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Making SPARKs: Anniston fabricates mine rollers

April 26, 2012

By Mrs Jennifer Bacchus (AMC)

ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- Anniston Army Depot has long been known for its work on heavy tracked vehicles, but one of the installation's latest programs involves some heavy wheels.

Each of the two arms on the Self-Protective Adaptive Roller Kit, better known as SPARK, which is manufactured and assembled here, weighs about a ton.

That weight is necessary, as each six-wheeled arm attaches to mine detecting vehicles for mine clearance missions.

Ricky Bentley, branch chief for the Fabrication and Master Scheduling Division within the Directorate of Production Management, said the depot is tasked with replacing the Army's stock of existing mine roller systems with SPARKs, an upgraded version of the current system, intended to better handle the terrain challenges it may face.

The depot is fabricating most of the rollers' components, including the frame and arms used to hold the wheels.

"Every part of the SPARK, except the tires and shocks, is fabricated here at ANAD," said Bentley.

And they're being produced as quickly as parts and material can arrive.

The depot received funding for the program March 23. The next day, depot employees began constructing the dies and fixtures needed to assist with fabrication, machining and welding the SPARKs.

"We immediately began to use available metal in the steel yard to build dies to shape the material for the rollers," said Bentley.

The process of working with vendors on such a tight time table has been a learning process for Pamela Laymon, a program planner and buyer for the depot's Directorate of Material Management.

"We have had to work on our feet and work quickly because this program has such a short suspense," said Laymon.

Throughout the process, though, one aspect has led the decision process -- quality.

"This is the first time we are building mine rollers, so we want to be sure we do it correctly and with high quality from the beginning," said John Cooley, production controller for the Fabrication and Master Scheduling Division.

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