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AMTEC Less-Lethal Factory Tour

Written by Mickey Davis, Weiss, Jim

AMTEC Less-Lethal Systems, Inc., a leading manufacturer of less lethal munitions once located in Arkansas, is now part of a growing workforce in North Florida. The company recently moved its headquarters and entire manufacturing operations to Perry. This same location near Tallahassee also offers training in new, cutting-edge facilities located on 465 acres across the street from its manufacturing plant.

 

AMTEC Less-Lethal

AMTEC Less-Lethal Systems, Inc. (ALS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of AMTEC Corporation, a prime Department of Defense contractor for 40mm ammunition, components, and cartridge cases. Prior to the acquisition in 2011, ALS was a full-line manufacturer of less-lethal munitions offering aerosols, impact munitions (in 12-gauge, 37mm and 40mm), as well as chemical munitions and smoke canisters, diversionary devices and stun munitions, along with gas masks and 37mm and 40mm launchers. These munitions are now under the banner AMTEC Less-Lethal Systems, Inc.

ALS supplies TOP COP and CQB branded aerosol products ranging in size from handheld to larger tactical units for riot control, and chemical munitions from smokes to irritants that can be hand deployed, launched, or propelled. TOP COP is a nonflammable, 1.33-percent capsaicin spray, producing 2 million Scoville Heat Units. CQB utilizes the only currently approved DOD formulation, a 0.69 capsaicin element, non-flammable solution.

The list of less lethal products offered by ALS is long and includes 37MM and 40MM single-shot launchers produced by Lewis Machine and Tool, as well as several versions of Penn Arms multi-launchers. They also market Avon Personal Protective Equipment (gas masks) and accessories and other products used by law enforcement and military.

These partnerships allow ALS to live up to their tagline of being a “Full Service Provider of Tactical and Operational Equipment and Training.” ALS also works closely with International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) and the NRA concerning tactical training and equipment.

 

New ALS Plant Complex

The move to Florida involved a tremendous amount of planning, engineering, and construction to create the manufacturing plant, headquarters, and a top-notch training center for corrections, law enforcement, and military personnel. All of this had to take before a single item was relocated. Once complete, ALS had to coordinate the move while still servicing their existing customers. This meant building stock and planning ahead to allow for all of the equipment to be installed and new employees to be trained.

In addition to having a new state-of-the-art facility, some of the benefits for the company’s relocation were tax break incentives, land available for future expansion, and proximity to major transportation hubs, as well as a robust workforce. Those employees who were willing to relocate were invited to stay on. Many did.

The architecture and engineering input into the construction of this plant required careful consideration to environmental concerns, employee safety, and enhanced process flow. The workplace equipment and engineering controls were designed to maximize ergonomics for the employees to help increase productively and enhance safety.

The setup of the headquarters and plant is also designed to promote a team/family concept. Looking like a campus, the buildings are laid out to not only maximize the flow of products, but also its employees. An important consideration in the design and layout was that no matter the job function or position, that all employees remained “connected” to one another. For example, employees in shipping, those in less-lethal assembly lines, and executive staff members all eat at the same tables in a large common area or break room. There aren’t separate dining facilities for management.

 

Employee Involvement

New employees go through an ATF background submission and undergo job-specific training prior to being put on the line. Located along an assembly area entrance wall are posted the latest procedures—updated with relevant copy machine photos—for the employees at the various assembly line stations to review and familiarize themselves. These photos are visual reminders of items on the instruction sheets that are reviewed by the involved employees.

Employees are challenged and encouraged to come up with better ways to make product. Employee suggestions are reviewed by a program of processes and procedures and by the engineering staff. The suggestions are implemented if there aren’t any issues. These issues might include the fact that the idea had already been checked by the staff, or the problem that might work for one step of the assembly line process may not work out in the overall picture.

