by Captain John M. Cooper
The last decade has been a period of downsizing and belt-tightening for the Army. As a result, battalions and companies have learned to make every dollar count and every operation more efficient so their soldiers are able to train, maintain, and sustain with annual budgets that are smaller than those of past years. In an effort to streamline and modernize the Army and improve the way the Army performs maintenance on its equipment, the Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) has implemented a test program known as the Model Services Motorpool (MSMP).
General Thomas Schwartz, who was the FORSCOM commander at the time, devised the MSMP concept. It uses the latest industrial equipment to make redundant tasks associated with vehicle services as simple and efficient as possible. It equips soldiers with tools from reputable companies, such as Snap-On, Inc., and Craftsman, and makes their jobs more ergonomical, pleasurable, and efficient, therefore improving the quality of work and extending the life of the equipment.
After developing the MSMP concept, FORSCOM had to select a unit to serve as the foundation for the Force XXI motorpool. General Schwartz selected Fort Hood,Texas, as the location for his concept motorpool because of its track record for cutting-edge maintenance and its impact on the Army as a whole.
Once the installation was selected, the III Corps commanding general had to decide which unit would get more than $180,000 to remodel and refurbish its facility. The natural choice would have been either a combat arms unit or a main support battalion (MSB). However, since services are performed at the organizational level, a model service program at an MSB would have benefited only the MSB. The combat arms units certainly would have gained from the program; however, their equipment is rather homogenous and low-density, and the efficiencies gained would have been difficult to repeat in combat support and combat service support units. Motor transportation battalions generally have a diverse collection of equipment in large quantities and thus offered a better test of the MSMP.
The 13th Corps Support Command (COSCOM) commander recommended the 180th Transportation Battalion, Fort Hood's motor transportation battalion, because of its extensive track record for maintenance excellence. With minimal guidance from III Corps and the 13th COSCOM, the battalion initiated its plan for implementing the concept outlined by General Schwartz. Within the battalion, the 96th Transportation Company was chosen for the pilot program.
With only a notion of what the MSMP would entail, the 96th Transportation Company's commander created a list of what he and his maintenance technician thought would improve the performance of services. The commander conducted market research to ascertain costs and delivery times of the equipment he wanted for the motorpool. His list also contained modifications and repairs to the motorpool's buildings, including repairing insulation that was destroyed by pigeons and extending the bays to accommodate the M1070-M1000 heavy equipment transporter (HET) system. He submitted an initial estimate of $500,000.
Several days later, FORSCOM stipulated that the 180th Transportation Battalion would receive $183,000 to implement the MSMP, using the equipment specified by the company commander. Building modifications were deemed too costly for the benefits gained and were deleted from the initial plan. The remaining items were consolidated into an unfunded request for $161,000. The battalion determined that it could go ahead with the plan and meet the FORSCOM commander's goals for no less than $208,000, which included $183,000 from FORSCOM and an additional $25,000 from the 13th COSCOM.
With the tool list already established, the battalion staff had to determine specific models and prices. The battalion maintenance officer (BMO) was selected as the action officer, to be assisted by the battalion S4. The BMO contacted specific vendors, such as Automotive Resources, Inc. (ARI), and Snap-On, Inc., (both with offices in Dallas, Texas), to produce a concrete estimate of the overall project costs. He determined that the entire project, minus shipping and labor costs, would cost approximately $187,000.
The BMO developed a four-phase plan to acquire and install the equipment. The initial phase consisted of coordinating with the III Corps contracting officer to procure items readily available through the General Services Administration or a contracted manufacturer and items that exceeded the $2,500 single-purchase limit on the international merchant purchase authorization card (IMPAC). Phase 1 also included painting the walls and floors of the motorpool bays to give a fresh look to the motorpool.
Phase 2 was by far the largest phase and the most difficult to coordinate. It consisted of ordering and receiving shop tools and hardware such as wall lockers, toolboxes, workbenches, pneumatic tools, and hand-tools. Because of the quantity of equipment coming into the unit, as well as the potential for pilferage, the BMO established a centralized receiving point where the equipment arrived, was added to the unit property book, and then was issued to the unit. This centralized point also ensured that the BMO could track each item as it arrived and maintain detailed expenditure records.
Phase 3 consisted of automation improvements in the motorpool administrative areas. The building was equipped with a local area network (LAN) connection, and new computers were ordered. The battalion also purchased a small Xerox Workcenter (copier and laser printer) and a facsimile machine. The remaining office upgrades, such as desks and chairs, would be ordered as the project budget permitted.
During Phase 4, mechanical and pneumatic lift systems were delivered, and a centralized, pneumatically operated petroleum dispensing unit was installed. This phase was the most costly of the four, with an initial expense estimate of over $100,000.
To determine the program's success or failure, the unit had to create a service-time baseline against which any improvements could be measured. Using one organizational mechanic, assisted by vehicle operators, the unit serviced several systems and measured each step of the process with a stopwatch. Large, complex systems, such as the HET, were measured several times, while smaller, less complex systems, such as the M871 trailer and M998 high-mobility, multipurpose wheeled vehicle, or HMMWV, were recorded only once.
