Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Shelf-Life Surveillance: Extension Testing of Chemical-Biological Defense Equipment and Components at ECBC

Engineers of Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) perform essential roles to manage the testing and shelf-life extension for the vast quantities of Chemical Biological Defense (CBD) equipment in the Department of Defense (DoD) inventory. ECBC surveillance and commodity engineers help to ensure that the management of testing and shelf-life extension of CBD equipment is performed in the most effective and timely manner.

A key center of shelf-life surveillance activities is the ECBC Shelf-Life Surveillance Office in Rock Island, led by Mr. Hung Pham. In his role as the Shelf-Life Engineer for the Engineering Directorate, Mr. Pham provides guidance and support for CBD shelf-life surveillance issues affecting DoD organizations. Ms. Nicki Freeze, another member of the office, serves as a senior surveillance engineer. She coordinates and performs a wide range of functions for surveillance of all shelf-life CBD equipment.

“All CBD equipment has a shelf-life designation code that specifies how the equipment will be managed in the supply systems throughout their life cycle,” Pham said. “Most CBD equipment is coded as having an extendable shelf-life, which requires testing at set time intervals to assure that the equipment are still in issuable or usable condition.”

The Shelf-Life Surveillance Office provides support to the JPEO-CBD Joint Acquisition CBRN Knowledge System (JACKS) Shelf-Life Status Tool (SLST) to ensure that the Warfighter can find the most accurate and up-to-date information on the shelf-life of their CBD equipment. Additionally, the office performs projects and special studies that address shelf-life surveillance issues.

Successful shelf-life surveillance requires the collaboration between the Joint Project Manager Offices, ECBC, TACOM LCMC, and JEAP throughout the product life cycle. This collaboration ensures that a Joint Service perspective is considered when recommending policies and establishing processes for surveillance and cyclical testing.

“A systematic approach is critical in shelf-life surveillance because of the wide impacts on the Warfighter and users of CBD equipment and assures that we make the best decisions in times of budget constraints,” Freeze said. Freeze works closely with ECBC commodity engineers and TACOM surveillance personnel to plan and implement shelf-life testing to extend the shelf-life of hundreds of production lots for A12-managed CBD equipment.

When a CBD production lot is close to or has reached the expiration date, it is evaluated for possible shelf-life extension. If the decision is to test the lot, test samples are collected and sent to a certified lab that will perform testing on the items. The ECBC commodity engineers will analyze the test results and provide a technical decision on the shelf-life extension of the particular lot.
The technical decision will be coordinated with TACOM prior to becoming finalized and disseminated to the CBRN community.

The shelf-life extension decisions are communicated to the field via worldwide Supply Advisory Messages (SAM). These SAMs are posted to JACKS on the “Publications” page and are linked to the particular equipment lots. The JACKS-Shelf Life Status Tool contains the current lot expiration dates for almost all CBD items.

Production lot tracking is a major component of surveillance. Production lot information is needed for shelf-life management of the equipment and to support future shelf-life surveillance efforts.

“Production lot tracking presents a huge challenge for us as there are many different commodity teams that have many production contracts in place at any given time, and there is no centralized system where this information is maintained,” Freeze said. “We test approximately 200-300 lots per year, and the test schedule is based on what we know to have been produced three, five or seven years ago. If we don’t know a lot was produced, that lack of visibility will cause the lot to not be tested.”

Lack of production lot visibility could result in premature disposal of CBD equipment in the field.

A module has been created in JACKS, called the Production Lot Data Registry (PLDR) system. This system will be used to document the creation of new CBD production lots.

“PLDR helps us streamline the process; it provides a centralized repository for all CBD items regardless of commodity team for lot acceptance data, and special notes about the products and shelf-life limiting components,” Freeze said. “The PLDR system is not yet widely known, but we are actively promoting its use by the acquisition community.”

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