TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. -- The Quality Assurance Lab here has tackled many issues affecting the depot's manufacturing processes since opening in November 2008. Through careful testing and analysis, the lab ensures the success and reliability of depot products and services.

Though many people may be unaware of the lab's capabilities, it is an important part of the depot's mission.

"Some people don't understand or are uninterested in learning why things are made the way they are," said Dan Hodle, quality assurance specialist in the Productivity Improvement and Innovation Directorate. "Our lab creates awareness of these processes and teaches people how and why things are done a certain way."

The lab was introduced to serve three main purposes; first article inspections, root cause analysis and investigating customer improvement changes. First article analysis is the process of subjecting the first piece of a production to extensive tests and measurements similar to those in the environment in which it will be used.

Root cause analysis requires the lab to investigate product failures and determine the cause or causes of the failure. Investigating customer improvement changes helps develop more modern testing and manufacturing procedures and techniques. The combination of these three purposes serves as a valuable tool in maintaining high levels of quality and customer satisfaction.

Some of the tests performed in the lab include microscopic examination, ultrasonic, infrared and environmental testing, as well as thermal imaging and drawing analysis. These tests can be performed using the lab's stationary precision measurement equipment or they can be administered on-site using portable testing equipment and devices.

"The lab itself isn't just contained inside the depot, but extends into the field as well," said quality engineer Leonard Zito. "We can make visits to military facilities, corporations and companies to make sure they are following our quality test plans and that their products meet our specifications and guidelines." Hodle added that several processes have seen changes based on the suggestions of the lab.

When running each test, the lab strives to answer several important questions including whether the design is efficient and safe, and if it will be reliable. In addition to safety and reliability, quality and functionality are also extensively analyzed. These processes save the depot time and money by making sure things are properly produced the first time.

"Customer satisfaction is the lab's main focus," said Shane Alt, a mechanical engineer. "Some items come in and can be tested in a matter of two or three hours. Others can take weeks or months." In either case, the lab meets the needs and deadlines of the customer.

As new processes are introduced and cutting-edge technology emerges, the lab grows to meet the demand. "New technologies create new capabilities," said Alt. "Over the last few years we've grown so large that expansion is almost necessary, but we will continue to update our software and equipment to better serve the depot and its customers."

Zito said the lab will continue to grow and expand, as will the awareness of what it does. "There are a lot of people that don't know what we're about or what we do," he added. "Our door is always open."

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 Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM. 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.