MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. -- Twenty-seven employees from the Marine Corps Multi-Commodity Maintenance Center at Barstow, Calif., visited Albany's depot during the week of Nov. 18 to see how commercial best practices, 'Theory of Constraints,' 'Manufacturing Resource Planning' and 'Lean Thinking,' have helped the Multi-Commodity Maintenance Center here improve operations across the board.
Col. Robert Gerlaugh, commander of Maintenance Center Barstow, along with several key employees from every level of his organization traveled cross-country to 'break bread' and share ideas with their east coast counterparts for five days.
Although the Maintenance Centers at Albany and Barstow have separate commanders, both depots are under the command of Brig. Gen. Richard Kramlich, commander at Marine Corps Logistics Bases, which is headquartered in Albany.
According to Col. Steve Foreman, commander at Albany's Maintenance Center, the multi-commodity remanufacturing depot invited members of its west coast-equivalent here to see how the best practices have transformed operations at Albany.
"Although Albany and Barstow are more than 2,000 miles apart, we still maintain the adage, 'one team, one fight," Foreman pointed out. "Sharing newly implemented philosophies and other information that has elevated operations with our sister-command benefits more than the two maintenance centers, it benefits the entire Marine Corps."
Gerlaugh, who is new to the depot maintenance business, said he hears of Albany's successes often and wanted to see the depot first-hand.
"I came to Barstow last August with no prior experience in the depot maintenance business," Gerlaugh admitted. "My folks here told me immediately that our sister center at Albany had made some rapid and dramatic changes in their production processes, and was having terrific success with them.
"My thought," he continued, "was to take a group that represented every level and area of expertise in this organization back to see first-hand what Colonel Foreman and his team have done and how they have gone about doing it. It's a time-honored tradition among Marines that we 'steal' good ideas and make them work for us."
Prior to the trip, members of Barstow's command sent a detailed work plan that targeted several specific changes the Albany depot made, said Darren Jones, manager of Albany Maintenance Center's production management department. Jones added that the two groups set up nearly a dozen breakout teams to share information when they arrived.
"Monday we basically gave them an overview of how we are structured and what our Maintenance Center here does," said Jones.
"Then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday we broke down into 11 different groups. These groups were based mostly on the questions Barstow sent us surrounding the changes we made."
Jones said he knew, from the questions asked, that Barstow's personnel understood exactly where improvements were needed at their installation.
"Basically we [Albany] asked the same questions when we were introduced to these initiatives," said Jones. "We knew they were right on track for making a rapid, positive change.
"It's great that our lines of communication are open," Jones added. "This enables us to become better organized where we both can function well as one unit to achieve the same goals."
Breakout groups focused on topics ranging from project management, scheduling and information technology to philosophical changes such as TOC, Lean and MRP II, according to Jones. The sessions, he said, extended beyond just a classroom setting.
"After discussing these topics, we took the Barstow visitors out on the shop floor and [then] showed it to them," Jones pointed out. "One of the main things we stressed to them is these efforts have to be embraced by their entire workforce. I mean, we have 722 people here, and it took 722 people to achieve what we've done Ð no less. Our folks have just been fabulous during this transformation."
Foreman agrees. Lauding the team efforts of Albany's Maintenance Center personnel is something the center's commander does more than anyone.
"Our accomplishments are clearly a grass-roots effort," said Foreman. "A grass-roots effort because it involves every employee, every day, and will continue to require the involvement of every employee, every day from now on. Our transformation reflects every employee's commitment to provide our customers and every Marine around the world the highest quality product and service every day of the year."
Statistics of Albany's Maintenance Center's recent improvements go far beyond lip service, Foreman stressed.
"As an example," Foreman explained, "the repair cycle on one of our vehicle production lines went from about 167 days down to 53, and some even as low as 30 days. At the same time, readiness on this item increased by more than 10 percent, and the cost for repair dropped by $17,000 per vehicle. That's roughly $2.5 million saved, and that's just on one production line.
"Simultaneously," he added, "Work-In-Process was slashed from 55 assets (with a monthly production rate of 10) to 32 assets (with a monthly production rate of 20) Ð these are remarkable achievements."
Following the visit, the Barstow Maintenance Center's commander said he found the discussions very informative.
"The visit to Albany was a complete success," Gerlaugh reported. "The philosophy and methodology of TOC is a significant departure from the traditional methods of production planning and control that we've all used for years. To be successful using this approach requires several leaps of faith from the old to the new method.
"The only way we could transition from the training our folks have done in TOC to actual implementation was, I felt, to get on the ground with the folks at Albany and see for ourselves how they have made this work so successfully," said Gerlaugh. "Our team from Barstow, we dubbed, 'The Renegades,' prepared extremely well for the visit. This group was a cross section of a terrifically talented, experienced organization out here, and we are all excited about the opportunities we have in front of us," he concluded.