MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
To visitors it might look like any small city buzzing with daily activities.
Even though activities such as white cart trains, like those used to transport baggage at airports, being driven around its concrete floors and asphalt roads may have been around awhile, guests may do a double take when they see them.
That city is Maintenance Center Albany and operators drive tugs known as mules with custom-built fabric carts on dollies hooked together to form small trains. They transport various parts for personnel to put High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle armor and mine roller kits together as well as rocket storage systems and fuel and water tanks.
Configured with different length, width and heights, the carts carry kits’ parts to be put together by several different shops working with the Shop Floor Control Fabrication Branch/Material Handling Equipment, run by Bryan D. Burson, production control supervisor, Production Management Section, Shop Floor Control Fabrication Branch/Material Handling Equipment, MCA.
Five years ago, MCA’s team needed to fabricate 3,000 HUMVEE kits from scratch. To streamline the kits’ building process, they came up with the idea of using the carts.
“We’re now reworking those kits,” he said. “We’re disassembling the kits, inspecting them, taking out damaged parts to make the kit 100 percent complete. What we’re doing now is mainly re-fabrication, (but we) still do fabrication.”
The carts have saved a lot of time and money and aided the process so much so that Burson said MCA’s team now turns out roughly 90 re-fabricated or fabricated kits a month.
Burson brainstormed the cart idea from when he was a child and visited his dad at various airports where he had worked.
“It came into being through a team effort,” he said. “It’s a very neat concept and works very well. It’s basically mobile warehousing.”
MCA had two different styles of fabric carts designed by a company that builds them for the airlines. The fabrics are taller and longer than the typical airport baggage carts and protect against weather conditions.
Fabric hangs on rods that attach to a dolly and personnel close it over the kits until they are ready to blast its old paint off it, powder coat it with a corrosive treatment and repaint it.
“Our workload required that the process run around the clock,” he said. “The kits come as raw metal cut parts and we need to protect them from dew and weather elements. We were looking at how to cover them each night. The parts have to be in a dried state before we start working (with the) processes.”
For armor kits that need to be fabricated, vendors deliver them to a warehouse here, an inspector team inspects them and after warehouse staff accepts them, the kits are loaded onto the carts to begin the process. Once the kits are ready, they are sent to MCA’s HUMVEE section to be put on the vehicles.
Those that need to be re-fabricated are stripped from the HUMVEES here and sent to the HUMVEE fabrication team, and after they are 100 percent complete, they are sent back to the HUMVEE section to be put back on the vehicles.
“Our master work schedule states what kits are needed and what configurations. Some might need to be made from scratch,” he said.
Burson even ordered spare tires and battery-powered packs for the carts and mules so nothing stops the fabrication or re-fabrication.
He and his team are continually looking for ways to improve their methods.
“Everyone’s part is vital. It takes everyone to make the process work and they make sure it’s done in a safe manner,” Burson said, noting he has 120 carts as well as 16 more on order and the carts are for all of MCA to use. “I always thank them for their efforts.”
Eight mule drivers handle different functions of transporting the kits from one part of the fabrication process to another. They communicate with one another via radios.
William Young, rigger leader, Material Handling Team, MCA, manages the mule drivers.
“Without the trains it would stop the process,” he said. “(It) helps the team to bring the kits to them. The equipment is so big it’s easier to move it with the trains.”
Shane McIntyre, mule driver, Material Handling Team, said his responsibilities give him “a chance to see what’s going on (in the fabrication process) and seeing it from nothing to an ending project is pretty exciting.”