PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. -- Picatinny engineers have devised improvements to the packaging of 60 mm smoke and illumination mortars that will save the Army money and allow Soldiers quicker access to the rounds during firefights.

"It's very simple," explained Lenny Freilich, the lead 60 mm mortar packaging engineer with the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC).

"We've strengthened the metal container in order to remove some of the external packaging. The packaging inside the metal container remains exactly the same."

Traditionally the 60 mm cartridges were packaged individually in fiber containers. Eight fiber containers were then put into a metal container, called the PA124.

"Two of those PA124 metal cans were placed inside of a wirebound wood box," Freilich said. "Then you've got eight in one container and eight in another container for a total of 16 in the wire-bound wood box."

In order to save money on labor and packaging, ARDEC engineers, under sponsorship of the Program Executive Office Ammunition's Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems, designed a more robust metal container to eliminate the wood box.

"We made the container stronger and it's now called the PA191. It can survive the same environmental conditions that the two containers inside the wooden box used to do, but you've got a lot less material," said Freilich.

The reduced size of the outer pack allows for an additional 8 cans (64 cartridges) on the same transportation pallet so logistical shipping costs are reduced as well. The new containers also eliminate a step in the packaging process at the factory.

"You've got two fewer people on the manufacturing lines that have to put the box together and pack the containers inside the box. So there is a cost savings," Freilich said.

Between labor and material cost cuts, the packaging improvement saves the Army $2.48 per round. Due to the success of the program, this packaging method is also being adopted for 60 mm high explosive cartridges.

QUICKER ACCESS

Another benefit to the new packaging is that Soldiers do not have to remove the wooden box, so they can access the ammo quicker, which is important when the enemy is firing at them.

Soldiers can now access the rounds 15-25 seconds quicker. Removing the wooden box was also advantageous because finding the appropriate quality of wood was becoming more difficult. "You just think it's a wood box, but like anything in the Army it has to be a particular wood - it has to meet certain standards," Freilich explained. "It's needs be a hard wood for which are strict requirements for the type of woods we use and the price (of wood) keeps going up."

SIX SIGMA GREEN BELTS

The program was documented by Freilich and two other Packaging Division engineers, formatted into specific Six Sigma format and submitted to the Six Sigma Board.

The three engineers then received their Green Belt certification during an ARDEC ceremony in July 2013 The package improvement project was selected as the winner of the Continuous Improvement Challenge.

THE CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT CHALLENGE

The annual Continuous Improvement Challenge (CIC) is designed to foster a culture of continuous improvement and in support of the Better Buying Power to achieve greater efficiency and productivity within the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center and the Program Executive Office for Ammunition.

More than 200 ARDEC and PEO employees participate in the 2013 Continuous Improvement Challenge through the phases of event submission to the "March Madness" final voting process to select the overall winner.

The winning team was ARDEC employees Adrien Garceau, Lenny Freilich and Sam Sarkar. The process owner is Project Manager Combat Ammunition Systems.

Using Six Sigma tools, the team designed a modified metal container to eliminate the use of the wirebound box on 60 mm smoke and illumination mortars produced at Pine Bluff Arsenal.

Other projects that proceeded to the final vote include the improvement of the Architecture and Engineering Services Weekly Report. The improvement cut the time spending on the report by 55 percent.

The streamlined process allowed engineering services to spend more time on other joint project manager information systems and program of records tasking.

Another team achieved a 77 percent savings in time used to track and report on Lean Six Sigma project costs and savings. Using LPOT, a Microsoft Excel workbook, analysis is more accurate in estimating costs based on project scope.

The redesign of the Behavioral Response Laboratory was another project that involved relocation of all testbeds and replenished inventory. A seventh testbed is now available with room for further growth. The lab's original design was filled with old and unwanted