By thinking like a private-sector company, Tobyhanna Army Depot has managed to survive and thrive in an era of base closures, rapidly changing technology and increasing demands on armed services equipment. As the largest full-service electronics maintenance facility in the Department of Defense, the pressure is on Tobyhanna to be both cutting edge and self-sufficient.
Since the Iraq War began in 2003, workload at the depot has almost doubled, keeping it the Pocono region’s largest employer, with 4,400 workers. The depot is also responsible for another 7,500 regional jobs. Part of Tobyhanna’s success is its 15-year relationship with Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which has enabled the depot to develop new processes, test new concepts and implement new systems that have made it more efficient.
“Because our customers fund us to perform work for them, we must operate like a business,” says Kevin Toolan, the depot’s public affairs officer. “Like a business, cost, quality and schedule are critical to meeting our customers’ expectations, but most importantly, in delivering timely support to our Armed Forces. We pursue all options to improve our performance, and Ben Franklin has been pivotal in improving a number of our industrial operations.”
Partnering with the Private Sector
“The key to future development efforts are our public-private partnerships,” Toolan says. “Traditionally, the private sector develops the new weapon system and at a certain point, depots come on board to sustain and enhance them. For us, getting involved early in the development process is important, and we’re well-equipped for the challenge.” Financially, partnering with the private sector is important for Tobyhanna as well, since all the depot’s funding comes from client payments.
Ben Franklin has partnered Tobyhanna with regional colleges and universities to implement applied research in its processes. Ben Franklin assisted Tobyhanna with several projects, including work in artificial intelligence applications, expert systems, surface mount technologies, and pollution prevention controls, all of which significantly enhanced the depot’s competitive position within the U.S. military. The depot’s relationship with BFTP has blossomed into an ongoing partnership that has helped Tobyhanna have an estimated economic impact of more than $1.8 billion annually throughout Pennsylvania.
From the Beginning
In the early 1990s, Ben Franklin helped the depot improve efficiency by adopting new technology. “Ben Franklin laid the foundation for many of the processes we still use today, both technical and cultural. These foundations have improved our ability to work with private partners and helped put us in the competitive position we are in today,” says Rick Foley, a depot electronics engineer.
Ben Franklin has been pivotal in improving a number of our industrial operations.
And the partnership remains strong. For example, some of Tobyhanna’s processes—like painting—require industrial waste water treatment and pollution controls. Ben Franklin recently connected the depot with Northampton Community College’s Electrotechnology Applications Center (ETAC) to tackle some operational challenges. As a result of the ETAC project, the depot was able to modify its process scrubber systems and associated waste water systems for increased reliability, pollution control, worker safety and environmental regulation compliance.
Keeping a Pulse on the Latest Advances
“Depot management is constantly striving to make us more efficient, and Ben Franklin is there to help us out. They help us stay aware of the latest advances in technology processes,” Foley says. “But what impresses us most is how proactive they are. They approach us with ways they think they can help.”
Tobyhanna credits Ben Franklin with the creation of 552 jobs and the retention of another 481 jobs, rendering it one of Ben Franklin’s top job successes in northeastern Pennsylvania.
The largest full-service electronics maintenance facility in the Department of Defense
Ben Franklin Involvement:
- Ben Franklin’s most recent activity was with Lehigh’s ESC with process improvements to the plating operations.
- Invested $321,750 (1986 through 2005)
- Links with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center and Northampton Community College’s Electrotechnology Applications Center
- 15 years of business and technical assistance
On the web: www.tobyhanna.army.mil