Friday, April 8, 2016

Midshipmen's Capstone Project May Help Improve Munitions Production

Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) aim to help Navy Munitions Command Atlantic (NMCLANT) improve productivity with their math capstone project that they will present at the Flight Line of the Future competition May 2 in Suffolk, Virginia.

The four Midshipmen participating in the project have created a computer simulation written in the programming language Python, where they use real-world data from NMCLANT to dictate how the computer model is allowed to run.

With the simulator, the students can input different production limitation rules. For example, rocket pods cannot be built on days with lightning, and employees cannot work more than eight hours a day. By creating a simulation and manipulating such variables, they are able to get realistic data for decision makers to use.

“The Navy has decided to increase the emphasis on arming helicopters, and because of this, NMCLANT has to try to keep up with demand,” said Cmdr. Jay Foraker, associate chairman for USNA’s Math Department.

NMCLANT assembles the munitions for armed helicopter operations used at Naval Air Station Norfolk. The most labor intensive munitions to assemble are the rocket pods. To assemble these pods, a booster and warhead must be coupled and placed in a 19 millimeter rocket canister. While they are keeping up with current quotas, the Navy’s requirement for munitions is rapidly increasing.

According to Foraker, there are projected to be an average of 253 requested rocket pods per year over the next four years. The model shows that if no upgrades are made, about 27 percent of all requests will not be fulfilled each year.

“The command came to us before the system failed, to get out in front of the situation and find a solution before productivity limits actually become a problem,” said Midshipman 1st Class Joe Curtis.

According to Foraker, the munitions are currently being built outdoors. The research shows that the largest positive impact on production, in absence of a new facility, is using two days per month of weekend overtime to help fulfill orders.

With the current setup, the command will fail to process roughly 27 percent of all munition requests. However, if they are able procure funds to pay for weekend overtime, the failure rate drops to an average of 15 percent.

“I think the best way to describe what we are doing is to say that we provide the data that justifies making a change to the current process and the need for additional manpower and facilities,” said Midshipman 1st Class Jacob Hilliard.

The midshipmen participating in this research project have a unique opportunity to make a tangible impact on the fleet before they have even reached graduation.

“It’s so cool to be a part of something that actually matters,” said Curtis. “We are working on a real problem and helping real people to make the fleet operate more efficiently.”

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