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News | Oct. 24, 2016

QAE delivers $146M of insight

By Thomas Perry DCMA Public Affairs

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Oct. 24, 2016 — In an ever-accelerating digital world, an engineering drawing originally crafted in 1973 that has undergone 14 generations of cloudy reproduction is as practical as including a VCR rear-entertainment package in a Tesla.

Many Defense Contract Management Agency technical specialists spend a portion of their time interpreting engineering drawings as part of product quality deficiency report, or PQDR, investigations. James Vaughn, a DCMA Indianapolis quality assurance engineer, is no different. He reviews both engineering and assembly drawings.

The quality of these documents can vary, however. Most drawings are clear, specific and legible, which is important as these documents are interpreted by many people. A lack of clarity can result in conflicting opinions and, in some cases, non-conformity.

Vaughn’s recent experience with the aforementioned disco-era drawing that involved an M88 Hercules Recovery Vehicle oil pump is one of those cases. His story involves many players, a few steps forward and a few steps back, but Vaughn’s dedication to warfighter support ultimately resulted in preventing $146 million worth of damage to M88 engines.

“Mr. Vaughn exercised DCMA’s core values of integrity, service and excellence, while delivering on the agency’s vision and mission statements by providing acquisition insight that matters to TACOM, the contractor, the Marine Corps’ maintenance depot in Barstow, California, and all operators and maintainers of the M88 Hercules Recovery Vehicle around the world,” said Tim Johnson, DCMA Indianapolis lead quality assurance specialist.

The crux of the issue began when the contractor interpreted the engineering and assembly drawings. Both suffered from diminished legibility, and the two documents differed on the oil pump housing’s design. The contractor presented items it believed were in accordance with requirements and the items were initially accepted as it was believed they were compliant to drawing specifications.

Aware of maintenance reports that showed oil pumps were not properly securing to M88 engines due to a protrusion on the pump housing, a Marine Corps quality assurance specialist at Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, California, issued two PQDRs for non-compliance.

After receiving the PQDRs, Vaughn teamed with James Skinner, a DCMA Indianapolis quality assurance specialist, to conduct a contractor visit to assess compliance.

Vaughn quickly identified the variations between the pump housing drawing and the pump assembly drawing. He conducted research to determine the correct configuration required for full oil-pump functionality. During his research, Vaughn realized the item drawing may not have depicted a feature but may actually displayed a radius dimension line. He communicated this to the item manager, who agreed all items manufactured under the contract specified in the PQDRs were non-conforming and would need to be returned. The contractor agreed to remove the feature at no cost, and the item manager indicated a clarification would be added to the technical data package, known as a TDP, in order to prevent non-conformity recurrence.

The PQDRs were closed and work began on removal of the feature from the oil pump housing. But the fix was short-lived. Only a few months later, a new contract was issued to the same contractor for the same pump, but the TDP did not reflect the promised clarifications.

The contractor contacted the buyer and asked if a revised TDP was available, but a review had been conducted and it was determined there was “no intent” for the surface to be flat. The review further explained that a detail view of the same drawing “merely gives the impression of a flat surface.”

Multiple emails and teleconferences between the Defense Logistics Agency and the contractor were conducted in an attempt to reach clarification and an equitable solution. At this point, the contractor was unsure on how to proceed and contacted Vaughn for more assistance.

“This is where the clarity and interpretation of the original drawings plays a vital role in warfighter support,” said Joe Lippert, DCMA Indianapolis Quality Assurance team lead. “When a document can be interpreted in multiple ways, someone who has the best intentions can provide unintentionally poor guidance and non-conformity can result.”

Vaughn revisited his original research and concluded his initial analysis was correct. This conclusion was communicated to TACOM, Defense Logistics Agency and DCMA personnel, along with a request for a government-only conference call to discuss the drawing ambiguity.

Hoping to build a solid response in support of his opinion, Vaughn contacted Vaughn Thomas, the quality assurance specialist in Barstow who filed the original PQDRs.

“Mr. Thomas’s insight and firsthand knowledge of the oil pump fitment proved invaluable in resolving the problem,” Vaughn said. “Mr. Thomas provided rather dramatic photographic evidence of what happens to an M88 engine when the oil pump fails. He also provided portions of the pertinent tech manual for the M88, which further detailed the need for removal of the feature in question, and attended the scheduled teleconference in support of my efforts to clarify the issue once and for all.”

During the conference call it was explained that it cost $586,897 to replace an M88 engine when an oil pump fails. Using that figure with the number of pumps under contract revealed a potential cost of $146 million.

With overwhelming evidence and testimony establishing the feature was not meant to be present on the oil pump, all agreed the drawing contained legibility issues and should be updated. Vaughn’s analysis was confirmed correct, and he was credited with saving the American taxpayer and DCMA’s customer $146 million in future costs.

DCMA Indianapolis Commander Army Lt. Col. Steve Adcock recently noted, “Lead Quality Assurance Specialist Tim Johnson said it best, 'Mr. Vaughn exhibited the value of integrity by being committed to high moral and ethical standards. He portrayed the value of service by working for the benefit of the nation and putting his professional responsibilities at the forefront. Mr. Vaughn proved his excellence by being committed to exceptional performance, even when other professionals did not immediately agree. Utilizing these core values resulted in a positive outcome, and delivered on our agency’s mission and vision, with the insight that mattered to the operators and maintainers of the M88 Hercules Recovery Vehicle.'”