REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – The nature of metrologists is to be methodical, deliberate and calculated when it comes to calibrating precision measurement equipment. That mentality aids them well when adjusting day-to-day operations to keep everyone safe across the U.S. Army TMDE Activity, USATA for short, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every day, hundreds of calibration technicians around the world use test, measurement and diagnostic equipment in dozens of Army laboratories In short, they ensure the accuracy – and readiness – of the Army’s equipment.
According to USATA’s Acting Executive Director, Dr. Richard Parker, everyone handling the equipment that flows through USATA’s facilities for repair and/or calibration are now taking extra precautions to reduce the chance of spreading coronavirus via contaminated equipment surfaces.
“We had to evaluate both the environment we operate in and the items and people we interact with to ensure our mission continues unabated,” said Parker. “As a result of our review, we have implemented some common-sense precautions across all of our facilities to keep our workforce safe and our calibration areas free from possible contamination.”
Some of those changes are strictly internal and some impact those who need to visit a USATA calibration laboratory. Now, all visitors are required to make an appointment when delivering or picking up equipment. This limits the number of people in the building at one time. The labs have also implemented split shifts where ever possible to further reduce building occupancy, and thus increase physical distancing, Parker said.
Additionally, all lab personnel are wiping-down incoming TMDE, shelving items for at least 24 hours before moving them into the calibration areas, and again cleaning the items before placing them in the work area.
“In addition to the procedural changes in the calibration facilities, we have implemented maximum telework for those USATA employees who can accomplish their work from home,” added Parker.
Parker has increased the USATA leadership team’s workforce communication efforts with bi-weekly email updates and a monthly newsletter to ensure everyone remains up to date on the rapidly changing requirements and policies.
One thing that has not changed is USATA’s operations tempo.
“The pace of operations have not reduced across the Army and, thus, the USATA workload remains constant,” Parker said. “We have reduced the in-person audits and inspections. We are virtually conducting many of these activities thanks to better collaboration between inspection teams and laboratory staff.”
Renovations at the Army Primary Standards Laboratory on Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, remain on track despite the COVID-19 situation. If anything, the pace of this major USATA priority has increased because there are less people and less traffic in and around the APSL, according to Parker.
The $32 million, 30-month renovation project started in early 2019 and will create an additional 10,000 to 12,000 square feet of calibration space to ensure the highly trained APSL metrologists and engineers have a world-class facility to match their world-class mission.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of modern society and has forced every organization take a hard look at all their processes through new and different lenses, and USATA is taking that same approach.
“We are looking at everything from calibration intervals to possibly replacing some of the lower-cost tools and equipment instead of consuming manpower and resources to repair that same item,” said Parker. “We are seeing some opportunities were we might be more effective and efficient.”
All of these efforts have two main goals – taking care of people and continuing to ensure Army readiness.