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NEWS | May 18, 2023

Successful lean project yields increased availability of vital firehouse equipment

By Mr. Nicolo Manzo

For Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD) Fire and Emergency Services (F&ES) Branch, time is of the essence. A well-organized storage area is paramount to a time-efficient response during an emergency.

TYAD F&ES leadership keenly understands the importance of this and recently invested in it. Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Ward tasked members of F&ES with a Lean/6S project to organize and inventory the firehouse equipment storage area.

Lean is a program of continuous improvement based on eliminating unnecessary steps in a process such as rearranging an area to improve workflow and increase efficiency.

Over the course of the three-month endeavor, a team led by firefighter/emergency medical technician (EMT) Eric Reddinger inventoried, labeled and organized everything in the storage area in a more logical fashion. In addition to that, the team created a rack layout chart so anyone can easily find whatever they are looking for at a glance.

Reddinger said the project addressed the issues of equipment being stored randomly or unnecessarily.

“Essentially, for years (the storage area) has been the catch-all for anything that didn’t have a home. There was no rhyme or reason to how stuff was stored, and we came up with an easy-to-follow layout to label everything and get it organized,” said Reddinger.

“We got rid of a 30-yard dumpster of old supplies, and we had one dumpster of metal products that went to recycling. We made a lot of room.”

Assistant Fire Chief Palmer Johnson said getting the storage area to this point has been an example of continuous growth.

“When the project first got started, we did have things in storage bins. However, we did not have a very good process of knowing what was in each bin and the quantity. So, Eric and his team inventoried every container. They said ‘Okay, so we have four things in one container – they don’t all go together. Let’s put these two things in one, and we’ll put these two in another,’” said Johnson.

That concerted effort to organize things in a logical way means finding equipment is a quicker process and keeping tabs on inventory is much easier. The knowledge of where things are and how much of something is available is critical because, according to Johnson, the team is only going to the storage area during the worst of emergencies.

A hurdle faced by the F&ES team has been keeping the area organized once a system is put in place. This time, Reddinger said, the team is determined to keep it in pristine condition after all the hard work that went into the project.

“It took a whole bunch of people to get it done. We’re all going to be mindful of it and keep after it. It’s a standing rule.”

Johnson recognized Reddinger for his comprehensive vision, dynamic leadership and effective communication throughout the project, adding that the unorthodox schedule of firefighters can make it easy for there to be a breakdown.

"Our schedules are challenging for a project like this. Because when Eric works for two days, this is what he’s focused on for those two days. But when he goes home, he needs to be able to pass on the vision to the rest of the group that’s going to be here moving things around, so when he gets back what he envisioned to be on this wall isn’t somewhere else. And he did that. He came up with a plot and a map and a clear explanation,” said Johnson.

Firefighter Chris Uhrin is new to TYAD, and the organization project was one of the first things he worked on. He said the project was the perfect introduction to F&ES and the heightened organization makes it so everyone can use the building to its greatest potential.

“Now that everything is organized the way it is, it will make a great impact on just knowing that everyone who’s here, no matter what shifts, is able to use the building to the fullest ability to be able to quickly locate supplies,” said Uhrin.

A particular point of pride for this project was the teamwork shown by F&ES. Johnson praised the collaborative effort starting with leadership to the project lead to the entire F&ES team.

“(Pat Ward) started the project and if Eric had changes, he presented me a map, we reviewed the map and made sure his vision matched ours. It really was a team effort; just about everybody was out here at some point participating in some way,” said Johnson.

TYAD F&ES provide invaluable support not only to TYAD but also to our great surrounding community.

Lean projects like the one completed by TYAD Fire and Emergency Services, and across the enterprise, directly align with Tobyhanna’s long-range strategic plan, TOBY2035, and specifically the Shape the Future and C5ISR Readiness lines of effort. All four focus areas of the plan are: Invest in Our People, C5ISR Readiness, Shape the Future and Strategic Communications. TOBY2035 aims to posture the depot for success in the coming years as the Department of Defense's premier worldwide C5ISR readiness provider.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna’s Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C5ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.

Tobyhanna’s unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our joint warfighters.

About 3,100 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command’s mission is to empower the Soldier with winning C5ISR capabilities.