In September 2015, the Japan Support Team and Sagami General Depot of Army Field Support Battalion-Northeast Asia (AFSBn-NEA) received a new operational project requirement regarding Mabey Logistic Support Bridge (LSB) systems. These line of communication bridging systems replaced older M2 Bailey Bridge sets in the Army Pre-positioned Stock (APS) 4.

The 41 Mabey LSB sets arrived in Japan in poor condition and certainly not in a way that AFSBn-NEA wanted to issue to a drawing unit. The AFSBn-NEA leadership team in Japan knew that the bridge sets needed repair work and reorganization in order for them to be issued to drawing units.

The Japan Support Team arranged for the Product Manager Bridging team to come to Japan to assist with itemizing, organizing, and resetting the equipment sets. The requirement for technical expertise to analyze the best method for resetting the equipment for future use was easy to predict, as was the workload. This project was a multiyear undertaking because of the time line for the receipt of the sets, the number of missing components, and the condition of the equipment upon receipt.

The AFSBn-NEA Japan Support Team and Sagami General Depot personnel used continuous improvement tools and techniques to accomplish the project. The goal of AFSBn-NEA was and continues to be the reconfiguration and storage of APS equipment for quick deployment and use for the warfighter.

BACKGROUND

The Army maintained M2 Bailey Bridges in its inventory after the end of World War II because of their successful use in combat as expeditionary bridge systems. Eventually, this bridge was enrolled in the APS; however, over time, these systems no longer met the specifications required for expeditionary bridging. For example, M2 Bailey Bridges are not able to support upgraded vehicles with heavier armor. The Army required a replacement to meet the new operational requirements.

The Mabey LSB system is a prefabricated truss bridge system designed for rapid dry- and wet-gap crossing. The bridge is a commercial off-the-shelf item that was employed during the Iraq invasion. The bridge system is a low-cost solution for heavy traffic areas where a bridge does not exist or needs replacing.

The Mabey LSB system is robust and able to support many types of operations, from civil to tactical. For example, the Mabey LSB system's low ground clearance can support civilian vehicle crossings and wet-gap crossings with minor modifications. The system has an 80-track/110-wheel rating, which indicates that it can support the crossing of an M1 Abrams tank. These characteristics made the Mabey bridge a suitable candidate for the operational project (OPROJ) to replace the M2 Bailey Bridges.

OPROJ stocks are authorized materiel above unit authorizations and are designed to support one or more Army operations plans or contingencies. Requesting OPROJs within APS is similar to a deploying unit requesting additional equipment through an operational needs statement. An OPROJ equipment set is normally above modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE) authorizations and is usually based on how the unit will perform its mission while deployed.

Much like an operational needs statement, an OPROJ is tied to a validated requirement. The Army Materiel Command, the Army's executive agent for sustainment and APS, develops OPROJs based on a validated need that exceeds the standard equipment issued to units on their MTOEs.

Once the Army Materiel Command validates the need, it designates the OPROJ with a code and assigns it to the APS set for the theater that generated the need. The APS set then receives funding to fill the OPROJ code with the equipment requested or receives a lateral transfer of the equipment from another source. The Mabey bridging sets arrived in Japan through lateral transfer.

THE PROJECT

Prior to the arrival of the Mabey bridge sets, a representative from the Product Manager Bridging team provided a series of classes for the Sagami General Depot workforce that included instruction on basis of issue sheets, shipping container configuration, and inspections to determine serviceability of the equipment. The Sagami General Depot workforce normally works on many types of equipment, including construction and engineer equipment, materials handling equipment, ground support and special purpose equipment, weapons, wheeled vehicles, aerial delivery equipment, containerized systems, and petroleum distribution systems. They were familiar with Army equipment, but had never maintained equipment like the Mabey bridging sets. The training brought the workforce up to speed on Mabey bridging assets.

The Sagami General Depot began receiving the 41 sets over the course of several months. The sets consisted of randomly packed components spread out over several hundred containers. The AFSBn-NEA personnel stored the containers at the Sagami General Depot as they arrived and conducted inventories within a month of arrival of the equipment.

The workforce also had to enroll the Mabey bridge sets into the Care of Supplies in Storage (COSIS) program used by all APS sites. COSIS maintenance is similar to scheduled maintenance or services, and COSIS supply consists of property accountability tasks. Because of the poor initial configuration of the sets and the large quantity of components upon receipt, properly packaging and storing the bridging assets required a significant amount of labor and time.

