PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Soldiers will soon be equipped with a safer and better way to store their pyrotechnic simulators-a means so effective, in fact, that it was recently named by the Department of Defense as a mark of packaging excellence.

Designed to hold the M30 and M30A1 pyrotechnic simulators, the improved packaging received the 2010 DoD Packaging Excellence Award from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness.

First instituted in 1997, the DoD Packaging Excellence Award recognizes the most outstanding individuals or organizations in the DoD packaging community that have made substantial contributions to the DoD packaging effort.

The award increases the interest in packaging development, productivity and efficiency throughout the DoD, as well as promotes its packaging functions and accomplishments.
The award will formally be presented on April 13 to Picatinny engineers Jack Lam, Raymond Siroy and Joseph Granuzzo at the National Institute of Packaging, Handling and Logistics Engineers Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Pyrotechnics simulators are just one of many training devices warfighters use to imitate a combat environment. These devices can simulate hand grenades and incoming artillery fire. When ignited, they produce realistic battlefield effects like blasts, flashes, heat and smoke.

But when pyrotechnic simulators are exposed to excess moisture during transport and storage, their quality and effectiveness is severely compromised, which can lead to dangerous misfires and costly maintenance. Not only can this affect the Soldier's safety and damper the training mission, but it also causes higher maintenance and replacement costs for the Army.

During the last few years, warfighters have experienced moisture-control problems with the packaging for M30 and M30A1 pyrotechnic simulators. The current M30 packaging configuration is a fiberboard container (unit pack) that is over-packed with a wooden box.

"Sometimes the items were not completely sealed during the loading process due to discrepancies in the manufacturer's moisture-control process," said Joseph Granuzzo, a packaging engineer team lead with the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC). "Also, the existing packaging used to deliver these items did not have moisture protection capability."

"It was determined that excessive moisture level in the simulators had adversely affected the quality of the simulator products," he added.

In 2009, the ARDEC Packaging Division needed an effective and money-saving solution to the moisture problem.

The team proposed a product improvement program to the Project Manger Close Combat Systems (PM-CCS), which manages and oversees acquisition and fielding of the M30 pyrotechnic simulator packaging.

"With the PM's support, the program quickly moved forward and became a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt project to conduct a thorough study and investigation on the simulator moisture control process in manufacturing," said Jack Lam, a supervisory engineer with the ARDEC Packaging Division.

Lean Six Sigma is an improvement process that strives to eliminate redundancies, lower cost, improve quality and increase efficiency in ARDEC's wide portfolio of products and processes.

The Lean Six Sigma study encompassed the generation of proposed new M30 packaging designs, evaluation of item manufacturing defects, customer feedback, modeling and simulation data.
In the end, the solution was to use a novel application of the M548 gasket-sealed metal shipping and storage container with a custom internal packing design.

"The new packaging configuration also packs the item first in a fiberboard container (unit pack), but then it is placed in a M548 gasket-sealed metal shipping and storage container," Lam said. "A fiber separator is used to provide easier and quicker access to ammo. The sealed metal container provides moisture-proof, long-term storage protection and is easier to maneuver in the field."

Unlike the wooden box packaging, the new metal container includes easy-to-use latches that can quickly be opened and closed. It also includes side handles that make it easier for Soldiers to carry.

The entire program was coordinated in close conjunction with the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, a critical partner in collecting feedback from experienced Soldiers.

"Soldiers like the M548 metal container, as it allows rapid access to the items inside," said Giuseppe Sgroi, Simulators Project Officer, PM-CCS.

"Also, the gasket-sealed cover provides superior moisture protection, which eliminates the misfires and extra maintenance issues."

In addition to passing preliminary packaging tests conducted in-house at Picatinny, the design also exceeded final hazard classification testing conducted through National Technical Systems in Camden, Ark.

After testing, ARDEC and PM-CCS instituted a Value Engineering Change Proposal to the existing M30 pyrotechnic simulator packaging, with a total cost avoidance exceeding $489,000.

The new design is slated for use in the next contract to be awarded in fiscal year 2011 and will eventually be applied to other moisture-sensitive simulators.

"Continuously furnishing state-of-the-art packaging improvements is critical to ensure a superior logistics system for the U.S. military," Lam said.