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Pantex installs new high explosives equipment

Joel Ramos works with the lathe.

Big jobs are nothing new for the Projects Division at Pantex, and the award-winning installation of a new high explosives (HE) vertical turret lathe definitely qualifies as a big job, starting with the 10-ton weight of the machine itself.

Throw in the multi-ton blast wall that had to be craned out of the way, installation of all-new utilities and a greatly compressed timeline, and it becomes clear why completing the project on time and under budget earned a Project of the Year Award from the Amarillo chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI).

“There were things about this project that were tough, but it was a good project,” said Marvin Moreland, project manager. “Everybody knew it had to be done right and on time, so everybody pitched in to make it happen. It was a real team effort.”

Moreland and his 14-person-team joined with a crew of experts to bring in the $2.1 million project 50 days ahead of schedule and $145,000 under budget – a significant accomplishment given the critical need to install the project to meet increased production goals.

“They saved the day for us,” said Greg Lehnick, logistics section manager for HE Manufacturing. “There were a lot of obstacles to doing something like this, but they got it done, and that allowed us to meet the customer’s expectations.”

The massive lathe is nearly identical to several others in use at Pantex, but this particular piece of equipment had not been manufactured since the 1980s, when the other lathes were installed and the building was constructed around them. Getting a lathe into an existing bay required a 25-ton-crane, removal of a blast wall and a team of about a dozen lifting experts. Once the lathe was in the bay, all of the utilities and fire suppression systems had to be modernized.

The lathes are used to machine HE parts for use in weapon life extension programs at Pantex. The lathe’s massive size belies its sophistication, which allows it to machine parts to tolerances down to a thousandth of an inch. The entire process is so sensitive that the ambient temperature must be controlled to within a couple of degrees lest thermal expansion throw off the accuracy.

Moreland and his team members submitted their project to the newly-formed chapter of PMI in Amarillo, which chose it as Project of the Year. The real reward, however, comes in allowing Pantex to meet its production goals and accomplish its critical national security mission.

“Marvin and his team deserve congratulations for the hard work they put in to make this happen,” said Dennis Huddleston, manager of the Projects Division at Pantex. “Their success demonstrates the dedication all Pantexans have to getting the job done right.”

About the photos:

Joel Ramos, an engineering technician at Pantex, works with the lathe. The lathe is used to machine high explosives parts for use in weapon life extension programs at Pantex.