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NSWC Panama City Division Sparks Change through Center for Innovation

By Katherine Mapp, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division Office of Congressional and Public Affairs | NSWC PCD | Feb. 28, 2019

PANAMA CITY, Florida —

Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) has begun a journey to establish spaces and capabilities that will serve as enablers for innovation.

“The Center for Innovation will be a collection of spaces, capabilities within those spaces, processes, and learning to foster innovation at all levels of the organization,” said Sheila Schnoering, NSWC PCD distinguished engineer for mine warfare prototyping. “Innovation already happens at NSWC PCD, but we want to make it easier for our employees to put that innovation into practice.”

Center for Innovation was designed to give employees a place where they can network, brainstorm, and work through problems, with the tools they need. 

“The idea is to foster a culture of innovation and creativity within our workforce,” said Program Executive Office Unmanned and Surface Combatants Science and Technology Mine Warfare Lead Holly Gardner. “The Center will serve as a place where employees can learn techniques to understand warfighter needs, explore solutions, fail fast and early, and iterate upon their designs in a ‘safe zone.’ We want to give employees a toolset so they can rapidly deliver the right solutions to the Fleet before the need no longer exists.” 

According to NSWC PCD Technical Product Manager Rick Hurst, sharing the experiences, successes, and failures, immensely widens the aperture of one's thought process to what might otherwise have been thought impossible.

“Reaping the beneficial knowledge of another's failures potentially inhibits its repetition, which not only saves time and money, but stimulates alternative routes to success,” said Hurst. “Ultimately, the desired outcome is to have seasoned guidance, increased hands-on developmental experiences, improved employee networking and collaboration, intrinsic motivation, endless experimentation, and of course, a plethora of creative ideas leading to that ‘light bulb’ moment.”

Currently, two buildings with spaces are being configured to support the “innovation lab” concept. Building 581 operations center has been upgraded to be more representative of an interactive or collaboration space. It will have a dual purpose - serving as a conference room and a collaboration space.  Its location will allow for discussions, early stage rapid prototyping and concept generation.

Building 431 spaces, commonly known as “the shops” and “Maker Space,” have been enhanced to include capabilities our employees can use to turn ideas into products. This space will allow users to bring their concepts to reality. Spaces have been reallocated to add various manufacturing stations needed to deliver a fully functional prototype including a collaboration room, computer lab, machining, welding, hardware/software development, wood working, industrial sewing, and additive manufacturing.

Additive Manufacturing Lab Head Chuck Self said the innovative-inspiring nature of the labs are an ideal environment for high velocity learning efforts.

“The simple interaction of colleagues from different codes and departments in a physical space often leads to tremendous knowledge sharing and collaborative efforts,” said Self.

During fiscal year 2019, efforts will be dedicated to defining the business model, continued input from users, conveyance of capabilities with their respective training, and the completion of the innovation spaces.

“The Center for Innovation and labs will be an enabler to rapidly address emerging needs, assess emerging technologies for military utility, increase experimentation that will inform acquisition decisions, and ultimately deliver capabilities at the speed of relevance,” said Schnoering.