WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (May 2009)Aca,!aEURc In an extraordinary model of government and private industry cooperation, representatives from Alcoa Defense visited the U.S. Army Watervliet Arsenal this month to gain a better understanding of Army-owned research, development, and manufacturing.

And there could be no better place for Alcoa, which is the world's leader in production and management of aluminum, to learn about government-owned manufacturing than at the nation's oldest, continuously active arsenal, the Watervliet Arsenal. Watervliet is the only DoD site where the design activity, BenAfAt Laboratories, is co-located with the production base, Watervliet Arsenal.

As part of the Depot and Arsenal Executive Leadership Program (DAELP), Arsenal Commander Col. Scott N. Fletcher recently completed a four-week residency with Alcoa. DAELP is a six-month executive development program for commanders and senior civilian leaders of U.S. military depots and arsenals established by the U.S. Army Materiel Command in 2003.

The residency program with Alcoa was the capstone event and maybe one of the most rewarding of the entire DAELP experience, said Fletcher.

"My experience with Alcoa is immeasurable," said Fletcher. "In many ways, Alcoa's manufacturing is similar to the Arsenal's manufacturing, from employee skill sets to facilities, and therefore, there was much for me to learn."

Fletcher added that some of the best learning points of his experience with Alcoa were the business practices required of a worldwide, for-profit organization.

"Everything Alcoa does, from community relations to safety, is all about changing the organization's culture and they do so, quickly," said Fletcher. "It is great to have Alcoa here to not only broaden our education experience by learning from an industry leader, but also to showcase the world's premier cannon development and manufacturing facility to Alcoa," Fletcher said.

During the Alcoa visit, they were also briefed by Lee Bennett, director, and John Askew, assistant director, of the U.S. Army's BenAfAt Laboratories. The synergistic relationship between the two organizations was evident during the briefings and reinforced during the facility tour.

"Due to our collocation with Arsenal production planners and machinists, we are able to achieve significant cost savings for the customer, while also improving product quality," said Askew. "You can't measure the importance of being able to walk across the street and talk directly to those who will machine the prototype or product that our researchers have designed."

BenAfAt is a part of the Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which is located at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

During the six-hour visit, much of the discussion centered on how the Arsenal leadership gains workforce buy-in to the organization's mission, how long of lead time is involved from receipt of an order to production, how does the Arsenal drive operator maintenance to reduce unscheduled downtime, and to what extent BenAfAt Laboratories is successful in turning Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) with civilian partners into actual production.

Alcoa representatives included David Dobson, President, Alcoa Defense; Andy Mills, Vice President Business Development, Alcoa Defense; Charlie Dobbs, Environmental Manager, Massena Operations; Andrew Logsdon, Comptroller, Massena Operations; and Wes Oberholzer, Operations Manager, Massena Operations.