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NEWS | Aug. 31, 2023

Reporting tools optimize Army depot performance

By Dorie Heyer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — In an Army Working Capital Fund organization, every minute matters.

The less time spent on administrative tasks becomes greater buying power for the Army.

"Artisans at Letterkenny Army Depot, the Army's Integrated Fires Depot, have long been known for their quality product and their competency in Air and Missile Defense Systems, Long Range Precision Fires and power generation," explained Kate Williams, director of Strategic Management at LEAD. "What they weren't as well known for, but still required to accomplish, was their patience for individually logging into and out of the Complex Assembly Manufacturing Solution, or CAMS, to start, stop or complete every operation on each production order they work. For some artisans in high-volume areas, this could be dozens of times per day. Latency could cause these indirect tasks to take up to seven minutes per employee. Regardless of the volume, artisans were frustrated by the time away from doing what they do best."

A cross-functional team from Letterkenny Army Depot recently pioneered several reporting tools that reduce direct and indirect labor hours associated with administrative industrial production tasks. Two of these tools are Shop Execution Artisan Liaison, or SEAL, and Strategic Intervention Report Generator, or STING.

The SEAL reporting tool enables artisans on the shop floor to reduce overall computer time by half and nearly eliminates the time waiting for reporting applications. The tool allows workers to send their operation starts, stops and completes transactions through a local web browser, saving the authentication steps without jeopardizing cyber security.

"The inspiration for SEAL came from witnessing the daily difficulties of starting, stopping and completing operations in a local work center," said Spring Freerksen, a mechanical engineer and IT integrator at LEAD. "We knew there had to be a better way that would give that time back to the artisans to focus on their craft and provide a seamless way to capture cleaner production data. SEAL aims to be the one-stop shop for our industrial production artisans."

Initial evaluation of the tool's integration into work practices estimates time-savings of over 100 hours per day across the depot – meaning SEAL reduces approximately three-and-a-half minutes per transaction.

"When we log in to SEAL, one artisan can log in the time for his entire crew, which has been an incredible time savings for us," said Dan Snyder, Medium Tactical Branch chief at LEAD.

Through hands-on training, artisans on the shop floor are learning how to integrate SEAL into their daily routine. Early estimates show that using SEAL could redirect over twenty-five thousand working hours per year back to production.

"We can actually focus on our mission at hand, said Brian Strait, a heavy mobile equipment mechanic at LEAD. "It's very user friendly. You get into it, and it's very easy to use."

In addition to reducing the time associated with administrative tasks, SEAL also transforms the depot's work processes by increasing the quality of production data collected, ensuring LEAD has better resources to make everyday business decisions.

"SEAL allows artisans to easily input time entries based on the jobs they are currently working," Freerksen explained. "SEAL is set up to validate based off of the work center, which ensures that artisans are charging to the correct operations for the work performed, which increases data quality and allows for better periodic program review data."

Because SEAL is adaptable, the team is working to share the tool with other Army Organic Industrial Base sites.

"We are so proud to be able to pave the way on this effort and wanted to ensure we could share that goodness with others," Freerksen said. "The tool was developed with adaptability in mind so that other OIB sites can easily incorporate it into their production processes."

As SEAL matures, the team is working on adding additional features such as shop notes, standard text entry, a Nonconformance Report and more.

"We base the future of SEAL off the input from our shop floor partners and the depot's overarching strategic initiatives," Freerksen explained. "While SEAL is transforming the shop floor, it isn't the only tool in our belt. Our team has been working hard to develop and refine other reporting tools with Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence, or MII, to support our indirect staff."

One of these reporting tools is the STING report. The STING report displays the backlog and current workload for a work center or group of work centers.

“STING is a visual tool that allows a supervisor to drag and drop backlog into the current work schedule to determine how many resources, such as personnel or overtime, might be required to complete an item and generate a recovery plan,” Freerksen explained.

Before STING, supervisors lacked tools for capturing or visualizing backlog or recovery plans. Supervisors can export the plan and have the production scheduler ensure that the Enterprise Central Component, or ECC, is updated to match the plan.

"Having a direct connection between STING and ECC would allow for systematic updates upon an approved intervention plan," said Jennifer Coccagna, a strategic integrator at LEAD. "This tool is just one of many that would benefit from the Java Connection that exists between MII reporting and ECC."

LEAD personnel continue to work with various stakeholders, Army Materiel Command and Aviation and Missile Command to overcome challenges and further advance depot-developed reporting tools.

"As the Army's Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems Logistics Management Program, or LMP, Product Management Office continues to assess the associated risks and impacts of opening the pipeline to enable more efficient depot processes, depots are developing innovative methods to overcome time-consuming inhibitors," said Randy Kramer, the Depot Source of Repair, Core Logistics Capability and Modernization lead within the Industrial Operations Directorate, AMCOM Logistics Command.

While the Army's next-generation maintenance and supply management system is in development, having an open Java Connection would provide real-time, looped feedback to the end user and amplify cost reduction applications.

"LEAD's willingness to quickly adapt to change is an innovative way of driving improvements across the enterprise. SEAL is just one of a myriad of unique, end user-developed capabilities to improve the user experience that reduces keystrokes and human error, leading to millions of dollars of annual savings and improvements to supply chain accuracy," Kramer said. "As the Army continues to focus on the modernization of weapon systems, these challenges are leading the OIB in its understanding and management of the data in LMP as well as filling gaps in essential systems in the development of sustainment modernization efforts."

The cross-functional team at LEAD is actively exploring multiple opportunities to leverage MII and other tools to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

"LEAD and other sites within the OIB provide the Army with strategic depth that prevents vendor lock and provides a ready and organically prioritized workforce that supports reconstitution," Williams said. "However, we also must compete with Original Equipment Manufacturers who have access to the latest technology to track, document, report status and control the flow of complex weapon systems through highly technical repair procedures. This competition requires the OIB to leverage every tool at our disposal to reduce indirect time and eliminate errors in the production activity process."

As LEAD continues to modernize, the team is working toward direct communication with ECC through a Java Connection along with tools such as the Globe Ranger web application.

"We are actively taking the next steps in our journey to perform our mission in service of the warfighter community," Williams said.