Applying Lean Manufacturing techniques during
the restoration of the Patriot and Avenger air defense systems
reaped significant savings for the Government.
At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition forces
repeatedly relied on the Patriot air defense missile system
to knock out Scud missiles launched toward coalition command
posts, base camps, and advancing troops. On 20 March 2003,
Patriot batteries successfully intercepted and destroyed two
Iraqi tactical ballistic missiles fired at Kuwait. In the days
that followed, other missiles were successfully destroyed.
Air defense artillery units performed brilliantly in Operation
Iraqi Freedom, intercepting every Iraqi missile fired toward
Kuwait or coalition forces except those whose trajectories
indicated that they would fall harmlessly into the empty desert
or the ocean.
Patriot Missile System
The Patriot is the Army’s most advanced air defense system.
Since it was fielded in 1982, it has proven itself to be a
combat multiplier for combatant
commanders. Capable of defeating both high-performance aircraft and tactical
ballistic missiles, it is the only operational air defense system that can shoot
down attacking missiles. A Patriot battery (the basic firing unit) consists of
a phased-array radar set, an engagement-control station, computers, power-generating
equipment, and up to eight launchers, each holding four ready-to-fire missiles.
Approximately 90 soldiers are assigned to a battery, but only 3 are needed to
operate the battery in combat.
During the early stages of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the
Patriot batteries were exposed to extremely harsh environments. Sand significantly
degraded their condition during both transport and operation. The exposure to
the environment, coupled with exposure to hostile fire, resulted in severely
damaged batteries. The impact of the damaged Patriots on the deployed air defense
artillery fleet was severe and had to be addressed to maintain acceptable long-term
levels of readiness.
launching battery typically has eight launching stations.
This launching station is mounted on an M860 semitrailer
towed by a 10-ton M983 heavy, expanded-mobility tactical
Patriot experts from the Lower Tier Project
Office of the Army Aviation and Missile Command’s Integrated
Materiel Management Center (AMCOM IMMC), at Redstone Arsenal,
Alabama, along with personnel from Letterkenny Army Depot,
Pennsylvania, developed a detailed plan to restore the Patriot
systems to their predeployment condition. The plan was called
Patriot Reset, and its stated objective was to increase readiness
by making the equipment fully mission capable. Letterkenny’s
mission was to reset three Patriot battalions in a year.
The Patriot Reset program showcased Letterkenny’s capabilities and commitment.
The depot is the Army’s center of technical excellence for air defense
and tactical missile ground support equipment. Letterkenny had saved the Patriot
Lower Tier Project Office $1.2 million in fiscal year 2003 using the Lean Manufacturing
process. Lean Manufacturing is a set of principles and practices directed toward
revamping the production process in a way that includes eliminating waste, removing
inventory buffers, and focusing on quality. Using the earlier success as a model,
Letterkenny’s Lean Manufacturing Core Team designed the reset program using
Lean Manufacturing techniques, a system of cross-training, and flexible management
that focused on customer needs.
From the initial planning stages, Letterkenny representatives used “out-of-the-box” thinking
to create an efficient plan. This plan eventually allowed the depot to complete
the project 2H months ahead of schedule and $1.5 million under budget. The plan
called for the Patriot systems to be overhauled in two locations by three organizations.
Using the ongoing Patriot recapitalization program as a model, equipment was
divided between the assets that could be reset at Fort Bliss, Texas, and those
that had to be returned to Letterkenny for repair.
Letterkenny technicians developed a reset schedule and synchronized it with the
three air defense battalions at Fort Bliss to ensure that reset operations would
not interfere with the units’ deployments, redeployments, or training missions.
Then, more than 100 technicians at the depot worked two shifts 7 days a week
to ensure the success of the reset mission. They disassembled and cleaned all
major items, repaired or replaced their components, and reassembled them. The
technicians successfully reset 16 Patriot radar sets, 15 engagement-control stations,
3 information and coordination centrals (command and control elements), 15 electric
power plants, and 30 generator sets. During the system integration and checkout
conducted at the Tobin Wells Training Area at Fort Bliss, the Patriot equipment
was determined to be fully mission capable and was accepted by the fire units.
The final product was a revitalized Patriot air defense system that soldiers
could trust to accomplish their missions.
fired from a Patriot launcher heads toward a target
detected by the system's engagement-control station.
Letterkenny’s Logistics Center of Excellence (LCOE) at
Fort Bliss was the second location used for the reset program.
