By John B. SnyderOctober 2, 2012
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. (Oct. 2, 2012) -- Not a day goes by that you can't read about FedEx, UPS, or the U.S. Postal Service employing some money-saving technique that will make their organizations more competitive in the field of shipping.
At a small, but important, Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing center in upstate New York, they too are looking hard at their shipping process to squeeze more value out of its operations.
"In an era of declining defense budgets, we are reviewing each cycle of the production process, from procurement to shipping, to look for efficiencies that may be quickly attained with little or no cost to production," said Tim Allard, the Watervliet Arsenal's chief of Manufacturing Support Division.
One of Allard's lines of operation is packaging, or more specifically, the box shop operation. The box shop operation touches each one of the 700 line items or product lines that are shipped out each month from Watervliet. But for as long as Allard can remember, and he has worked at the Arsenal for more than 25 years, there has never been a redesign of the box shop operation process.
Having recently been trained on the Lean Six Sigma process, Allard said he knew that if he could find waste in the process that true savings could quickly be realized with regard to time and money. So, he and Steve Koza, the Arsenal's supervisor of the box shop operation, started looking at the transportation involved to move components to the box shop from the production lines that were in separate buildings.
Eureka! Or was it a blinding glimpse of the obvious?
After some analysis, they believed that if they moved the fiber box operation from one building into the main production building, a savings of one-quarter mile of transportation could be achieved from the process.
This quarter-mile transportation savings would translate to about one-half man-hour of direct labor per product line. Keeping in mind the box operation handles about 700 product lines a month, this move has the potential to have a cost savings exceeding $100,000 a year, as well as move items through the Arsenal more quickly.
And so, Koza directed his box team during the Arsenal's annual shut down last month to begin the relocation process. One month later, the fiber box operation is up and running in the new location.
Kevin Chase, one of the box team members, said the move may actually be saving more man-hours and other resources than may have been estimated in the original analysis.
"In addition to getting the product faster from the production lines, there is now no need for special banding or packaging to get the product to our location," Chase said.
Given today's uncertainty in how future defense budgets will play out, there can be no doubt that even at the smallest of Army installations there is a dedicated workforce who are doing all that they can to save the Army and the American taxpayer money.
The Watervliet Arsenal (pronounced water-vleet") is an Army-owned-and-operated manufacturing facility located in Watervliet, New York. The Arsenal is the oldest, continuously active arsenal in the United States, having begun operations during the War of 1812.
Today's Arsenal is relied upon by U.S. and foreign militaries to produce the most advanced, high tech, high powered weaponry for cannon, howitzer, and mortar systems. This National Historic Registered Landmark has an annual economic benefit to the local community in excess of $100 million.