ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. - Magnets are replacing rolls of masking tape in the Hydraulic Shop thanks to an idea from Keith Thomas, a mechanic currently assigned to the Lean manufacturing project.

Thomas presented the new concept to his co-workers during a rapid improvement event on Aug. 24, demonstrating how magnets, cut to fit the areas of hydraulic parts for Paladins and M1 vehicles that do not require painting, could reduce time spent taping up each part.

"They spent hours taping in the past," said Thomas as he showed a time study on the yoke where more than 25 minutes was saved through the use of magnets.

After the paint is applied and the part dries, the magnets are also easier to remove, again saving time.

"Your tape will tear and you have to scrape it off," said Thomas, explaining the heat from the drying process often makes removal of the masking tape difficult.

Using magnets also improves the quality of the paint coverage. Where masking tape can allow paint to slip under its edge, causing drops that must be scraped off with a blade, the magnetic bond creates a clean edge.

"The quality of the paint edge is tremendously better because the magnet adheres to the part and you don't have the painting mistakes. The difference is amazing between taped parts and parts where magnets were used," said Mark Greenwood, process improvement specialist with the Directorate of Engineering and Quality, who, along with Thomas, has found ways to use the magnets in Lean manufacturing processes throughout the depot.

Thomas came up with the idea based on his own experience painting limousines. He found, through testing different materials, the magnets stuck well and could take the heat and pressure required for painting.

Charlie Kirkland in the Upholstery Shop has helped the cause by cutting out some of the shapes needed.

Kirkland said he could easily cut out the circular magnets needed using equipment he had at hand, but for more complex shapes he had to create new cutting molds.

In the Hydraulic Shop, the magnets are glued into the shape needed by Thomas and two of his co-workers, fellow mechanic Terry Brownlow and Richard Rice, a process improvement specialist. The men appreciate the time magnets can save and see broader uses for the idea.

"Magnetic pieces can be used on all depots, not just at ANAD," said Rice.

In addition to the magnetic covers used to keep paint off certain areas of the parts, the shop is using rubber plugs as well as metal caps to keep paint out of areas where magnets will not work.