 2018, has increased the quality of M1 tanks produced at Anniston Army Depot.
According to Michael Epps, the depot's Vehicle Quality Branch chief, prior to 2018, General Dynamics Land Systems sent an average of 16 defective government material claims, better known as DGMs, to ANAD for each M1 tank sent to the GDLS operations in Lima, Ohio.
Following the implementation of the magnetic particle testing procedure on M1 tanks, the number of DGMs dropped to four per vehicle.
This has not only ensured a better quality product for GDLS and, ultimately, the Soldiers, but also a cost savings for the depot.
"It's a simple process, but it takes a close inspection," said Dale Poe, a welder for ANAD.
After disassembly, the hull of the M1 or other combat vehicle is cleaned of paint, grease and other particles. The bare hull is then taken for visual and magnetic particle testing.
Meticulous employees examine areas of the hull for cracks. Those which can be seen with the eyes are marked both on the hull itself and on paperwork, which will follow the vehicle through the welding process.
On areas of the hull which are susceptible to cracks, but where none are visible, the welders employ magnetic particle testing.
The surface of the hull is magnetized using a strong magnetic yoke. Employees then sprinkle iron oxide on the area.
If a crack is present, the iron oxide will be drawn to it, highlighting the crack for the employees, who then mark the defect on their paperwork and on the hull.
Poe has 15 years of experience welding combat vehicles; experience he calls upon to know which areas to check for the smallest cracks.
"We choose the employees who perform the magnetic particle testing based on their experience as well as their attention to detail," said Jody Owens, supervisor for the Vehicle Welding Branch.
Areas to be inspected are also chosen based upon past quality inspections or DGMs.
Jerad Pike, a quality assurance specialist for the depot, regularly reviews each DGM received and adds new magnetic particle inspection areas to the welding check sheets.
"Our goal is to get to zero defects," said Pike.
When every flaw on the hull has been located and marked, the hull goes to the Weld Shop for repairs.
After repairs are complete, the vehicle is again checked visually and with magnetic particle testing for any defects which may have been missed.
According to Stacy Creel, a welding inspector for the Quality Assurance Office, the procedure creates an additional workload for the installation, since program managers have begun to add repair of these tiny defects into the scope of work.
"It's dramatically reduced the amount of rework because we identify a lot of cracks up front," said Epps.
Though magnetic particle testing in the Combat Vehicle Value Stream began with the M1 tank, it has already been added to the testing procedures for a variety of combat vehicles, including the M88 and Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridges.
"We're trying to work all our vehicles to the same standard, across the board," said Pike.