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NEWS | Dec. 20, 2019

NNSY T&I Lab Partners with NCMS to Bring Standup Abrading Machine to the Deckplate

By Kristi Britt, Norfolk Naval Shipyard Public Affairs Specialist

The Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) Technology and Innovation (T&I) Lab collaborated with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) to bring innovative technologies straight to the deck plate.

“The NCMS partnership program is a two-way innovative collaboration where they take the needs of our team and seek out tools that would best fit those needs,” said Technology Insertion Manager Dale Berkley. “We work together to bring corporations onboard to provide technology demonstrations of their tools. In response, our workers test out the equipment and provide their feedback of how the tools work and any changes they would make to best fit their needs. The corporations can then make adjustments to their tools based on that feedback to make them better for their intended jobs.”

As the first demonstration in the program, Temple Allen Industries was brought onboard the USS McKee (AS-41) to test out its line of surface preparation tools, including a deck crawler and sander.

“At the shipyard, we use a handheld deck crawler,” said Dionisio Dillard, Code 970 Mechanic. “We use the deck crawlers frequently to deal with rough finishes on surface, especially on the flight deck of the carriers and onboard the submarines. The device removes non-skid areas but because it is a handheld device we have to be down on the deckplate using the device. What’s more is that you have to use face shields to avoid the dust kicking up and the teeth on the device shooting out when you’re doing a job. There’s nothing more frustrating about fearing the tools you work with but what we currently use is definitely a tool you need to fear to ensure you’re safe while using it.”

Code 970 Process Improvement Manager Gaston Shaw added, “We’ve been looking for a better way to do this job for years now. We wanted something that was more ergonomically sound for our employees so that they feel safe while efficiently getting the job done. We want them to have a good quality of life and providing them the best tools for the job helps do that.”

The team had a hands-on demonstration of the Standup Abrading Machine (SAM) from Temple Allen, a standing deck crawler with a vacuum system engaged to pick up the dust left behind.

“One of the biggest wins of this machine is that it’s standing and positioned so that it doesn’t hurt the back of the user,” said Dillard. “It was also easy to use. You lift up the machine with a trigger to navigate the surfaces and release it when you want to start grinding at a surface. It worked great on flat surfaces; however, for the grooved surfaces that weren’t perfect we were finding that the machine would skid across it and not do a great job of fitting into the grooves. We work at a shipyard and onboard vessels that hardly ever have perfect surfaces to work on.”

The team then provided their feedback to the company's representative, sharing ideas of how the machine could conform to different surfaces. The corporation then took those ideas and has begun making adjustments to its machine to accommodate those concerns.

“This is one of the greatest things about this program. We help each other by doing these demonstrations and providing the feedback to make these tools better,” said Berkley. “This not only affects our team should we purchase the product after the fact; but also anyone who purchases their tools in the future. It’s a win-win. What’s more is that these modifications are made at no cost to the Navy. The company is investing in these changes to best serve their customers.”

   “The fact that people are willing to take our feedback from working with the tool and are willing to make the tools better to fit those needs is huge for me,” said Dillard. “They are taking our words to heart and truly making a difference in how they do business and that means the world to me. At America’s Shipyard, we follow the C.O.R.E. values and you can really see how much this team cares about the deckplate worker. By showing you care, you are bringing up the morale of the people and inspiring them to make changes for the better in their respective areas. By living C.O.R.E., you are showing that all of us matter and our needs are worth hearing. Our safety matters. Our longevity matters. I can’t thank the NNSY T&I Lab and the NCMS enough for providing this opportunity to us.”

Berkley stated that this is only the beginning for NNSY. “Technology and innovation isn’t always about having the shiny new toy at your disposal. Sometimes it’s just making a slight change for the better,” he said. “We want people to feel empowered to change and feel comfortable in their work. We want them to feel safe and cared for. We look forward to the future of this program and providing our workforce the tools they need to succeed.”

For more information on innovation, contact the NNSY T&I Lab at 396-7180 or email the REAL Ideas program at