The Choreography of Kitting

woman who is visually impaired assembling a kit.

NIB and its associated nonprofit agencies are always on the lookout for new opportunities to create jobs for people who are blind. To grow opportunities for steady employment, some agencies are now providing kitting services to the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for the U.S. Armed Services. Kits of all shapes and sizes are needed for troops on the move, from basic first-aid kits to portable surgeries and more.

When leaders at LCI in Durham, North Carolina, decided to try their hand at kitting for the U.S. military, they knew they could make a valuable contribution, says DuWayne Gilbertson, vice president of business development.

“We knew that DLA’s kitting structure wasn’t satisfying the military’s needs,” explains Gilbertson, who says the agency also believed it could cut the time needed to develop and launch a new kit. The key was working closely with customers and vendors in a collaborative role.

Today, LCI provides custom kits with as few as 25 items and as many as 2,500 items. The King Kong of kits is the U.S. Navy Expeditionary Medical Facility Roll 2 Light Maneuver Equipment Set (R2LM), which is a mobile operating room used to support Special Operations Forces around the world. “The Navy had been using a kit adapted from a mobile operating room kit originally developed for the U.S. Air Force,” explains Gilbertson. “But a mobile operating room designed for land and air operations wasn’t going to work on Navy ships.”

LCI worked closely with the Navy, holding countless meetings with all stakeholders to design one with their specific needs in mind. Waterproof cases were a “must,” as were cases designed to fit through tight shipboard doorways and submarine spaces. Equally important was a snug fit for the tools and supplies inside the cases to keep them in place even when ships encounter rough weather at sea.

Gilbertson says once LCI understood stakeholders’ needs, it developed the custom product in less than six months.

The kit contains 472 unique items and 2,500 different pieces, with each piece fitted into a custom configuration within the cases to meet the functional requirements of expeditionary surgery. Assembling a kit takes 5-6 hours because the pieces must be placed precisely — in some cases, the ability to quickly grab the right instrument could be a matter of life or death. The full kit comes in 23 different cases that ship on eight pallets.

LCI also makes smaller trauma kits for Special Operations forces in Africa, three distinct medical kits for the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet, and a custom surgical kit for the U.S. Air Force that give medical personnel everything needed to care for a patient. Regardless of size or number of pieces, each kit is unique, requires careful planning and is made to exacting specifications so that medical personnel can effectively respond no matter the situation.

With the advent of COVID-19, the agency has stepped up to provide the Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command with Made to Order medical kits for a 150 bed expeditionary medical facility in support of the U.S.S. Roosevelt in Guam and 250 hospital bed kits in support of ASPR. In addition, LCI is serving as the supply chain manager for a contract supplying nearly 500,000 face masks to the U.S. Air Force. The masks are being produced by NIB associated agencies Blind Industries and Services of Maryland in Halethorpe, Md., Industries of the Blind in Greensboro, N.C., IFB Solutions in Winston-Salem, N.C, Alphapointe in Kansas City, Mo., and SourceAmerica agencies Southeastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries, Inc. (SEKRI) in Corbin, Ky. and Puerto Rico Industries for the Blind in Mayagüez, P.R.