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Letterkenny receives award for manufacturing excellence

November 30, 1999|By DON AINES

The U.S. Army pays Letterkenny Army Depot about $51,000 apiece to refurbish 275 Humvees a month, and has been getting 302 for the price, an achievement for which the depot has received its second Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing.

On Thursday afternoon, 27 of the Humvees, officially designated High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, were lined up in front of the depot's headquarters building for a brief ceremony with Maj. Gen. James Pillsbury, commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command.

"Twenty-seven Humvees, and they're free to the war fighters," Pillsbury said. "The work force at Letterkenny is the best in the United States of America ... I don't say that lightly because I command another depot down in Texas that is also world-class."

Brought in from military bases from across the country and around the world, many of the Humvees are in ragged shape when they arrive, Depot Commander Col. Robert Swenson said.

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"Humvees get six years of use in one year in theater," Swenson said after lifting the hood on one of the diesel-powered vehicles. While beaten up when they arrive from Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, the machines that roll off the production line are better than new, with larger engines, sturdier suspensions, better transmissions and other refinements, he said.

Two years ago, Humvees were "recapitalized," to use the Army term, in what Deputy Director of Maintenance Robert Korby called a "bay operation" ? vehicles were rolled into a bay and a crew would rebuild them. Now, Humvees are rebuilt in a full-scale production operation with chassis and bodies serviced on different production lines.

David Gress, the division chief for the Ground Support Division, said each step of production is limited to 30 minutes. Depot Chief of Staff Mark Sheffield said the result has been lowering the man-hours it takes to rebuild a vehicle from 274 man-hours in January 2005 to 174 now.

The efficiencies have been realized by "observing the process. Taking the waste out of it," Korby said. One example, he said, is determining whether repairing or replacing a part is going to save the most time and money.

Sheffield said more than 300 depot employees, contractors and military personnel work on the Humvee production program. John Gray, the depot's deputy commander, was in Las Vegas Thursday to accept the Shingo Prize on behalf of the program, he said.

This is the second year in a row that the depot has received the prize, named for Japanese engineer Shigeo Shingo, who was instrumental in developing the Toyota Production System. Last year, the depot's Patriot surface-to-air missile program was awarded a Shingo Prize.

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