The ARI Hetra lifting system raises an M1070-M1000 HET system. The lifting system consists of separate lifts that are connected by cables so they can be operated simultaneously.
Once the baseline was established and the model service program was in operation, the unit had to determine and document the amount of time needed to perform a service. The III Corps Science and Technology Division arranged for a private, independent contractor to track and monitor services. The Blackhawk Management Corporation of Houston, Texas, assigned a technician to the motorpool to observe and track the time required for soldiers to perform services using the new equipment. For comparison, the technician also spent time in the 27th Main Support Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, and the 704th Division Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, to track how much time they needed to perform services without the 96th Transportation Company's new equipment.
Once the 13th COSCOM comptroller allocated the money, the 180th Transportation Battalion began purchasing the equipment and supplies for the MSMP. The battalion S4 made the purchases either through the III Corps contracting office or with the IMPAC card, depending on the cost of the items being purchased.
As most Army leaders know, plans are bound to go awry as operations begin, but because of the foresight of the BMO, S4, and executive officer, the contingency plans they established paid off. To say that the plan was executed flawlessly would be an overstatement, but clearly it went much better than anticipated.
Most vendors, once they understood the significance of the project for the Army and the potential gains for their businesses, were very generous and eager to please. A representative of the lift manufacturer, ARI, visited the motorpool and coordinated with outside agencies to ensure that his lift systems would work and only would need to be plugged in to an outlet when received. He also gave hands-on safety training to each soldier who would use the lift. Overall, the greatest assistance to the project came from outside companies that wanted the project to succeed as much as the unit did.
In recent years, the Army has emphasized the importance of environmental protection and made significant environmental gains. III Corps and the Fort Hood community are no exception to the Army's official policy of making soldiering both habitat friendly and environmentally sound. In support of these goals, the Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works (DPW) Environmental Section conducts routine inspections of motorpool facilities and supports units as they strive to meet Federal environmental protection regulations.
The Inland Technologies parts cleaner uses a nontoxic, nonhazardous solution to clean and degrease parts. The fluid lifetime is expected to be 2 years at a cost of approximately $900, compared to the old system that required a $100-per- month service call.
|The fluid storage tanks for the POL dispensing unit hold a variety of fluids, including antifreeze, 10W oil, 15W-40 transmission fluid, and 80W-90 gear oil.|
Some of the greatest gains for the 180th Transportation Battalion through the MSMP have been in environmental protection and hazardous materials-handling. Fort Hood's DPW subsidized the MSMP with over $100,000 to purchase numerous items, including petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL) cabinets, absorbent recycling bins, and a detergent dispensing unit. Overall, these additions to the motorpool will reduce waste and eliminate the need for units to stock excess materials, some of which may be hazardous to the environment.
One of the best additions to the unit was the pneumatic POL dispensing system. This system consists of four 500-gallon tanks containing antifreeze, 10W oil, 15W-40 transmission fluid, and 80W-90 gear oil that are located adjacent to the main motorpool building. There are also waste tanks for mixed oils and antifreeze. Each tank is connected to a piping system that routes the product to a dispensing reel and nozzle. The nozzle contains an analog gauge to monitor the quantity of product dispensed. To operate the system, the mechanic squeezes the handle (similar to a gas pump) and monitors the quantity on the gauge. Using this dispensing system reduces the amount of POL that is wasted because of spills, contamination, and expired shelf life. The greatest benefit to the unit will be the reduction of man-hours needed to transport POL from the packaged class III issue point to the maintenance bay. The HET tractor's hydraulic system has a 42-gallon capacity, while the cooling system holds over 23 gallons of antifreeze. When dealing with such large quantities of fluid, it is easy to see the importance of an efficient POL dispensing unit.
The MSMP goal is to have a streamlined, efficient service facility with the latest cutting-edge equipment. Though the real benefits to the facility will not be known fully for some time, the unit has made conservative estimates using known data on service times and assumed improvements that will result from the addition of the model service equipment. While an annual service on a HET trailer takes about 56 hours to complete, the unit expects to reduce this time to approximately 40 hours. With a fleet of 96 trailers, that reduction translates into over 1,500 man-hours saved annually. Additionally, the unit is estimating a 2,600-man-hour reduction for the two semiannual services on the HET tractor, for a total of 4,100 man-hours saved in servicing the HET system alone.
Using the Army's standard maintenance charge of $22.79 per hour, the unit expects to save approximately $93,439 per year in labor costs. In essence, the project will pay for itself in reduced labor costs alone in just over 2 years. Further cost avoidance will be realized from reduced overhead costs created by the elimination of wasted POL and other consumable assets and from the increased longevity of better maintained Army equipment.
The MSMP clearly has the potential to save each battalion in the Army hundreds of thousands of dollars each year through sound and financially responsible upgrades to existing motorpool facilities. Certainly, these improvements and efficiencies can be transferred to combat arms and combat support unitsnot only to save money and time, but also to boost the combat effectiveness and readiness of our fighting forces. ALOG
Captain John M. Cooper is the Deputy G3 for U.S. Army Forces Central Command-Saudi Arabia. At the time the article was written, he was the battalion maintenance officer for the 180th Transportation Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas. He has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Tulane University and is a graduate of the Transportation Officer Basic Course.