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Keeping warfighters mobile: Versatility is key to PPA’s craneway production

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | November 21, 2014

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The sounds of vehicles being repaired echoed throughout Production Plant Albany’s craneway as workers overhauled and inspected ground and ground combat support equipment for the Marine Corps’ operating forces.

To accommodate the number of requests for equipment to support the warfighter, work stations throughout the craneway change frequently. 

Versatility is key within the craneways of both Production Plant Albany and Production Plant Barstow, California, according to Matt Nowicki, operations manager, Marine Depot Maintenance Command.

“What makes us so different and unique from other branches of service is that we can rapidly reconfigure our craneway based on workload and the needs of the Marine Corps ,” Nowicki said. “The commandant could tell us he has an emergent requirement he needs us to get done right away. The craneway gives us the flexibility we need to meet emergent requirements such as these, and continue to meet our master work schedule requirements without skipping a beat. 

“Based on the size of our facility, the Marine Corps being light and lean, we can make those changes immediately, where some of the larger depots would take months to pull stuff out of line,” he added. “We can pull (requirements) off in days and have new systems ready to go because of how our facilities are built.”

Located in Building 2200, the craneway is 760 feet long with a 40-foot span on A side and a 60-foot span on B side. A-side is100 feet longer and extends outside the facility to accommodate loading and unloading large equipment using truck and rail services.

Assisting in PPA’s operations are 1954-vintage cranes, a 75-ton crane on A side and two 30-ton cranes on B side.

Randy Bischoff, material handling and equipment work leader, PPA, said crane operators more than 50 feet above the production lines move equipment up and down the craneway, giving them the “buzzard in the sky” point of view.

“You need to be able to see all around whenever you make a lift,” Bischoff said. “Because of the heavy equipment we work on and the heavy rigging that takes place, you need to have a better view of riggers who are giving hand signals from the floor.”

According to Bill Baker, engineering branch manager, PPA,  cab operators and riggers not only move vehicles, they also install other components inside vehicles such as power packs, engines and transmissions.

“It’s a lot easier to make the drop into a small space by looking down than standing on the floor and looking up,” Baker said. “Crane operators and riggers must be able to drop a power pack into a vehicle and do it safely.”

Mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles and amphibious assault vehicles are some of the rolling stock repaired on both sides of the craneway, according to Nowicki.

“If you were to go to any other service’s depot, you would see craneways that just have MRAPs or just combat vehicles or track vehicles,” Nowicki added. “When you come into our craneways, you will see that we work on it all. From one end of the craneway to the other, you will see we will have amphibious vehicles, track vehicles, light armored vehicles, MRAPs and more. We are the only true multi-commodity depot in the Department of Defense depot industry”

According to Nowicki, between PPA and Production Plant Barstow, there are 700 master work schedule lines going through the craneways in a year.

“Each line could consist of one to a 1,000 quantities,” he said. “The craneways have about 2,500 pieces of gear going through production at any given time and any given day.”
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