Robins Air Force Base unveils new $67 million facility

Robotics to make work safer for employees, officials say

wcrenshaw@macon.comMarch 14, 2013 

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Base officials on Thursday unveiled a new $67 million building officials say will mark a significant improvement in both efficiency and worker safety.

The Advanced Metal Finishing Facility will house the Plating Shop, which uses an array of hazardous chemicals to put anti-corrosive finishes on aircraft parts.

The new building is much more automated, using robotics to move parts between vats of chemicals rather than workers doing it by hand.

“It allows us to make it safer for our workforce, safer for our environment and safer for our community,” Brig. Gen. Cedric George, Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex commander, said just before cutting the ribbon for the facility. “At the end of the day it allows us to effectively and efficiently support the fight.”

Thursday also marked the day the building officially was declared ready for occupation, but it will be months before work is done there, due to the complexity of the transition. The building isn’t expected to be operating at full capacity until sometime next year.

“It’s going to be an absolute marvel when this thing is up and operational,” George said.

Danny Bell, an electroplater in the shop, said he is looking forward to working in the new building.

“It’s going to be 100 percent better, safer and more modern,” he said.

In the new building, he said, workers won’t have to wear protective equipment nearly as often, and that will be a big benefit in hot weather.

The building also will allow the base to work on parts from the C-5 and C-17 that are too large for the current facility. Those parts are sent off base, and the work is done by a private contractor.

The Plating Shop is part of the 573rd Commodities Maintenance Squadron. Bob Reynolds, squadron director, said the shop currently uses a completely manual, outdated electroplating process.

“We are particularly excited about the safety features of this new facility,” he said. “Our team members will no longer be working over open tanks.”

The building also will have its own industrial waste treatment plant, which will treat wastewater from the facility’s operations, then recycle it back to use again. In the current shop, the wastewater goes to the base treatment plant, and that water eventually ends up in the Ocmulgee River.

Dozens of base leaders, workers and community leaders attended the ribbon cutting and were then given a tour of the building.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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