WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- "This is your lab, your forge, and your arsenal," said Arsenal Commander Col. Mark F. Migaleddi to Gen. Dennis L. Via during Via's visit here Oct. 2.
Via, who assumed duties as the 18th Commander of the Army Materiel Command Aug. 7, 2012, was presented with 200 years of Arsenal history during his first visit to this historic post. But history doesn't pay the bills and so, the Arsenal leadership quickly focused the discussion on the value the Arsenal provides to today's warfighters.
Woven into the organizational charts and mission slides that are a customary part of every Army briefing, Migaleddi hit on something more concrete and tangible.
"More than 700 line items, from 155mm cannons to 120mm mortars, are shipped from the Arsenal each month with an on-time delivery rate that exceeds 97 percent," Migaleddi said during the command brief. "At the end of the day, our products have helped hundreds of thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines to come home safely."
John Askew, the deputy director of the Army's Benét Laboratories, echoed Migaleddi's comments regarding today's value to U.S. troops by saying that, "Every large caliber weapon system on today's battlefield that goes bang, began here."
During Via's four-hour visit, Arsenal and Benét leadership took Via on a journey to a world beyond simple charts and production numbers. Because at the end of the day, they truly wanted Via to know that his Arsenal is leveraging a manufacturing phenomenon that is not replicated anywhere else in the Department of Defense called "From conception to grave synergy."
There is no other place in the Department of Defense where those who do research and design (Benét Labs) are within a five-minute walk from those who will turn blueprints into finished manufactured products (Watervliet Arsenal), Askew said.
Migaleddi took Askew's words a step further by personally showing Via how this synergistic effort is not only saving money, but also protecting lives.
Recently, the Arsenal production team looked at the entire mortar manufacturing process and determined that one component of the production cycle, baseplate testing, had the potential to yield significant time savings by tapping into Benét's experience in simulation modeling.
Mortar baseplate samples were traditionally subjected to out of state, live-fire testing. This meant the Arsenal had to package large numbers of baseplates and ship them to a test site, which would then put the baseplates on a mortar system and fire live rounds from them.
This posed several problems. The Arsenal did not control the priority of work during testing, bad weather at the test site sometimes affected the test time and finally, mortar rounds are expensive.
So, it became clear to Arsenal and Benét Lab leadership that if the Arsenal could test the baseplates at the Arsenal, then production time could be reduce, as well as save money for DOD.
By using Benét's simulation capability at the Arsenal, the live firing of rounds could be replicated by using hydraulic pile drivers.
According to Migaleddi, "On average, we are currently saving more than $1000 per mortar baseplate when compared to costs related to shipping and testing at an alternate test site."
The Arsenal estimates that more than $2 million has been saved since testing began in Benét's hammer lab.
In regards to protecting lives, the Arsenal and Benét Labs often look beyond what is called the Technical Data Package or TDP during and after the manufacturing process in search of product improvement.
One recent product improvement adopted by the Army involved the replacement of more than 400 breechblocks for the Army'slightweight 105mm howitzer system -- the M119A2 towed howitzer. This howitzer entered service with the U.S. Army's 7th Infantry Division in December 1989.
Benét engineers and Arsenal machinists never stopped trying to perfect the breechblock and as a result, developed a redesign of the breechblock that will not only improve Soldiers' safety, but also may reduce potential downtime.
The breechblock improvements under this new modification reduced the number of breechblock parts by 30 percent, which should reduce maintenance cost and downtime because there will be fewer parts affected by wear and tear.
The redesigned breechblock also eliminated the recock mechanism by incorporating this function into the side of the breech ring. Removal of the recock mechanism from behind the weapon removes the need for a Soldier to reach behind the cannon in the path of the recoil during a misfire to recock the weapon. This is a significant safety gain while also eliminating the need for a recock tool.
But, whether it is breechblocks or mortar baseplates, Via said that he agreed that the synergy derived by collocating an Army research facility with its manufacturing base creates a capability that is not replicated anywhere else in DOD. That fact should be better communicated to the Army's senior leaders, Via said.
Arsenal and Benét leadership were very pleased to host Via. But more importantly, they were very proud to demonstrate what 200 years of continuous support to our servicemen and women means to our Army and to our Nation.
It seemed that Via was pleased, too, as he personally thanked each individual he met telling them that our troops could not do their mission without the great support the Arsenal is providing.
The Watervliet Arsenal is a subordinate command to the Army Materiel Command and 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.
Benét Laboratories is a Department of the Army research, development and engineering facility located at the Watervliet Arsenal. It is a part of the Weapons & Software Engineering Center (WSEC), Armament Research, Development, and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which is located at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.
The U.S. Army Materiel Command is the Army's premier provider of materiel readiness -- technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection, and sustainment -- to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, or eats it, AMC provides it.