US Army Selects Eckhart to Improve M109 Self-Propelled Howitzer Loading Automation
US Army Selects Eckhart to Improve M109 Self-Propelled Howitzer Loading Automation

US Army Selects Eckhart to Improve M109 Self-Propelled Howitzer Loading Automation

The U.S. Army has selected Eckhart to design and build automation to increase the rate of fire for Self-Propelled Howitzers. By way of the SPARTN Fire Faster program, the U.S. Army Applications Laboratory managed a competitive process in which hundreds of potential industry partners were evaluated before selecting and funding five companies to lead the artillery loading modernization effort. Eckhart is proud to formally announce this new relationship with the U.S. Army and to embrace the mission to improve the safety and efficiency of U.S. soldiers. Handling and loading artillery is substantially similar today as it has been for the last hundred years. Soldiers working in cramped confines are tasked with completing precision movement of projectiles up to 50lbs with no mechanical assistance. Fatigue and musculoskeletal injuries are common. The U.S. Army recognized an opportunity to find solutions at use in the private sector and specifically in manufacturing environments to improve the situation.

Chris Sankovich of the Army Applications Lab in Austin, Texas, explains, “The opportunity to improve soldier safety and efficiency within the Self-Propelled Howitzer is a challenge that we felt is best addressed by identifying and selecting qualified industry partners. Our role is then to help take industry best practices and work with our cohort companies for timely and successful incorporation to the U.S. Army’s Howitzer systems.”

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U.S. Army Soldiers with Battery C, 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Task Force Al Taqaddum, reload an M109A6 Paladin howitzer during a fire mission at Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, June 27, 2016.
U.S. Army Soldiers with Battery C, 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Task Force Al Taqaddum, reload an M109A6 Paladin howitzer during a fire mission at Al Taqaddum Air Base, Iraq, June 27, 2016. The strikes were conducted in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation aimed at eliminating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Iraq further limits the group’s ability to project terror and conduct operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert/ Released)

Travis Turner, General Manager of Eckhart’s Davenport Operations, explains, “In the Fortune 500 manufacturing environment that we have operated in for over six decades, there is an intense focus on optimizing the safety, ergonomics, and efficiency of technicians who perform assembly tasks each day. The Eckhart team has deep expertise working within tight ergonomic windows where thresholds define the maximum weights that can be lifted before mechanical assistance or a robotic alternative is required. We’re excited to be part of such an innovative program that affords us an opportunity to bring disruptive technology to the U.S. Army. All stakeholders involved are committed to reshaping how industry works with the Army and reuniting American innovation and national security through the joint-partnership of our collective team.”

Eckhart sees many similarities between soldiers loading artillery and the lift & load work that is performed by their industrial customers every day on American manufacturing lines. Eckhart’s expertise solving operator safety and ergonomic challenges on manufacturing assembly lines provides a great starting point from which to help the U.S. Army deploy mature technology and automation to help our nation’s soldiers. For over 60 years and based in Warren, Michigan, Eckhart designs, builds, and sustains advanced industrial solutions that enhance the quality of life.

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