 

Plant and Assembly Lines

According to Dave DuBay, Chief Technology Officer, “The interior of each building begins with an assembly-line look, starting with raw materials and flowing to finished goods; there is automation where it can be done without removing visual inspection or sacrificing quality. The assembly-line processes include the marking of products with a UV silk screen procedure, which eliminates lengthy ink drying time. Every step of the way there is an inspection; it’s not just employees working on a machine and packing products in boxes.”

Part of the responsibility of every person on an assembly line is to check a list of criteria, so each and every product that comes down the assembly line is inspected. Once complete, approximately three out of 100 less-lethal products are tested. Procedures must meet certain standards. For example, Employee Number 31 must be sure the gunpowder meets their specifications. It’s quality control all along the way.

The plant and its assembly lines are “clean room” environments with contamination control throughout. By combining process and engineering controls, the work environment is optimized for worker safety and product flow. Other control components include humidity moisture regulation and static protection.

 

Tear Gas Pellets

Consequential-engineering technology involves the health and safety of employees. For example, the actual environmental contamination control systems in the rooms dealing with the making of tear gas pellets (about the size of clay skeet discs) allow them to later be manipulated by people, wearing only the necessary amount of PPE for protection against the chemical irritants. This means that once the irritant is pressed into pellets, handling them and placing them into finished products in much easier. The tear gas pellets, however, are made by employees protected during the process with chemical suits and respirators.

When the door to such a room is opened by a person not wearing a gas mask, only a slight irritant effect to the nose and eyes can be detected. The door has a foam panel on the inside; when the room is in operation, it collects the irritant dust, preventing it from escaping. Meanwhile, the less-lethal tear gas worker is suited up in chemically protective industrial clothing, gloves, and gas mask. The dust is filtered and captured by industrial air handling equipment that recycles the harvested tear gas dust before it escapes into the outside environment, and then returns it into the pellet-making processes.

Along the exterior walls of the rooms where the actual recycling machinery hums, there isn’t the slightest whiff of the irritants being processed back into the production process. In addition, there are individual showering and clothing changing stations for the employees, commonly referred to as decontamination stations. When utilized together in this fashion, it is described as a high-dollar environmental control system, with minimal impact on the environment and more importantly, the employees.

 

Blast Safety

In another building, systems are in place for the production of explosive products such as gunpowder-launched less-lethal projectiles and flash-bangs. In a mix room, work with such products is accomplished by an employee seated behind thick plastic windows located on the front and two sides of a box-like work station. The employee, using a buddy system, works form outside the box using protective glove inserts to manipulate the explosives mixtures inside.

The back wall of the work station box is also the interior/exterior wall of the building, built with a flash-up blowout panel. This means that if there is an accidental initiation, the blowout panel is forced away from the building wall, directing the blast out of the building and allowing the blast pressure to escape, protecting the employee. These blast shield hoods have all been tested, so the team members know what can be safely handled and in what quantity.

 

Inventory

In the largest building on the property sits the shipping warehouse. This is the gateway of the company, where raw materials come in and finished products leave, headed to customers all over the world. ALS has a fully certified and internally compliant shipping hub. The company must comply with DOT, BATF, Department of State, Department of Justice, as well as IATA regulations, just to name a few.

In the warehouse, orders are boxed for shipment. Large orders are on pallets. These orders can be as small as commodity items that are shipped on FedEx and UPS trucks, to larger international orders that are placed in shipping containers and transported by semi-trucks and then onto cargo ships or air carriers.

The warehouse can hold up to $55 million worth of finished product at any one time, along with raw material storage. Given the nature of how these products are used, this is the company’s commitment to providing product as quickly as possible, whenever it may be needed, once the State Department and the BATF have approved the sale.

AMTEC Less-Lethal Systems have been serving the law enforcement, military, and corrections communities since 1996, both domestically and abroad. As a full-service provider of tactical and operational equipment, ALS has continued to expand its product offering to meet the needs of its customers and increasing markets.

 

Jim Weiss is a retired lieutenant from the Brook Park, Ohio Police Department and a frequent contributor to Tactical Response. Mickey Davis is a California-based writer and author.


Published in Tactical Response, Mar/Apr 2014

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