Y-12 Blog

Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2022 - 10:46am

This team helps improve how weapons parts are machined.
This team helps improve how weapons parts are machined.

In racing, a pit crew works fast to get a car back on the track. At Y-12, a group called the PIT Crew has helped speed up production of a weapon part and lowered costs.

The crew consists of machinists who are developing process improvements that reduce time to manufacture components.

The team is a first of its kind at Y-12 that specifically focuses on weapons production. They are production personnel on the floor who perform this work daily. Someone from the outside wouldn’t have the expertise and understanding that they do. The group said there is a better way.
The change not only increases production, but also facilitates more time and attention focused on other projects.

The improvement updated two machining setups. One setup positions and drills depth holes on one side of the part. Previously, this was done by a jig-bore machine and used a clamp to stabilize the part. Unfortunately, the clamp sometimes damaged the part if it was overtightened. Three hand-placed inserts (cutting tools) were used to center drill, drill length, and end mill the part’s bottom. Then, the part was removed and deburred (smoothed rough edges) by hand. The process took 35 minutes per part.

The other setup cuts the profile, then positions and drills the through-holes on the other side of the part. This was done by a K&T 5 axis mill, which is an older and sometimes unreliable machine. Because of its age, it was often difficult to find replacement parts. The equipment used six machining inserts, also placed by hand. Four hours were needed per part.

A machinist works at the Haas TM1 milling machine
A machinist works at the Haas TM1 milling machine, where two setups were moved to speed up production of a weapon part.

Both setups were moved to the Haas TM1, which is a vertical computer numerical control (CNC) mill, which means the milling machine is moved and monitored by CNC rather than by hand. The mill has a tool changer, which is also a game changer, saving time and alleviating frustration.

The first setup now employs a vacuum fixture to hold the part in place, eliminating the possibility of damage from the clamp. Also, a deburring tool was added, eliminating manual finishing.

In addition, both setups share inserts, which reduces the number of inserts that have to be changed.

The move decreased machining time for the first setup from 35 minutes to three minutes per part, and from four hours to 20 minutes per part for the other setup. That equates to a 90% increase in productivity.

In addition to increased productivity, the improvement allows machines to be used for additional projects and removes time consuming bottlenecks. Another benefit of the change is that floor movement and material travel are reduced. Before, the machines used were sprinkled throughout the shop. Now, the Haas mill is across the aisle from the work station for a setup that occurs adjacent to both of the improved setups. This placement results in less movement and decreased tool handling, which minimizes injuries from sharp tools, tool setup errors, and tool damage. It also lowers man hours needed for the work.

Overall, the input from the PIT Crew is invaluable. The machinists know their opinions matter, and the changes make their lives easier.

Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2022 - 10:38am

Senior Director of Communications Jason Bohne explains facets of the Y-12 mission
Senior Director of Communications Jason Bohne explains facets of the Y-12 mission during a site tour for new summer interns.

The CNS summer interns have arrived to begin learning and working in organizations across Pantex and Y-12. A total of 52 interns, 35 at Y-12 and 17 at Pantex, began their summer with an orientation. Cristy Landrum, who coordinates the internship program at Y-12, said the interns represent 20 universities and 11 states, ranging from Florida to New Mexico. Of course, most hail from Texas and Tennessee, 18 and 25, respectively.

Chief Human Resources Officer Diane Grooms told the Y-12 interns that they should feel proud to have been selected from among 1,000 applicants. The internship program is integral to CNS’s recruitment efforts.

“The goal here is to see how you do,” Grooms said. “If you like us and we like you, we hope to hire you one day.”

Grooms asked the group, who got up at 4 a.m. that day, to get ready for the start of orientation at 6 a.m.

Alexander, a junior studying nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee, raised his hand, saying he plans for the worst and needed a coffee, which drew a laugh from the group. At 28, he already holds a degree in political science from the University of Michigan, but wants to focus on nonproliferation.

“Policy and history are interesting, but this is more of a hands-on experience,” Alexander said.

Joshua, a senior studying finance and management at West Texas A&M University, is joining Pantex’s Operations Support in Project Controls. He said his duties align closely to his studies, thanks to careful matching by his Pantex internship coordinator Zuleyma Carruba-Rogel.

“Executing the internship program requires yearlong coordination efforts, which all come together when those students take their first seat at New Employee Orientation,” she said. “Their enthusiasm, inquisitiveness, and eagerness to learn is infectious.”

Joshua said he has worked several unrelated jobs to help pay for college and is happy his internship role mirrors his studies.

“I’m most excited about gaining an entirely new, professional skill set,” Johsua said.

Riley will be a senior at the University of Tennessee studying business analytics. Her father also works at Y-12. Her internship in Occupational Health Services might not seem like a good match. However, OHS's Gary Hall and Karen Lacey jumped on the chance to have Riley analyze CNS's COVID-19 database to study now the sites dealt with the pandemic. While making sure Riley’s experience is enriching, Hall said a secondary goal of the program is producing value for the organizations.

