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NEWS | May 1, 2019


By Kristi Britt

The Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) Technology and
Innovation (T&I) Lab strives to break down barriers and
bring technologies of the shipyard to the forefront, aiding
employees who aim to make their jobs safer and more
efficient through NNSY’s Innovation Program. To do that,
the lab has created an avenue for talented people from across
the shops and codes who want to contribute and put their
skills to the test by working in the innovation lab, submitting
ideas through the REAL Ideas program, being a member of
the T&I Community of Practice, or participating in activities
under the T&I umbrella.
“We are staffed with some of the best and brightest
employees from around the shipyard as we seek to bring our
shipyard into the 21st century,” said Innovation Program
Manager Dan Adams. “Our team here is built from a
partnership throughout the shipyard, allowing us to have
talent in various areas so we can expand on ideas and build
relationships within the shops and codes.”
For example, Technology Insertion Manager Dale
Berkley was brought in from Quality Assurance Dept. (Code
130). The Control Point of the lab, Susan Simmons, was
brought in from the Welding Shop (Code 926). The lab is
constantly bringing in new talent to assist in the innovation
efforts of the shipyard and the Navy. And its members are
working to build partnerships across the workforce.
“We recently built a partnership with the Nuclear
Test Engineering Division (Code 2340). Division Head
Matt Durkin came to us to discuss how we could utilize
resources from his code,” said Adams. “The new nuclear
engineers coming into the shipyard would need time to
finalize their clearances before they could begin work on
the Navy’s assets. So we came up with a sharing program
to bring them into the innovation lab and work with the
various technologies here.”
“As soon as they were brought in, they hit the ground
running.” said Berkley. “For some, they had a lot of
experience with 3-D scanning and modeling, robotics,
and the like. For others, they had never utilized the
technologies before but were quickly learning the ropes
and owning the work themselves. They were committed
to the job and it showed.”
At this time there are 7 Code 2340 personnel inside
the lab, including Assist Shift Test Engineers (ASTE)
Brendon Wilkins, James Keim, Matthew Ferguson,
Anny Wang, Joey Hoellerich, Steve Quiroga, and Daniel
Harding. There are also 4 personnel who have previously
worked at the lab but have moved on since their clearances
have finalized, including Kara Cuddapah, Travis Alford,
Kevin McDonald and Garrett Wotring.
When it came to if they ever thought they would get to do something like working on innovative technologies in their careers, the answer was unanimous from the team.
“When I was hired here, I expected to jump right into my job in Code 2340,” said Keim. “So when we were given this opportunity, it gave us all a chance to step outside of our normal duties and look at the shipyard from different perspectives. For me, I was very interested in trying my hand at 3-D laser scanning and additive manufacturing. Also, I was able to try my hand at some items for Information Technology (IT). I’ve even begun working on projects involving bringing wireless communications to the shipyard. These are opportunities I never thought I would have and it’s been a lot of fun.”
“It’s the same with all of us,” said Wilkins. “When we entered the lab, a lot of us were unfamiliar with the technologies here but we jumped into it for a chance to learn and expand our skills. I had a lot of interest in robotics so when I started I was given the opportunity to work on a real ideas project that would utilize a robotic arm in automating repetitive tasks. The robotic arms called “cobots” also free up workers to work on more complex and interesting jobs. The team here gave me free rein to do what I needed and it was refreshing to use my skills to get the job done. They also were able to send me to a conference to see demonstrations of these technologies firsthand so I could see what could greatly benefit the shipyard. I’ve met people here that I didn’t imagine I would have ever met before in my engineering job. And with those meetings, I have been able to build relationships across the shipyard and see what work gets done here firsthand.”
Keim added, “I think that’s one of the most important aspects of this partnership. We gain heightened sensitivity to things like the workforce and the tools they use at the shipyard by working here in the lab. Sometimes on the job, you tend to focus on your own bubble and forget that we’re all here working together to service the fleet. We’re all pieces of a bigger puzzle.”
“We are able to help each other and see things from different perspectives,” said Ferguson, whose interests include 3-D laser scanning, additive manufacturing, and 3-D modeling. “This work is very creative and you are able to have more freedom in your work to test out new ideas to see what best fits the workforce here. And in order to do that, we’re given those opportunities to work with folks on the waterfront and learn from them what their needs are for their particular job. Together, we are able to innovate.”
Wang, who has an interest in 3-D modeling and robotics, thinks the lab provides a unique experience for everyone who steps through its doors. “We’re able to take newer technologies and use them to find solutions throughout the shipyard. In using our skills, we’re also able to build confidence in ourselves with what we do here.”
Hoellerich came in with little to no exposure to 3-D printing and metrology. However, he quickly learned the ropes and is now involved in a 3-D scan project for the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) project. “I never thought I would be doing something like this but it’s been a lot of fun and you can see the hard work paying off for the shipyard by innovating and finding ways to make our jobs more efficient,” he said. “I think that’s something everyone should take to heart. The mission for the lab is to never be satisfied with the way things are done now. There’s always going to be a better and safer way to do something. We should always be looking for ways to innovate. There’s a mentality that if things have always been done a certain way, why change it? We live in a world that’s constantly advancing and we should be willing to see what new technologies there are and how they can fit into our mission. You may be surprised just what’s out there that could help us out along the way.”
For this team of folks, they are getting an experience they never thought possible with the T&I Lab. “We want this sharing program to give them the thirst for innovation and technology,” said Berkley. “We want them to go forward with these new skills they acquired and use it with their home codes. They will be able to expand in their jobs and constantly look for ways to improve.”
“This partnership has come with a lot of successes and each of these individuals have been phenomenal in the work they have done for the shipyard,” said Adams. “This partnership may be with Code 2340 but we want to expand it across the shipyard. By collaborating across NNSY, we are able to build better relationships and expand the new ideas and technologies further than we ever thought possible.”