DMDII and Rock Island Arsenal collaborate on cutting-edge tech

March 29, 2018
Getting weapons ‘from the factory to the foxhole’ more quickly.

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) and the U.S. Army’s Rock Island Arsenal have announced a collaboration to improve the nation’s largest government-owned weapons manufacturer, with the aim of getting equipment to U.S. warfighters more quickly.

“The Rock Island Arsenal is a vital military asset that has supported America’s national security needs as well as the Quad Cities economy for more than 150 years,” said Sen. Dick Durbin. “Partnering with DMDII will ensure that the Arsenal has access to the newest technologies and skills required for a modern manufacturing enterprise.”

“Ensuring the Arsenal’s success is among my top priorities,” said U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, whose district includes the facility. “Having a direct line to DMDII and its partners will help keep the Arsenal and its workers competitive and position it well for the future, building upon the legislative measures Senator Durbin and I have successfully championed on a bipartisan basis over the years.”

Rock Island Arsenal worked with DMDII to conduct a Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) Capability Assessment, which uses 3-D models to capture and transfer information throughout the manufacturing process and replaces 2-D drawings. During the MBE assessment, a team of experts evaluated the Arsenal’s current manufacturing capabilities and suggested specific steps needed to adopt new digital technologies, decrease costs, and improve production time.

In the second, just-launched phase, the project team is implementing the top recommendations from the assessment, including creating a library of machine models and tools; introducing 3-D models to the shop floor to reduce the risk of misinterpreting 2-D drawings; and implementing a simulation tool to reduce the amount of rework needed due to trial and error. These activities will improve operations and lead to a return on the investment, as using a paper-based system to transfer information from design to manufacturing can diminish data quality and waste material and time.

The Arsenal also is taking advantage of DMDII’s extensive network of manufacturing partners and its ability to rapidly execute contracts, speeding the adoption of new technologies.

“The Arsenal must continually modernize our equipment and develop our highly skilled workforce to deliver readiness solutions to the Army and Department of Defense systems globally,” said Colonel Kenneth Letcher, commanding officer of the Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center. “This project has been an important step toward digitizing and streamlining the process of getting equipment and materiel from the factory to the foxhole.”

DMDII partner MBD360 is leading the project with participation from MSC Software, The Innovation Machine, Anark, International TechneGroup Incorporated, and other consultants. These companies represent the national reach of DMDII’s consortium; their headquarters are located in Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, and Ohio.

“The project team assembled to modernize the Arsenal’s design-to-manufacture capabilities has extensive military and corporate experience,” said Roy Whittenburg, president and owner of MBD360, a company based in Sherwood, Ore. “New avenues for the Department of Defense to access small businesses like ours will lead to the creative and flexible solutions it needs to operate effectively.”

The collaboration has already yielded results from a contracting efficiency perspective. The Arsenal benefited from DMDII’s multi-party contracting mechanism, intellectual property management plan, and financial services and could quickly identify project participants from DMDII’s 300+ partner network.

Other arsenals and production-integration facilities plagued by modeling problems could replicate the pilot program. By using this capability assessment, Department of Defense facilities can become more agile, efficient, secure, and more quickly deliver equipment that improves soldiers’ safety and effectiveness in the field.

Smart Industry Conference attendees will tour the DMDII facility this September. Will you be joining them?