Letterkenny Army Depot on Thursday celebrated receiving its ninth Shingo medallion for excellence in manufacturing at a time when federal budget cuts are forcing operational changes.
“Letterkenny will continue to raise the bar for itself, proving that no matter what obstacles we face, there will be absolutely no depreciation to the value of Letterkenny,” said Col. Victor S. Hagan, the depot’s commander.
As military spending continues to be reduced, the work at Letterkenny Army Depot will remain exceptional, Hagan said at a ceremony for the prize.
“It is imperative that we continue to question how can we do better, how can we be faster and how can we do it for less,” he said.
Called the “Nobel Prize of manufacturing” by Business Week, the Shingo prize recognizes lean manufacturing concepts and companies that achieve world-class manufacturing status in the public and private sectors. The bronze medallion celebrated this week was awarded to the depot’s force provider program.
Modules developed by the force provider employees are a “city in a box” that provides living accommodations for up to 500 soldiers. A module can be set up on 10 acres of land in five to six days, and it provides all of the hygiene, lodging, laundry and field feeding facilities.
Letterkenny Army Depot is the sole source of the force provider program for the U.S. Army.
“It goes to show when labor and manufacturing work together, you can produce a high-quality product at an efficient cost,” U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., told the crowd, which included employees from the force provider program.
“We’re going to go through some tough times here. ... (Still), we’ve got to make sure we’re prepared for other hot spots in the world,” Shuster said.
State Sen. Richard Alloway II, R-Franklin/Adams/York, told the crowd he recently brought state officials to the depot for a tour and said he wants to help Shuster any way he can.
“Congratulations (on the medallion). I couldn’t be more proud of you,” he said.
Jon Molchan of Newburg, Pa., has worked in three different programs since starting employment at Letterkenny Army Depot six years ago. He said he likes that his role of packing containers in the force provider initiative helps soldiers in the field.
Co-worker Jeremy Fritz of Chambersburg echoed Molchan’s comments. He said he likes “knowing they have what they need” overseas.
The two employees said they remain unsure how budget cuts and furloughs will affect their team.
“We’re definitely on tiptoes, eggshells here,” Molchan said.
In an interview, Shuster said financial challenges at Letterkenny Army Depot are the same as those being felt nationwide.
“It’s challenging across America. Unfortunately, we’ve seen an overextension in Washington of our finances,” he said, saying the government needs to find efficiencies and reduce costs.
Fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq led to an “upsurge” in work at Letterkenny Army Depot, Shuster said.
“I’m certainly not going to advocate going to war to create jobs, but there’s plenty for us to do here (at Letterkenny) and we’ve got to be prepared,” he said, citing unrest in North Korea, Syria and Egypt.
Congress recently passed a continuing resolution that gave the U.S. Department of Defense more flexibility in deciding how its cuts will be made. Shuster said there still will be furloughs, although the continuing resolution will reduce them.
Depot spokeswoman Lindsay Bryant said officials anticipate receiving notices about furloughs in May. They now expect furloughs to be 14 days, not 22 days as initially thought.
Furloughs will affect virtually all employees, except those in the military, she said.