U.S. Army Depot Increases Efficiency by Using RFID Locating System

The Tobyhanna Army Depot in Pennsylvania has expanded its use of WhereNet Corp.’s (Santa Clara, Calif.) RFID-based real-time locating system (RTLS) technology to streamline the repair and overhaul of defense electronic systems at its facility. The Depot performs the maintenance, repair, and overhaul of command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems for the Department of Defense (DoD).

Tobyhanna initially contracted with SYS-TEC to deploy the WhereNet system in late 2004 to optimize the refurbishment of the AN/TRC-170 Microwave Communications System and AN/TPS-75 Air Defense Radar System. After extended use in rugged environments while supporting America’s armed forces, these communications systems are shipped to Tobyhanna, where each system is disassembled, overhauled, and tested before being shipped out to the field again. With assemblies, subassemblies, components, and spare parts spread across the more than 1.9-million-sq.-ft. refurbishment areas, WhereNet’s RTLS technology provides each work center with visibility of the AN/TRC-170 and AN/TPS-75 system’s work in process.

“While the DoD has engaged in dozens of limited RFID pilots and efforts with indeterminate ROI, WhereNet’s work at Tobyhanna has caught the attention of DoD officials,” said Mike Shea, the federal sector director for WhereNet. “Tobyhanna’s business focus is similar to that of most of our customers: how to increase supply chain velocity while reducing cost. Because of accelerated military operations since 9/11, Tobyhanna’s business has increased during the past few years, and one way it can keep up with such rapid growth is by leveraging systems like WhereNet to automate manual tasks, optimize lean processes, and increase throughput.”

Latest Mission: Tracking Firefinder Parts

In January 2006, Tobyhanna expanded its use of the WhereNet system to locate parts and optimize the refurbishment of the Army’s Firefinder radar system, which detects and tracks enemy mortar and artillery shells and has seen heavy use in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition to tracking work in process, the Firefinder team uses data captured by WhereNet to help “lean out” their processes and improve production.

One Wireless Infrastructure Supports Multiple Systems

Leveraging a single wireless infrastructure that consists of WhereLAN locating sensors and WherePort devices, Tobyhanna has also expanded use of the WhereNet system to track hundreds of additional components associated with several additional communications-electronics systems.

Savings Recognized

A Naval Postgraduate School paper titled “RTLS and the Sources of Cost Savings: A Study of How the Implementation of Real Time Location Systems into Key Business Processes Leads to Realized Cost Savings, and What This Means for the Department of Defense,” completed in June 2006, stated that the WhereNet RTLS, alongside ongoing lean business processes, will yield:

  • Annual savings of nearly $8 million for fiscal year 2006.

This report follows on the initial ROI assessment in 2005 that revealed the following benefits:

  • The pilot system for just the AN/TRC-170 and AN/TPS-75 systems will save more than $450,000 annually.
  • Annual savings of over 837 Repair Cycle Days (RCT).
  • The Tobyhanna Army Depot will obtain a complete return on its initial investment in just over 11 months.
  • The system will dramatically expedite the refurbishment process, as each AN/TPS-75 will make it to the field 35 days sooner, and each AN/TRC-170 system will make it to the field 10 days sooner.

    Source: WhereNet Corp.
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