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Focus: HOPE's Mobile Parts Hospital: Ten Years of Increasing US Soldier--and Worker--Readiness

One of the most innovative new in-field technologies used by the US Army during its campaign in the Middle East was developed at Focus: HOPE, a nonprofit civil rights organization based in Detroit.

Focus: HOPE was founded in 1968 after the Detroit riots. Throughout the years, the organization has developed numerous programs in its efforts to overcome racism, poverty and injustice, including career education and training that have opened opportunities to nearly 12,000 graduates. Its Center for Advanced Technologies (CAT) gives students the opportunity to work in advanced manufacturing facilities. A&D-industry employers that have hired the organization’s engineering graduates include Boeing, the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA; Washington, DC), and Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM; Warren, MI).

The Mobile Parts Hospital (MPH), a portable manufacturing unit, has been onsite at as many as six separate battlefield locations at one time since 2003. The concept of the MPH was born out of the Army’s need to have some flexibility in its field manufacturing that would help increase soldier readiness by allowing for part repair or manufacturing onsite.

Focus: HOPE became involved in developing the MPH through a research and development contract with the US Army: Timothy Sullivan, director of manufacturing at Focus: HOPE, said students and staff currently are engaged in a similar research project on a mobile manufacturing unit for the US Navy.

For the Army unit, the Focus: HOPE team of engineers and engineering students took agile manufacturing tools and designed them to fit in a containerized unit measuring 8 × 8 × 20' (2.4 × 2.4 × 6 m). “One of the early requirements of the MPH was that it be mobile and containerized and our ability to design it as such was one reason that it was so popular,” said Focus: HOPE Process Engineer Kevin Green, who has been deployed to the Middle East 12 times since 2003 and recently returned from Afghanistan.
Focus: HOPE process engineer Kevin Green working in a module overseas.
In the field, a three-person crew comprised of an engineer, a technician and an administrator would rotate 12-hour shifts seven days a week at each MPH. During the MPH’s first deployment, it was used to remanufacture a part which was given the US Army’s award for one of the 10 greatest inventions of the year in 2004.

The value that the US Army placed on the MPH can be shown by its effectiveness, said Green. “We could repair or make parts in a few hours that otherwise would take days, weeks or even months” if a new part had to be made in the US and shipped to the Middle East.

The Mobile Parts Hospital was used to repair or design brand-new vehicle parts, duplicate or create weapons mounts, or repair or design specialized tools, Green said. It was staffed by Focus: HOPE professionals, government contractors, Army personnel and US DoD civilians. Offsite training was held at Focus: HOPE in Detroit.

Over the last decade, Focus: HOPE was able to make significant adaptations to better meet military needs, Green said. “In the field we increased capability by adding machine tools and manual-type machine tools. It became a retrofit from just a storage container into a small shop that housed accessories or secondary operations. It really was a one-stop shop.”

One MPH remains on the ground in Afghanistan and Green continues to support parts production from the Focus: HOPE campus. Once the US Army concludes its draw-down strategy in Afghanistan, the unit will return to the United States for storage.

The module being developed for the US Navy incorporates newer technologies that demonstrate the next generation of mobile manufacturing, said Sullivan. ✈

—Yearbook Editor Michael Anderson


This article was first published in the 2013 edition of the Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing Yearbook. 

Published Date : 12/10/2013

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