Vice Chief of Staff visits Lake City Ammunition Plant

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Army.mil reports on Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli’s visit to the Army-owned (but ATK operated) Lake City Ammunition Plant …

And with that, the tour started first with the production lines of 7.62 mm and .50 caliber ammunition including its primer production.

“I’m kind of shock we have equipment from 1942,” Chiarelli said when shown an equipment faceplate from that year. “When do you get to a point where you need to replace that equipment?”

Chiarelli stood in shock that on a hot, humid day in mid-July plant employees did not work in air-conditioned spaces out on the production lines.

As the plant employees interacted with the machines in a beehive-like activity, Chiarelli said he understood the need for more modernization.

“What should my priorities be?” he asked while looking at Wyche. “When I look around I see a priority here. In 38 years of experience we have a problem (with outdated equipment and facility). This (mission) is absolutely critical for us.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with using old machinery. I expect every major ammunition manufacture uses ancient machinery in some capacity. The procedure for loading a .50 BMG case has not changed much in the past 90 years. On the other hand it sounds like employees work in sub-par conditions.

At the end of 2008 ATK was awarded a $50 million contract for modernization at the plant.

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Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Philip

    Why is no air conditioning sub-par?

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Philip, maybe I am just a spoilt office worker, but the General indicated that he thought conditions could improve.

  • Redchrome

    There’s lots of metal-stamping operations that have machinery nearly 100 years old. Fundamentally, the technology hasn’t changed that much. Safer & more efficient maybe, but otherwise really not much better.

    Maybe you care if you’re making match-grade ammo; but beyond that, good enough is good enough. :)

  • Yet another Steve

    Air conditioning could introduce some scary issues in a place like this though.

    Reducing the humidity increases the chance for static discharge. Then again I imagine while the workers are on the lines they have some sort of grounding tether to prevent this problem.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com Steve

      Yet, good point!

  • Mark

    My dad was a manager in the 7.62 building and my brother worked in primer mix production for about five years in the early ’80s when the plant was still run by Remington..right up to the Olin take over in ’85. I can remember how hard my dad worked and how much pride he had in producing the best quality ammunition for the armed forces. The machinery was original, but well maintained and was at the time the best that could be used..making everything from standard ball to match grade sniper rounds..I hear it’s still some of the best 5.56 you can get..

  • Raph84

    I’m not an expert, but I would think that the temperature and or humidity fluctuations in a non-climate controlled plant would effect the consistency and possibly even the reliability of the rounds. It may be to small of a difference to notice…but I would have to think there would be some impact

  • http://www.irradiatedcat.blogspot.com M Gallo

    “Modernization” needs to be lean implementation; the hardware is only supplemental to the process. Oh, and most production environments don’t have climate control to speak of; it kinda goes with the territory.

  • SpudGun

    Am I missing something here? Do posters on the Firearm Blog want bad working conditions for factory employees? Do they think that inefficent and outmoded production practices combined with antiquated machinery are good for business?

    How dare workers making ammunition for the war effort in the middle of July, in a hot factory with lots of machinery and physical activity, demand such luxuries as air conditioning?! Bah Humbug! Take away their lunch and toilet breaks say I (and ban Christmas while you’re at it!).

  • D

    if it aint broke, dont fix it

  • Tahoe

    Parts get replaced, as long as the machines run they should be fine. The AC issue does make me wonder; Lake City is only 40 miles from me, so I know what “hot and humid” means here, and I know I don’t load ammo in the summer in non-conditioned areas.

    I don’t know what effect, precisely, ambient conditions have on loading ammo; but I’d rather not have 40-degree-plus and 40%-plus-humidity changes from a batch made in summer vs. winter.

  • Alan

    Keep in mind the purported ammo shortages the last few years. Additional equipment equals more ammo for everybody!

    I am kind of worried for the guys working in those plants if there isn’t climate control, then it seems a bad sign for proper ventilation of all the wondrous products used in ammo making.

  • CV

    It always makes me giggle when people express shock about manufacturing plants not being climate controlled. It’s not that big a deal folks, I worked my way through school in a plant and you just get used to drinking a lot of water.

    Not everyone works in, or wants to work in, an office.

  • Lance

    I agree get those poor workers some AC the south is HOT and Muggy. BUT i don’t get his crying over older machinery. If it loads 5.56mm just as it loaded 3006 its just fine. I think the Army wants to spend money for moneys sake.

  • gunslinger

    i work in the automation industry, and there’s really 2 reasons to replace equipment. 1) it breaks and can’t be fixed and 2) newer equipment makes the process more efficient and makes more money for the company. As is with some machinery, the tech hasn’t improved enough to warrant new machines. yeah, the equipment could improve efficencty by 0.5%, but that would save $xx but the cost of the machine is thousands of time that, so the ROI would just not be there.

    and as to Philip, no AC can be sub-par if the working temps are dangerous without safeguards to employee health. I for one would not want to work 9-5 in a 120 degree room with no water/breaks. but that’s more of an OSHA thing than a manufacturing facility. As i’ve said, i work in automation. I spent a few years in the steel industry, and yes it’s hot in some of the processing areas, but there are A/C break rooms and restrooms and plenty of water fountains and such so… that’s not so bad.

  • Beaumont

    $50 million, huh? One wonders where it’s gone.

  • Martin

    The AC thing really gets me. I live in Missouri, and it’s not terribly hot but for a few months in summer. AC isn’t cost effective in a manufacturing facility here. In reality, heating is more important. Call me old, but I didn’t have AC as a child, not in my home, not in my car, not in my schools. I think the only places that were climate controlled were stores. Don’t get me wrong, I likes my AC, but going without it won’t kill anybody, myself included.