One of the first employees to arrive at the LCOE was a member
of Letterkenny’s Lean Manufacturing Core Team. The Patriot
Lean Value Stream Analysis (a process that helps identify a
system’s values and pinpoints areas needing improvement)
identified opportunities to save money and time by reducing
travel distances and turnaround time. For example, a major
bottleneck in the cleaning, plating, and painting operations
was identified and mitigated. The Lean Manufacturing process
reduced a 3- to 4-week backlog of material to a less than 1
day backlog and sped up component parts processing
by 87 percent.
Avenger Air Defense System
Patriot was not the only weapon system used to cover the coalition forces advancing
from the Kuwait border to Baghdad International Airport. Avenger air defense
systems also were deployed and used by some Army units, usually in extremely
adverse conditions. The Avenger is the Army’s premier line-of-sight, mobile,
shoot-on-the-move air defense system. It is a key element of the air defense
architecture. The Avenger system carries eight Stinger missiles in two four-missile
launch pods ready for rapid firing from a gyro-stabilized turret mounted on a
high-mobility, multipurpose wheeled vehicle.
with the Oklahoma Army National Guard maintains site
security at a remote Patriot missile battery tactical
site in Southwest Asia.
The Avengers used by the coalition forces were
sandblasted by windstorms, and many suffered battle or transportation
damage. Letterkenny crews examined the Avengers front to
back, top to tires, and discovered that nearly everything
to be “redone.”
“We’ve had to adapt to significant changes in maintenance requirements
as a result of how Avengers are being used in the AOR [area of responsibility],” said
Michael McGee, director of IMMC’s Short-Range Missile Directorate. “Although
designed as an air defense system, Avengers have assumed an expanded battlefield
role of extensive force protection. [This has] . . . changed our thinking on
how to reset Avengers. For example, the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment drove their
individual Avengers over 70,000 miles in a single year. . . . You can imagine
the degree of stress that places on the . . . system since it wasn’t
specifically designed for that type of combat role.”
“During the reset of our first Avenger battalion—from the 3rd Infantry
Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia—we decided that we would ask the unit
to relinquish control of the vehicles and ship the fire units to Letterkenny
[for] more detailed maintenance,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Tom LaFontaine
of the Short-Range Air Defense Project Office. “To maintain unit confidence
in our ability to reset and return fire units consistent with their internal
training schedules, we invited the units to send their maintenance technicians
to Letterkenny to assist in hands-on repair of the Avengers. . . . Soldier
involvement is especially critical considering the maintenance challenges facing
returning from the area of responsibility.”
All Avenger vehicles were returned to Letterkenny for reset. Together, Letterkenny
personnel and Team Redstone developed a reset plan for the Avengers that
would meet redeployment schedules and, at the same time, save IMMC $1 million.
the assembly and disassembly areas, technicians made many recommendations
that eliminated unnecessary steps in the refurbishment process. Some improvements
to the process included the use of portable light fixtures to aid in disassembly
and reassembly and the creation of a “parts supermarket” close
to the work cells. At times, as many as 40 Letterkenny maintenance personnel
and 4 to 6 soldiers were involved in reset activities.
In an August 2004 ceremony, the commander of Letterkenny Army Depot presented
IMMC with a ceremonial check representing the combined $2.5 million in savings
realized through the center’s application of Lean Manufacturing techniques
to the Patriot and Avenger missile systems reset programs. The check was “endorsed” and
returned to the depot’s coffers by John Chapman, IMMC Executive Director. “Every
dollar we can save by improving our processing . . . [is] a good thing for
the taxpayer and a good thing for the budget,” Chapman said.
In addition to having Patriot and Avenger missile systems back in the field
faster than expected, soldiers also benefit from the refurbishment because
the money saved can be used to support other unfunded projects.
As the Army transforms, the Avenger and Patriot air defense systems must
remain lethal, survivable, and sustainable with reduced operating costs.
the highest level of unit and system readiness is the Army’s dominant
objective, and the Letterkenny Army Depot Avenger and Patriot reset programs
are the Army’s proven solution. ALOG
Kim C. Russell is a public affairs
specialist at Letterkenny Army Depot, Pennsylvania, where
she has been employed for
27 years. She has a bachelor’s degree in business and
economics from Wilson College in Pennsylvania.
Mark L. Sheffield is the Chief of the Transformation Office
at Letterkenny Army Depot. He has a bachelor’s degree
in business and economics from Wilson College in Pennsylvania.