DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. – “It’s been very, very useful for us to be here at the Detroit Auto Show to see the technology that’s being developed for electric vehicles as well as the other capabilities out there,” stated Maj. Gen. Darren Werner, commanding general of the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command, during a panel discussion focusing on advanced manufacturing capabilities held Sept. 15 during the auto show’s Industry Preview days.
Due to COVID restrictions, the North American International Detroit Auto Show had been on hiatus; the panel discussion marked the first involvement in the renowned show by TACOM since 2019.
In addition to Werner, the panelists included Joe Kott, a senior science and technology advisor for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team at Detroit Arsenal, Jeswin Joseph, a research manager for emerging technologies at Wichita State University’s National Institute for Aviation Research, and Josh Mook, Chief Engineer for General Electric Additive. The four gathered to discuss advanced manufacturing developments and Army requirements on a corner stage at the Detroit Auto Show, held at Huntington Place convention center located on the city’s downtown waterfront.
Following a brief pitch supporting Army recruiting efforts, Werner told the panelists and audience, “We need to position ourselves, position the Army, to move forward. We need to incorporate advanced manufacturing into everyday processes and ensure that our military remains ready and able to frame the advanced manufacturing discussion and provide context for how the landscape is changing beneficially for the Army’s supply chain.
“As we look around the world today and we see what is happening in Europe, we see that the nature of warfare has changed significantly over the past fifty years. We have to be prepared for (the future of warfare).”
“Firstly, we’re moving away from our traditional logistics footprint, and we’re working with our allies to control the air space and to better see operating environments where logistics is becoming even more important,” Werner added.
“We need to ensure we utilize latest manufacturing and methods to their fullest potential in order to provide readiness at the point of need, at the tip of the spear.”
“Secondly, we’re moving from traditional ways of buying and stocking materiel to just-in-time manufacturing processes that require collaboration and coordination. Supplying and sustaining our military becomes a much larger task – larger every day,” the general said. “The further that the battlefield moves away from controlled supply lines, the more difficult it will be for our Soldiers to ensure readiness.”
The bright future offered by producing parts applying advanced manufacturing techniques isn't without its blind spots.
“Specifically, the advanced manufacturing realm is in an interesting spot right now. There is no ‘one size fits all solution,” he said.
“From a producer standpoint,” Mook added, “our objective is to make sure we understand the needs of (the Army’s) future fleets and the applications and make sure that our machines serve those purposes. We will need to produce components of the right specifications, right tolerances, the right material properties to execute the mission.”
“I would add that we need better guidance,” stated Joseph, referring to the developing advanced manufacturing landscape. “We need policies in place to guide our business processes, technical data packages. What are our constraints? From an academia and applied research perspective, we can quickly prototype and get that to you because we have the technologies, we have the expertise, but we need guiding documents.”
“From the Army perspective, we don’t care how you make (a part). It can be any technique – whatever the best way to make progress is,” Kott said. “A lot of our components are verified as a system and we run durability tests on those (systems). We don’t really have a method to test only a single part, but we’re developing one.”
“We must, and I emphasize must,” Werner stated emphatically, “implement a much wider array of advanced capabilities within our supply chain and provide our Army with increased readiness where resources are most needed – at the point of conflict.”