ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Two U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center teams are working across 763 miles to collaborate to better meet its customer's needs.

The alliance, ECBC East-West, brings together the Production Test Branch in Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., and the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division at APG, said Bill Meyer, chief of the Production Test Branch.

The collaborative work is aligned to the Program Manager for Sets, Kits, Outfits and Training, servicing the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armament Command. The programs include Metal Working Machine Shop Sets and Next Generation Sets Equipment Contact Maintenance.

ECBC has been providing engineering support to PMSKOT since 2007. However, the Rock Island-APG partnership on MWMSS and SECM began at the beginning of 2010.

"As our relationship developed with PMSKOT, they became more interested in doing prototyping. I was familiar with what [Chief] Mark Schlein was able to do under the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Division in Edgewood. After reaching out to him, it was clear we had a mutual interest in collaborating to do the work for PMSKOT," Meyer said.

For the MWMSS and SECM projects, the APG and Rock Island engineering teams crafted a workflow to fit together the requirements like a puzzle. In addition to contributing to the conceptual design phase, the Production Test Branch manages the MWMSS and SECM projects. The ADM Division provides design insight and the modeling and creating prototypes of full-size MWMSS and SECM units.

Before the ECBC collaboration, the program manager would need three or four organizations to complete the design and prototyping phases.

"PMSKOT loves the concept. It streamlines the program management. It's cost effective and provides better control for them from cradle to grave. Throughout the development process, they know exactly who to go to. Customers like that," Meyer said.

Although the mechanical work is tangential from ECBC's traditional focus on chemical biological defense, Meyer says the ability to offer this kind of customer service is the emerging business trend in the government and industry. When work is consolidated to one organization, the process is expedited.

"The trend within the government right now is to be more customer-oriented. We're going to see more of this, not less of it," Meyer said. "We'd love to see PMSKOT take it to the next level, which would be Joint Services -- working with the Navy, Air Force, Marines and Army all under one roof. The amount of work would snowball from there."

Meyer said PMSKOT's decision to bring its work to ECBC was initially because of dissatisfaction with the engineering support it received from the original vendor and the need for an organization with greater capabilities.

Before its move to ECBC, PMSKOT was conducting all testing off-site. Since ECBC-Rock Island was already conducting transportability testing for other chemical biological projects and offered the ability to host some of PMSKOT's simpler testing, the program manager's transition to ECBC was a natural move.

"The bottom line is, we had more capabilities," Meyer said.

Meyer admits that the collaborative work is still in a trial phase, and time will tell whether other clients will adopt this approach. Should the situation present itself, however, Meyer says he would entertain looking into it.

"These are the first two programs weAca,!a,,cre doing collaboratively as ECBC East-West," Meyer said. "If it's successful, it could be a major benchmark for PMSKOT and for ECBC."