“I’m really looking forward to getting into the data and being able to showcase how well OHS has been handling Y-12’s employees’ safety during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

Posted: Monday, June 20, 2022 - 8:54am

Mike Ellis and Elijah Barlow discuss a process being investigated
Mike Ellis (right), a 20-year Y-12 employee, is the new program manager for Y-12’s Plant Directed Research and Development program and is acting in the same role at Pantex. Ellis and Elijah Barlow (left) discuss a process being investigated for use with Y-12’s lithium stream.

It’s not easy to replace someone who retires from Pantex or Y-12 and takes with them multiple years of knowledge, but retirements happen and Consolidated Nuclear Security invests significant time and energy in Knowledge Preservation Management. Since February, two long-time leaders have retired from the Plant Directed Research and Development (PDRD) program, taking almost 80 years of combined history with them. Y-12’s Eric Larson retired in February, and Pantex’s Gregg Chambliss retired in May, but the future remains bright for PDRD.

Mike Ellis is the new Y-12 PDRD program manager and is acting in the same role at Pantex until Chambliss’ replacement is named. “I am fortunate to know Eric and Gregg as colleagues and friends,” Ellis said. “I had the opportunity to talk to Eric about the program, what was ahead, and our current portfolio (that includes 102 projects across both sites). I also have talked with and learned from Gregg. It was good to have that opportunity.”

Pantex’s Gregg Chambliss.
Pantex’s Gregg Chambliss is now a retiree, but he has great expectations for the Pantex and Y 12 Plant Directed Research Program he leaves behind.

Chambliss, who had been the Pantex PDRD program manager since 2013, was happy to share his wisdom with Ellis, and has great expectations for the team. “Through PDRD, Pantex has been able to develop and replace obsolescent technologies that in some cases had gone far beyond the original life expectancy. It has been exciting to see numerous inventions submitted by Pantexans. Many of these have moved toward the possibility of becoming intellectual property or patents.”

Marina Yeary, director of Technology Development and Transfer, the organization under which PDRD falls, said, “PDRD develops technology solutions through research and development to meet current and future mission needs. The program provides a unique avenue to explore innovative scientific, engineering, and manufacturing ideas identified by site stakeholders — our employees.”

The impact of PDRD

PDRD touches many organizations and areas at the sites, including external partnerships. Grant Allard, program manager of Partnerships, said, “University and industrial partners are important resources for Pantex and Y-12 PDRD projects because they bring new ideas, novel resources, and world class expertise in supporting PDRD's mission of ensuring the sites’ technological and workforce vitality. Our higher education partners positively impact our vital national security mission by providing support to PDRD projects that cover every aspect of our sites, including how we process material streams that support operations, transform and maintain our infrastructure, enhance our global security and nonproliferation capabilities, and digitally transform to enable data driven operations.”

One such development Chambliss saw during his tenure was the Computer Numerical Control/Controller Mill Lathe Machining Center.

“This new machine was designed by Pantexan Jeff Yokum,” Chambliss explained. “He worked with the vendor to finalize the ‘build.’ This new capability revolutionized the way we machine high explosive billets, as well as minimized the footprint for this machine.”

The CNC replaced several different machines that do the same tasks, but it operates in a safer manner. Chambliss said, “It minimizes the technician’s handling of the product, and the machine also solved a production bottleneck within the machining workload for the High Explosives Manufacturing organization.”

One Y-12 example Ellis shared is the electrorefining technology that was introduced with thePDRD program in 2008.

“The Development organization has great researchers at both sites who work closely with the PDRD team and executing organizations. Communicating and understanding upcoming needs are top concerns, so we work to hire the right people for what we need,” Ellis said.

Y 12’s Eric Larson .
Y-12’s Eric Larson retired in February and Mike Ellis took the role of PDRD program manager.

Yeary said, “PDRD enables CNS to maintain an environment of robust technology and innovation that not only significantly improves the effectiveness and efficiency of our mission, but also attracts engineering and scientific talent necessary to ensure a future workforce capable of the unique expertise required by the mission.”

Ellis said, “We require very specific skillsets, and want to leverage the program to retain and grow our employees. PDRD provides employees an exciting opportunity and allows them to work on cutting edge technologies and ideas.”

Jennifer Palmer, Technology Transfer program manager, said, “Pantex and Y-12 have demonstrated the transformational nature of PDRD by delivering real world solutions already proven in the production environment. From implementing and scaling up next generation manufacturing systems, through the integration of robotics, automation, controls, and machine tools, the results can provide critical cost effective solutions and enable subsequent technology commercialization and adoption.”

“It’s been great to learn from Eric and Gregg,” Ellis said. “They were great mentors for me, and we have an amazing team in PDRD — that can’t be stated enough. I’m excited about the growth we’ve had for the past several years and the planned growth from now through 2028. I’m enthused to be able to participate and be an advocate for both Pantex and Y-12. We’re seeing impressive things with more great days ahead for PDRD.”