    AC is not synonymous with proper ventilation. In fact, most office buildings have worse air quality than manufacturing facilities.

    Yes, the machinery is old, but, like others have said, it’s still efficient. I still have some headstamped ammunition from the 40′s, I’m sure it still works just fine, too. Is it really outdated, or just old.

    One final thought, when I was younger, I always assumed Lake City was someplace like Utah. And I grew up in Missouri! Ahh, the pre-internet days.

  • jdun1911

    Alan,

    Lake City doesn’t produce ammo to civilians. Surplus Lake City ammo are available to the general public tho. Lake City is the only government own factory ammo plant and is contracted to be privately operated. Lake City is running at or near 100% capacity.

    Never been to Lake City but I’ll bet ventilation is probably why they don’t have AC or heat. They are dealing with a lot of toxic materials in there.

  • Sian

    Don’t knock the old equipment, a lot of it is as reliable as a hammer as long as you stay on top of it. It might be a little slow and a little noisy, but it’ll churn em out 24/7.

    No need to replace it unless:

    1: you get contracts that you are unable to fill at current production speeds
    2: the stuff breaks catastrophically

  • Philip

    I’m with Martin. I just think its kind of a double standard that people can do our yard work, build our building, pick up our trash, drill wells, run around Afghanistan with 150 lbs of gear, and so on. I’m grateful for my AC. But I don’t feel I’m entitled to it.

  • Ken

    Ya plants are hot.Period.Dunno if fans can be used in that environment seeing as how there is possible powder residue in the air.Personally Im for opening another plant. Cant hurt considering the wars going on. You can never have enough ammo. I would rather see a new plant than money thrown to the wind for needless spending (I wont elaborate)by the current administration.

  • TheAmdMAN

    “Maybe you care if you’re making match-grade ammo; but beyond that, good enough is good enough.”

    Well considering the absolute crap ammo I got from them recently, good enough isn’t good enough..

    I’m going to steer clear of there stuff for a little while..

    jdun1911,

    I’ve heard from many there has been no “surplus” due to the wars 2003+ from Lake City. Anything that gets handed down to the civis didn’t pass QC (hence why I got crap for ammo from LC).

    AmdMAN

  • Matt

    Facsism, how lovely.

  • Lance

    Jdun1911 mentioned that Lake City is the last Government ammuntion plant.

    In 1945 there where 4 that I know of 1, Lake City Arsenal 2, Denver Arsenal 3, St Louis Arsenal 4 Frankfort Arsenal.

    And Remington, Winchester where private makers of GI ammo.

    When WW2 ended only Denver was closed.

    We had enogh dureing Korea and Vietnam and much surplus in Desert Storm.

    BUT!

    Then after the cold war then Pres, Bill Clinton in his disarm the US mindview. Closed St Louis, Frankfort.

    Remington fearing law suits over surplus ammo stopped produceing Miitary ammo.

    So Lake City is our last Arsenal. Winchester and Federal (since the 1970s) are the two other private makers for the full time regular military.

    Im worry if we get into another war how much dose the ammunition prodution need to be streached before we relaize we need more Federal Arsenals to make ammo!

  • Alan

    @Martin “Don’t get me wrong, I likes my AC, but going without it won’t kill anybody, myself included.”

    actually….”During 1999–2003, a total of 3,442 deaths resulting from exposure to extreme heat were reported (annual mean: 688). For 2,239 (65%) of these deaths, the underlying cause of death was recorded as exposure to excessive heat…” http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5529a2.htm

  • Concerned_Soldier

    Steve,
    Great post, General Chiarelli was my division commander when I went to OIF II with the 1st Cavalry Division, Great Man.

    Thanks for the post,

    Take care,

    C_S

  • John

    Holy smokes! I would never have thought that this place was not climate controlled! That is absolutely unacceptable to me. The humidity and temprature changes must effect the powder! It really does sound like they should be more advanced. This is a vital aspect of the armed forces. Hopefully they will make the necessary changes.

  • AK™

    Doesn’t Black Hills manufacture ammo for the government?

    I’ve used a box or two of most brands(Rem White Box,LC Surplus,Black Hills,Federal,PMC) and never had any trouble. Next time I purchase some LC,I’ll write down the lot #..

  • Martin

    @ ALAN

    It’s nice that you cite the CDC for heat related fatalities, but the devil is in the details. These are ALL heat related deaths, including the very young, and the very old, working or not. In fact, they’ve only gone so far as to stratify the age into three segments, the middle being men aged 15-65. WOW.

    If you were going to be precise, you should have used OSHA data, since we’re talking about heat in the workplace. I did, and can find no instances of heat related fatalities (aside from actual FIRE!).

    You state that about 3000 people died from heat over a 4 year period, but in the same period, nearly 15000 people drowned. AC can make some jobs more productive and keeps workers comfortable and happy, but it’s not critical by any means.

    There’s three kinds of lies. Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

    Back on the subject of Lake City AAP, they can make 1.5 billion rounds a year (1000 rounds each for everyone in the US Military). There is no ammunition shortage. Units that complain of a lack of ammo are not in an operational theater, where they are constrained by local unit budgets.

  • Lance

    Ak they only make Match ammmo for the military not combat rounds.

  • AK™

    @Lance
    Thanks for the info.
    I see those ads in the gun magazines advertising Black Hills all the time.

  • jdun1911

    Black Hills does manufacture match ammo for the US military.