By Jennifer CaprioliMarch 28, 2008
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. (Army News Service, March 28, 2008) -- To meet a critical warfighter need, Tobyhanna produced a month's worth of kits in just nine days.
On Feb. 11, the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command requested 30 mine resistant ambush protected vehicle kits to be completed in one week.
Last year, the U.S. Central Command announced that they may require as many as 17,700 MRAP vehicles to accommodate Soldiers. MRAP vehicles include, but are not limited to, multi-mission combat, ambulance variant and troop transport vehicles.
The MRAP vehicle is more resistant to improvised explosive devices than up-armored Humvees because it is built to deflect blasts, says Tim Knabel, lead engineer for the MRAP project. Knabel is a mechanical engineer in the Design and Development Branch, Engineering Design, Development and Manufacturing Division, Production Engineering Directorate.
"Central Command was looking for someone to just step up and get it done," says Knabel. Depot personnel received the requirement for a quick response manufacturing effort Feb. 11, and began building the bill of materials and process route sheets the same day.
The kits include parts such as mounts, wall brackets, supports, antennae mounts, and other hardware. Certain parts are fabricated at the depot, such as the brackets and plates. The parts support antennas and systems such as Blue Force Tracking and the Crew Vehicle Receiver Jammer, which are mounted in the MRAPs using the kits. Currently, about 19 different C4ISR end-items, including installation kits, are being integrated into the MRAP vehicle. If the kits are easily available, it can be a quick one-day turnaround to install the systems in vehicles, says Knabel.
The depot team tasked with the request was familiar with the project before Feb. 11. "We knew this was going to be a big project," says Knabel. "We started by showing the customer that we could fabricate brackets with a turnaround time of about a day."
TACOM recognized the effort of the depot team, so they requested 50 brackets in 2 and a half days. Eventually, the depot was tasked to complete 500 brackets, which they produced in one week.
"This kind of quick response is what got us noticed by TACOM," says Charles Niemotka, a lead engineering technician in the division's Manufacturing Engineering Branch. "Turnaround time is key with this project."
Parts fabrication began on the third day of receiving the request, after materials and hardware were ordered. The Sheet Metal Fabrication Branch was first in line. Based on the production packages from the manufacturing cell, they determined how and what materials to fabricate.
"We worked on the project Wednesday through Saturday, working as many hours as needed, including overtime, to complete our part," says Robert Aten, branch supervisor. The branch is in the System Integration and Support Directorate's Industrial Services Division.
"We have had similar quick response time projects; the guys in the shops know their work is going overseas and that drives them to react accordingly," says Aten.
Next the pieces were sent to the Finishing and Etching Branch for an initial cleaning. Aluminum and steel pieces were coated with rust inhibitors and paint adherents. The branch has worked on similar jobs, so they had experience with what needed to be completed.
Experience helped with the efficiency of the project, says Jim Johnson. He worked on the project and is an electroplating worker in the branch, which is part of the Systems Integration and Support Directorate's Refinishing Services Division.
The pieces were then sent to the Welding Branch, where they are assembled and welded to form the parts. A tungsten inert gas machine was used for welding light metal, and a metallic inert gas machine was used for heavier metal.
The welded parts were returned to the Finishing and Etching Branch for a final cleaning to prepare them for painting. After that, the parts were primed and painted in the Component Paint Branch.
The fabrication process took five days to complete. The branches accommodated the workload by having personnel work overtime, their regular day off, or over the weekend.
After seeing how efficient the depot could produce the 30 kits, TACOM requested production of an additional 2,200 kits to be completed by July, says Knabel.
"Normal turnaround time for 30 kits would be a month," says Niemotka. "Although the depot has been tasked with similar projects, nine days is not a normal turnaround time, which makes it pretty phenomenal."
The depot's MRAP Project Team is developing a quick reaction capability process which will eventually be applied to other projects, said John Andrejko, mechanical engineering technician, Manufacturing Engineering Branch.
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 5,500 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 Communications-Electronics Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., 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.