Marine Corps Logistics Base Bastow, Calif. --
An innovative Production Plant Barstow artisan saves the Marine Corps hundreds of thousands of dollars, and earns the coveted Beneficial Suggestion Award during a ceremony held at Production Plant Barstow, Marine Depot Maintenance Command, aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, June 30.
Robert Hartong, optical instrument repairer, has worked in optics for 39 years. Throughout his career, from Long Beach Naval Shipyard, to Seal Beach, to Production Plant Barstow, he has designed and implemented many modifications, improving processes and streamlining functionality.
“Bob is inventive on many things,” said James Ahlers, Electro-Optics and Communications supervisor. “This current mirror component is just one. He has done this throughout his career. I’ve worked with him for about 34 years, and he is always coming up with new ideas, suggestions and improvements.”
Although this is not Hartong’s first “BenSub Award,” it is his largest. It came with a giant check made out to the sum of $10,000.
“Just in time for my retirement,” Hartong said. “I’m honored.”
The current award is for a modification Hartong made to the mirror which sits on the optical bench, which mounts onto an M36 Dim Head within a Light Armored Vehicle-25.
“The mirrors are sometimes broken, and to replace the optical bench on which it sits, it costs $18,000, but since that component is no longer available, we had to purchase the next component up, which is the whole M36 Dim Head,” said Robert ‘Chip’ Schwartz, Industrial Plant manager, PPB, MDMC. “That Dim Head cost us $23,500 approximately. With this new fix that Bob created, we now spend just $200. That’s a tremendous amount of cost savings to the plant and to the Marine Corps as a whole.”
So, what is this Beneficial Suggestion?
“I’ve been resurfacing mirrors for many years, and there are basically two kinds that we use for this component now,” Hartong explained. “The original mirror is a First Surface Mirror, which means it’s on the forward side of the mirror. I clean that thoroughly, then top it with a Rear Surface Mirror. We use a special adhesive and then seal it. We actually practiced this with clear glass initially to check for any seal gaps, air pockets or other flaws and it went smoothly. So then we did it with the mirrors. It worked perfectly!”
Hartong and Ahlers took their first prototype and submitted it to a series of tests in an environmental chamber.
“We ran the temperatures up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, down to negative 40 degrees, to test the strength and endurance of the mirrors and the adhesive and seals,” Hartong said. “Those tests took about four days, and it was successful.”
Once they finished the initial environmental exposure tests, it was time for field testing. “We mounted the optical bench with the modified mirror, into an LAV-25 and sent it to 29 Palms,” he said.
At Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms, Marines ran the LAV-25 through its paces for a year.
“After a year of intense field testing, we checked the mirrors again, and they were functioning beautifully,” Hartong said. “By mounting the Rear Surfaced Mirror on top of the First Surface Mirror, we were able to create and effect that mimicked the original design, and creating no difference in how daylight reacts with the mirrors. There were no tangent changes, or angle issues at all. In essence, this fix doesn’t change anything in how it functions.”
The Production Plant had 18 of the optics benches on-hand, in need of repair.
“We have repaired nine of them, so far,” said Ahlers. “They’ve all performed perfectly. So now we’re looking to repair the next nine we have here at the plant.”
“With just the components we have on hand, the savings is already in the mid $400,000 range,” Schwartz said. “The saving to the Marine Corps is going to be immense over a period of time.”
“I’ve worked with Bob for nearly 34 years, starting in Long Beach,” said James Ahlers,. “When that shut down, I came here to the Production Plant and Bob went to Seal Beach for a bit, then he joined back up with me here. He’s not just inventive. His kindness and generosity are remarkable. He’s an all-around great guy. I’m so glad he’s being recognized today. He’s been doing this his whole career.”
Ahlers detailed another incident in which Hartong’s ingenious methods saved time and money.
“There’s actually a cannon plug on the back of the LAVs that’s exposed to weather,” Ahlers said. “It has little tiny screws and it’s very hard to work on. He took the time to figure out that once it’s fixed, he could wrap it with a special tape and seal it. Then when it comes in to be fixed, we cut the tape off and it comes off like a cap and there’s no corrosion or damage under the protective coating.”
Schwartz agreed. Hartong’s methods are nothing short of genius.
“It’s incredible to see the way that his mind works. He just has this enormous brain and he is very skilled,” Schwartz said.
“I like to call it ‘thinking outside of the book or the manual’,” Hartong said.
Marine Corps Logistics Command's Innovation Incentives Program is intended to reinvigorate and incentivize innovation and recognize those who contribute significantly to improving the Department of the Navy, United States Marine Corps, and Marine Corps Logistics Command.
Quality Management Center owns execution of the program for LOGCOM and Carla B. Johnson, QMC director, MARCORLOGCOM, serves as the Command's Innovation Officer and manages the program.
"This program cultivates a culture of continuous improvement by encouraging, recognizing, and rewarding ideas from MARCORLOGCOM personnel that improve operations and readiness," said Johnson.
“The program has changed some over recent years,” said Jonathan James, Supervisory Project Director, Business Support Branch with the QMC, MARCORLOGCOM. “It’s well deserved and I’m glad I could be here to present this check to Mr. Hartong.”
With his award, and oversized check in hand, Hartong is just one day away from retirement.
“I am processing out today, so the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I’m really grateful.”
This time next week, Hartong expects to be knee deep in home remodeling projects, and golfing, fishing and camping with his wife, Patty.