MAJOR STEPS AND PROCESSES

The Mabey LSB reconfiguration project was broken into four steps.

IMPLEMENTATION OF 5S. The initial step of the project was to apply the 5S process--sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain--to several hundred 20-foot and 40-foot containers. This process included separating items from many containers and sorting them with like items. Next was the "shine" or cleaning process to ensure a good working order and to check everything was up to specifications. The final process in 5S is to sustain, which validated that the AFSBn-NEA workforce at Sagami General Depot would be able to execute tasks systematically, as originally trained.

COSIS AND LEAN SIX SIGMA. The COSIS program for the Mabey LSB system required a lot of training and labor. The employees conducted all necessary preservation and maintenance in order to make the Mabey bridge sets fully operational for long-term storage in the Pacific region.

During the process, the decision was made to decrease the Mabey bridging reset time line from 24 months to 12 months and ship the some of the Mabey bridge sets to the prestaging base at Busan, Korea. The staff implemented a Lean Six Sigma (LSS) rapid improvement event and streamlined the process by identifying and eliminating non-value-added time.

AFSBn-NEA personnel identified several courses of action to accelerate the bridging reconfiguration process without affecting COSIS or other missions. They analyzed the total labor and workforce needed to reduce process lead time and overtime costs. To determine the labor required, they analyzed the total breakdown of the efforts of the workforce, which helped clarify where the labor efforts were concentrated.

The Japan Support Team leaders collected data during the process and established a baseline of the optimal output per workday. Because of the volume of data needed on the components received and the lack of instructions for maintenance and preservation of the items, this step took a majority of the planning time.

CONTAINERIZATION AND STORAGE. The final step of the Mabey LSB project involved configuring the bridge sets for storage for the end user. Project team leaders looked at each pallet to determine the best possible configuration for storing each bridge set. This was the longest phase because the configuration needed to decrease the time required for a customer to erect the bridge system out of the box. This process ensured that the end user would have a logical, sequential process for assembling the Mabey LSB.

IMPLEMENTATION OF SMART BOOKS. One of the most important steps in completing the Mabey LSB reconfiguration project was designing and implementing smart books in order to make the receipt and use of containerized bridging much easier. Unlike technical manuals or field manuals, these smart books provide visual references for all the pieces that make up the Mabey LSB. They include replacement part numbers for each piece and how those pieces affect the construction of the LSB. The smart books also provide instructions on the blocking and bracing materials for shipping.

The AFSBn-NEA team in Japan reassessed the current workload and identified potential courses of action to accelerate the bridging reconfiguration process. AFSBn-NEA identified ways to shift available labor to increase bridge reset production without affecting COSIS or other missions. AFSBn-NEA completed a preliminary reassessment of its current workload to shift lower priority projects to allow for a reduced reset time line of 12 to 18 months.

POSITIVE RESULTS

The Mabey LSB reconfiguration project allowed the management team to be more productive and eliminated inefficiencies within the workplace. The management team focused its efforts on reducing bottlenecks in order to maintain production schedules. Leaders also focused on reducing wasted labor time to drastically decrease the projected overtime scheduled for the project.

This project provided a template for the Sagami General Depot site manager to focus his workforce and balance his production schedule, rather than balancing departments. By analyzing the total production from start to finish, the site manager employed the workforce evenly throughout the COSIS process to avoid slowdowns during production.

The bridging sets were initially received in a rough state, and the project transformed them into sets that could be issued at any time and in a configuration that an engineer unit could easily understand and employ. A drawing unit will not have to search for the parts among a large collection of containers. They need only to open the containers in a sequential order to build their bridge.

Units receiving the equipment will benefit from an intuitively prepared product that is easily employable regardless of one's location. Users can immediately remove parts and build them in any area requiring a dry- or wet-gap crossing.

Continuous improvement within AFSBn-NEA is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, and processes with the warfighter in mind. Mr. Sean Mager, the Sagami General Depot site manager, stated, "Through the use of continuous improvement tools and techniques, we efficiently improved the condition of the bridging assets we received by conducting COSIS to ensure the accountability of all components and necessary maintenance and preservation to return the equipment to the required condition and configuration in support of the Fight Tonight concept."

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Maj. Scotty Mori is the executive officer for AFSBn-NEA and the officer-in-charge of the battalion's Japan Support Team at Sagami Army Depot. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Colorado State University and an MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College.
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This article is an Army Sustainment product.