NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. –
How do you improve the highly complex business of ship maintenance to support on-time delivery back to the Fleet?
It’s a tough nut to crack, and one that’s getting attention at the highest levels of Navy. Helping to conquer this challenge is the Naval Sustainment System – Shipyards (NSS-SY) effort across all four of the nation’s public shipyards in an aligned initiative with Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).
Centering on empowering project mechanics and driving continual work execution on the availability deckplates, NSS-SY is modeled on the successful effort at the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs) to achieve more mission capable F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. Regardless of the product line being by air or sea, the same ingredients for success include having a sense of urgency, a willingness to challenge established modes of thinking, and ensuring quick and visible change where possible in matters of maintenance.
NSS-SY is part of an overarching effort at the four shipyards implementing the Navy’s Public Shipyard Improvement Plan. This plan aims to enhance production efficiency and schedule execution to shorten the duration of availabilities using both NSS-SY and Perform-to-Plan (P2P), a Navywide approach to combine continued learning and data-driven decisions to improve ship maintenance.
“Perform to Plan originated in aviation depot maintenance with resounding success,” said Commander Dave McGlone, NAVSEA 04 X Military Deputy. “While there are definite differences between aviation and ship depot maintenance, the overall concept is to make data-driven improvement decisions in our ship maintenance business. There’s a lot of emphasis on ship maintenance at the highest levels of our Navy and beyond, and there’s a high demand for increased operational ability. The shipyards have a huge role to play in this and it’s essential that each person recognize just how pivotal their contributions are to this tremendously important goal.”
Across the public shipyards, NSS-SY is a partnership of on-site contractors specializing in business processes, along with dedicated shipyard personnel who ensure Navy standards are met while collaborating to bring innovations to the deckplates. “We have world-class performers and a lot of great intelligence and talent in our yards doing a lot of extremely complex maintenance,” said McGlone. “A fresh look through P2P is helping us identify where we can continue to improve our business in making our organization more efficient, delivering boats on time, and planning for shorter durations than we have today to meet that operational demand.”
Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS & IMF) were the first two shipyards, piloting the NSS-SY effort in August 2019. NNSY’s initial focus was identifying and mitigating any constraints to bolster performance of topside work on USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), including catapult systems and jet blast deflectors. One improvement included a topside temporary material storage area for NNSY’s Outside Machine Shop (Shop 38) onboard the carrier, providing greater accessibility and convenience for project mechanics. This aligned with the NSS-SY priority of ensuring tradespeople have the tools and equipment at the ready to execute work efficiently and with requisite first-time quality.
NSS-SY was relaunched in January 2021 with NNSY’s concentration on USS Pasadena (SSN 752), a Los-Angeles class submarine currently undergoing a Drydocking Selected Restricted Availability. Navy leaders such as Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Harker met with the Pasadena team in recent weeks to pledge their support and discuss the drive to “get real, get better,” encouraging shipyarders to candidly discuss any constraints so they can be resolved. “As you identify problems and barriers to success in your work, there are people across the enterprise asking how they can remove those problems now and for the future,” said Harker. “We’re looking across naval leadership at the things we can put in place to knock down those barriers.”
NSS-SY improvements have included a new daily production meeting cadence, focusing on key issues and barrier removal. A new Horizon Review Board model has replaced the previous NAVSEA Project Support Meeting format, emphasizing the “get real, get better” concept and ensuring increased action and support from NAVSEA and corporate partners. Additionally, NNSY is getting “back to the basics” with the reimplementation of crew boards across the waterfront. “We are excited about all of the improvement occurring at each of the four shipyards and the potential this effort has for our corporation,” said NSS-SY Champion Amanda Gulledge. “We are challenging ourselves, our processes, and cutting through the red tape to embrace change, with full support and backing of NAVSEA leadership and the VCNO. That is powerful; this is our moment to turn ourselves into the top performing world class organization we know we can be.”
NSS-SY initiatives will work in tandem with the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP), a 20-year, $21 billion program dedicated to completely refurbishing the nation’s four public shipyards by modernizing equipment, improving workflow, and upgrading dry docks and facilities. Whereas SIOP will provide the physical upgrades to the shipyards, NSS-SY initiatives will provide the procedural updates to ships undergoing maintenance and modernization to maximize workforce productivity.
“Efforts supporting the Navy’s Public Shipyard Improvement Plan are very important to us at America’s Shipyard,” said Shipyard Commander Captain Dianna Wolfson. “The plan is greatly aligned to messages we’ve been receiving from Navy leadership to ‘get real, get better’ in our service to the Fleet with an intent to either ‘fix or elevate’ problems in our work. Ensuring a sense of urgency and resolve at all levels of the workforce, working in conjunction with our contracting partner on this effort, will help us reach our vision of delivering on time, every time, everywhere, to protect America.”