Posted: Monday, June 20, 2022 - 8:36am

Y-12 employees participate in hands on training
Y-12 employees participate in hands on training at the new salvage yard as part of Sustainability and Stewardship’s expanded program.

Training courses completed on the computer are often necessary, but nothing is better than getting employees into the field for actual hands on learning sessions. The Sustainability and Stewardship program had this in mind when they expanded their training and created an area in the new salvage yard to be used as a mock training space to supplement current classroom and online training courses.

“This training allows the program to be successful,” explained Donna Cozart, generator services supervisor for Sustainability and Stewardship. “The hands on approach is beneficial due to being interactive and engaging, and potential issues can be worked through at the time. It promotes confidence in the ability to perform the job successfully.”

The Sustainability and Stewardship organization establishes and maintains company wide programs and services to support environmental sustainability operations. The organization supports compliance in the plant by managing universal waste and improves the environment by reducing and diverting waste that is still generated to a recycle or reuse outlet where possible. The program also implements stewardship practices, which are the programs that take care of legacy issues and assist in preventing the formation of additional problematic areas.

In an effort to improve compliance, safety knowledge, and processes for sustainable material disposition, the salvage yard training space was born. The space is located in the original salvage yard, which is used to process materials and store low level waste. When the Sustainability and Stewardship organization realized they needed a space for trainees to get their hands dirty, they worked for months to plan, schedule, develop the training modules, and execute the new mock training within the current yard.

“Developing these modules will ultimately assist our personnel in improving their knowledge, which will in turn assist the plant in improving environmental compliance,” explained Jan Jackson, Sustainability and Stewardship manager.

The Sustainability and Stewardship program handles more than one million pounds of material, on average, each month in a variety of ways. So adding additional training preparation and execution was not taken lightly.

“The hands on training is a big time commitment,” said Jackson. “But the experience employees gain by handling material is well worth it. It also helps to strengthen our team, and supports our continuous improvement efforts and sustainability/resiliency goals.”

Y-12 employees participate in hands on training
Y-12 employees participate in hands on training at the new salvage yard.

Posted: Monday, June 6, 2022 - 7:52am

Pantexan Maria Holt
Pantexan Maria Holt was the first intern-to-employee in the SkillBridge intern program, a partnership of the Department of Defense and CNS. After 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, Holt now works at Pantex in Environmental Compliance.

More than two years ago, Pantex and Y-12 began a partnership with the Department of Defense SkillBridge internship program to help service members transition to civilian employment by spending their final six months of active duty as interns. SkillBridge interns complete a specialized training program that fits their background and career goals, as well as the partnering organization’s goals.

Since March 2020, Pantex and Y-12 have hosted 31 SkillBridge interns, and 25 of them have transitioned to full-time employment. Another 11 are currently completing internships, with nine more scheduled to begin interning soon.

Emily Graber, director of Engagement, Inclusion, and Performance, is the program manager for CNS's SkillBridge. She said partnering with DOD on the program builds the sites’ capabilities. CNS can tap into a talent pool of transitioning service members to recruit not just interns but employees who understand the foundation of CNS imperatives and values.

“The program is a wonderful opportunity for service members to easily transition into a new norm of life after their commitment to our nation during their time with DOD,” Graber said. “It is an honor to see the success of our partnership with DOD and each and every SkillBridge intern as they continue their service to our nation in a slightly different capacity.”

Maria Holt at Pantex was the first SkillBridge intern to transition to full-time employment through the CNS program. She retired from the U.S. Air Force in August 2020 after 20 years of service in bioenvironmental engineering. By then, she had already completed her internship and was hired by Pantex Environmental Compliance as an environmental science specialist.

The goal of SkillBridge is to ensure that service members have employment set up well in advance of their military departure. Holt said her transition process began two years before she left the military. She selected Pantex for its proximity to her hometown of Dumas, Texas, where her husband is a police officer, as well as for its patriotic mission.

“It’s been a good transition,” Holt said. “DOD and DOE are similar in how they manage, so I still apply the ideals of teamwork and completed staff work. I just don’t have to wear a uniform anymore.”

After spending 29 years in the U.S. Army, Jay Aspray is now the recruiter for all SkillBridge interns at Pantex and Y-12. Aspray said he was able to quickly align his vast military experience to the Y-12 mission.

“The benefits of the program are significant in that it allowed me to be fully operational by the time my internship was complete, so I could immediately begin providing Y-12 with meaningful and impactful work once I was hired full time,” he said.

John Toliver III spent 14 years in the U.S. Army before deciding to take another path, becoming one of the first three SkillBridge interns. He is now the program manager for U.S. Special Operations and Interagency Partnerships. He said learning the language and culture of Y-12 reminds him of learning to speak Arabic to better understand the culture of his partner forces.

“Learning the language and culture of the NSE, CNS, and Y-12 is priceless as I join this dynamic team,” Toliver said. “The internship helped me determine that CNS was a right fit for me and my family and that I was a right fit for CNS.”