General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products (GDATP)
Product: Reliability testing and demonstration of weapons systems
Number of Employees: 500
Years in Business: 60
Location: Jericho, Vermont
General Dynamics designs, develops, and produces high-performance armament systems for military applications. The Ethan Allen Firing Range of GDATP is an 11,000 acre government facility located in Jericho, Vermont, and it features a complete weapons testing area to support the development process. As part of a corporate Lean initiative, GDATP desired to introduce key Lean concepts to the technical staff at the firing range. They recognized the need for an organization system to serve as a fundamental building block to support more advanced Lean efforts. GDATP engaged the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center (VMEC) in March 2005 to assist them in implementing the new system.
VMEC is an affiliate of the nationwide Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Among its core services, VMEC assists manufacturers in eliminating waste and improving their processes. The “5S” Workplace Organization System is a standard workshop and service delivered by VMEC. GDATP and VMEC identified the 5S System as the new organization system to support their Lean efforts. The 5S System (Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize and Sustain) uses key modules to promote safety, improve work flow, achieve better product quality, reduce waste and instill a sense that the users are in control of their area.
Two firing lanes, comprising Buildings 228 and 229 of the range, are used by the Advanced Crew Served Weapons program and were selected for initial application of the 5S system. (See the “Before” and “After” images of Building 228)
The project included classroom discussion that quickly led to implementation of 5S concepts on the firing lanes. Unneeded items were identified, red-tagged, and assembled for review by other team members. Some items were discarded and others infrequently used were relocated to a storage area in another building. Obsolete spare parts were segregated and eliminated. Good components were identified and labeled. The work area, previously cramped and too small, suddenly had sufficient space to organize and conveniently store regularly needed tools and material. Best locations were identified and marked. Storage boards for cleaning materials were installed. Similar tool boxes used in both buildings were organized and identically labeled so technicians moving between the firing lanes could quickly locate tools.
Removing and relocating unneeded materials resulted in a safer and more worker-friendly environment. Better work flow from the improved facility arrangement and clear labeling eliminated worker frustration. Accurate identification of parts provided better control of inventory.
This project was a successful start to implementing a Lean workplace. The efforts significantly contributed to improving the weapon maintenance cycle time and effectiveness of the range technicians.