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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee and Camel Manufacturing, a tent-making company in Campbell County, Tenn., have teamed up to help the U.S. military solve a big problem: getting tents to soldiers as quickly as they need them.

In January, UT-s Institute for Public Service, in partnership with Camel, began working with 14 different manufacturers, universities and engineering firms to develop individual projects for improving the manufacture and delivery of military tents. The Department of Defense will award grants totaling $1.5 million per year through 2012 to fund selected projects.

Camel has been manufacturing tents for the U.S. military for 86 years. Of the six companies that provide the military with tents, Camel has been doing it the longest and now makes about 43 percent of the tents.

-One of the main benefits of these projects will be to retain the livelihood of Camel-s employees. They are dedicated to producing tents in support of U.S. war fighters. These projects will help control the cyclical nature of making tents,- said Bill Wiley, project manager for the Center for Industrial Services- Manufacturing Research and Development Institute. CIS is part of the Institute for Public Service.

During wartime, the U.S. military uses, on average, about 190,404 tents per year. During peacetime, the number drops to about 55,000 tents per year, and tent-makers often find themselves needing to lay off workers, Wiley said.

As part of its project, CIS will help Camel find a way to keep its manufacturing operations running steadily year-round, he said.

CIS also will help Camel assess their 300-plus suppliers to find ways to get tent-making supplies faster. Now, it takes about 240 days to make a tent, largely because of the time it takes to get raw materials, Wiley said.

Finally, CIS will help Camel find ways to get finished tents distributed more quickly. Although it takes only about a week for a finished tent to reach soldiers on U.S. soil, it can take up to six weeks to get tents to soldiers overseas, Wiley said.

UT has received $15,000 from the Department of Defense to work with Camel on the planning phase of this project.

UT-s College of Business Administration, through its Center for Executive Education, will lend its expertise in supply chain dynamics to this project, Wiley said. Other UT departments also may be added to the project.

Bill Wiley, Institute for Public Service, (865) 974-8464, wwiley@utk.edu
Amy Blakely, media relations, (865) 974-5034, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu