DLA Distribution hosts Initial Robotics and Automation Collaboration Meeting between DLA HQ Research and Development, DLA Distribution, industry and academia counterparts

By Diana Dawa DLA Distribution Public Affairs

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DLA Distribution held a first of its kind collaborative meeting between Distribution, DLA Headquarters Research and Development, and academia partners to discuss ideas and potential opportunities in support of DLA Distribution’s Modernization Program.

The “Initial Robotics and Automation Collaboration Meeting” took place in Building 2001, Eastern Distribution Center, New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, with academia partners providing brief presentations – sharing overviews of their respective programs and processes.

The purpose of the meeting was to learn about academia capabilities for government research and collaboration, receive a tour of the Eastern Distribution Center and generate ideas with the DLA R&D program for potential robotics and automation research projects in support of the Distribution Modernization Program.

Briefings presented included DLA R&D: Strategic Distribution and Disposition Program; Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute; Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory; Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory; and Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory. Each brief allowed for an informal discussion flow where questions and answers were provided as the briefings took place.  A brief on the Eastern Distribution Center modernization study was provided after a tour of the Eastern Distribution Center. 

Dr. Byron C. Clayton is the CEO for Advanced Robotics Manufacturing, a public-private partnership funded by the Department of Defense.  They have over 160 members, of which most of those are with industry. 

“We are more on the applied research side, further down the chain and closer to production,” said Clayton. “We’re here because we obviously focus on robotics, and logistics requires different types of automation.” 

During the EDC tour, Clayton observed there are some unique challenges here that are not present in industry logistics applications. “But, the other thing that strikes me is that a lot of the things that are going on here are similar (to those applications). I think a lot of this has been solved with technology that’s already out there, so part of the issues here can be solved with existing proven technology,” said Clayton.

He also offered a potential idea.

“It really needs to be looked at as an entire system.  Perhaps some kind of simulation project to simulate this whole thing, and really get a handle on where the bottlenecks – do some experimentation in terms of, if we change this, how does that affect the entire system? Now that’s a whole big project in itself but, off the top of my head, that would be a great place to start.”

“Logistics is extremely important to the military effort, and if you can’t get supplies to people – I don’t care what kind of systems you have, how many people, and how well trained they are – if you don’t get supplies to them, they’re worthless, so this is a critical area of our national defense and we need to address it,” said Clayton

According to DLA Distribution J4BT Management Analyst, Nancy Bates, this is a collaboration with the DLA J68 research and development team.

“This is the first time we’ve included academia in a collaborative effort such as this,” said Bates, adding, “We learned a lot during the presentations that we had this morning.  Manny Casas, program manager, DLA J68, asked to come up and have a tour and also expressed it was important that each one of the research laboratories give us a flavor of the work that they do and how they operate.”

“I believe that what we are going to do is blend this R&D effort in with our already existing modernization program, and that it will enhance the efforts that are currently in place,” said Bates.