TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. --Increased efficiency and decreased cost for a threat emitter mission here has earned a Shingo Prize evaluation.

Shingo officials will evaluate the depot's AN/MST-T1 (V) Mini-MUTES (Miniature - Multiple Threat Emitter System) overhaul mission Oct. 25-26. This marks the sixth visit by the national-level organization. The five-person evaluation team members are from public and private organizations. Tobyhanna is participating in the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence.

The prize recognizes world-class organizations for creating a culture of continuous improvement through employee-empowerment and effective leadership.

The Mini-MUTES is an Identify Friend or Foe tracking and training simulator that provides realistic threat signals for pilots and aircrews. The systems can replicate threats such as surface-to-air missiles, early warning radar systems, anti-aircraft artillery and airborne intercept systems.

"Through employee-empowerment, the entire Mini-MUTES Value Stream team, which includes organizations across the depot, was able to implement improvements which resulted in enhanced quality, cost, delivery and financial results. Without the use of Lean manufacturing techniques in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of the Mini-MUTES, these improvements would not have happened," said Jeff O'Neill, chief of the Mini-MUTES Branch, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate.

Tobyhanna earned a Shingo Bronze award for the AN/TPS-75 Air Defense Radar System in 2006, a Gold Medallion for the AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder Radar Antenna Transceiver Group in 2007, a Bronze Medallion for the AN/TYQ-23 Tactical Air Operations Module and the AN/ASM-189 Electronic Shop Van in 2008, and a Bronze Medallion for the Sidewinder Guidance and Control System in 2010.

Technicians overhaul and test the Mini-MUTES in the Mini-MUTES Branch. Other organizations involved include the Range Threat Division's Transmitter Branch, the System Integration and Support Directorate's Industrial Operations Facility Division, C4ISR Finishing Division, parts of the Integration Support Division, Manufacturing and Assembly Division, and System Reset and Overhaul Division.

The Production Management, Production Engineering, Business Management and Productivity Improvement and Innovation (PII) directorates also support the mission.

"Shingo examiners will tour and review the entire Mini-MUTES Value Stream, beginning at the end, then work to the beginning, including the prime shop as well as industrial, engineering and production support processes," O'Neill said.

"The examiners will also interview key employees associated with the mission, including technicians, engineers, safety specialists, business management personnel, anybody who touches the process," says Jenn Condrad, industrial engineering technician, Process Engineering Division, PII. "More than 350 people work on the Mini-MUTES mission across the depot."

"The entire Mini-MUTES team has really embraced the concept of continuous improvement and implemented Lean initiatives that have resulted in significant improvements in all performance metrics," said Bob Katulka, director of the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate. "Their efforts are the reason we were able to nominate the Mini-MUTES for the Shingo and will be hosting the upcoming Shingo visit."

Lean Six Sigma principles began to be applied to the Mini-MUTES production line in 2005.
By 2006, Mini-MUTES personnel, working with their customer and supplier, conducted a rapid improvement event on Critical Air Force Managed Parts. This event decreased the flow of information by five weeks and allowed for real-time data exchange between all parties.
This and other efforts paid off in 2009 when the Mini-MUTES team completed the first system below the target of 365 days.

In 2010, the Mini-MUTES team re-evaluated its goals and completed a second pass Value Stream Analysis (VSA) with a goal to incorporate the cost of fielding the system into the UFC.

"This past July, we had our third pass VSA which focused on support shop cost centers with overruns and identified the need to schedule events in those areas to try and eliminate the overruns," said Thomas Weir, a leader in the Mini-MUTES Branch.

Other continuous process improvement ideas implemented include a palletization effort, which aids in the management of parts during inter-shop processing. The system groups like processes to allow for an entire pallet to go through the same support shops and includes a visual management component providing a standard picture of the contents and processing instructions.

"We started palletizing like items and like processes for the IOF (Industrial Operations Facility)," Weir said. "The idea came from the IOF's Kim Talarsky to reduce the number of pallets and at the time, hand-carried items. One example is a pallet with aluminum pieces that needs to be sandblasted, plated and then painted. Before this initiative, multiple items would be sent or carried, increasing the number of pallets in the IOF."

Michael McKeefery, chief of the IOF Division, said the Lean improvement that has resulted in the biggest improvement for Team IOF's customers is, "hands down," swim lane implementation.

"Each process in the IOF has a lane that has incoming and outgoing workload," he explained. "It was a Team IOF suggestion to relocate the outgoing swim lane outside the IOF. This eliminated material that was done in the IOF from sitting there and it is now getting back to the shop quicker as any forklift on the depot route can take assets back to the prime shops, not just the two forklift operators dedicated to the IOF, thus allowing them to keep assets flowing within the internal processes in the IOF.

"As a former PII team member, I have seen first-hand how much of an impact removing 20 minutes of waste from a process can have," McKeefery added.

Savings achieved from implementing Lean Six Sigma methods in the Mini-MUTES mission was $2.8 million in fiscal year 2011 and a cost avoidance of $1.53 million since fiscal 2005. This significant savings, coupled with a decreased repair cycle time by 50 percent since fiscal 2004, directly results in warfighters receiving critical C4ISR systems quicker at reduced cost, O'Neill said. Average direct labor hours per system have been reduced by 30 percent since fiscal 2004.

"Lean is a cultural change and one that is sometimes a hard won battle," said George Salitsky, deputy director of ISR. "Mini-MUTES Branch leadership took to task building that culture a long time ago. To their credit, they won over their employees early on and have been making steady gains in eliminating waste in all their processes. They are among a small group at the depot that has finished their 3rd pass VSA. Their metrics with regard to RCT and total cost are a good reason they won a Shingo visit."

"I am not surprised at the reductions we are seeing," Weir said. "The shop as a whole has put a lot of time and effort into making our processes more efficient. We are adjusting our routes and bills of material to make them as accurate as possible, keeping up with Lean sustainment, and always looking at ways to improve."

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces. About 5,600 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Tobyhanna is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.