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NEWS | Sept. 9, 2019

Initiative aims to remove barriers to shipyard efficiency, on-time delivery

By Max Maxfield, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

A six-week pilot program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility will help the command streamline its processes, improve internal coordination and eliminate barriers between mechanics and their work.

Known as the Naval Sustainment System - Shipyards, the initiative pairs a consulting firm with PSNS & IMF and Norfolk Naval Shipyard to bring commercial best practices into the naval maintenance process with the goal of delivering 100 percent of maintenance projects on time or early.

Representatives of Boston Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm that recently helped the Navy improve F-18 airplane maintenance, are now teamed with shipyard leaders and production workers in the command’s Inside Machine Shop. The combined shipyard-BCG effort is intended to transform the shop floor to maximize the time mechanics can work supported by all the tools, materials and assistance needed for success. The team’s current focus is on the repair of ball valves for use in submarines.

 “We chose this area (the ball valve work center) for several reasons,” said Elaine Priest, the shipyard’s product lines director and NSS-S champion. “Most important, though, is that the work (the ball valve work center) does is vital to on-time completion of submarine availabilities.”

The NSS-S effort has already yielded establishment of a production control center near the ball valve work center. The PCC provides visibility of all support systems, such as materials, engineering and transportation, needed to keep work flowing smoothly.

“For example, yesterday morning we estimated that we would be ready to ship a valve at 1 p.m., and because we are now talking face to face in the PCC, the Naval Facilities Northwest transportation driver was right there at 1 p.m.,” said Brent Hoppe, a component repair and fabrication zone manager. “No wasted time.”

Upon completion of the pilot effort in the ball valve work center, PCCs can be established in other shipyard locations to improve work flow. In the meantime, the NSS-S team is also working on safety improvements, ergonomics and visual tools to better communicate the status of work projects.

Shipyard leaders say the NSS-S initiative has the attention of senior leaders across the Navy and in Naval Sea Systems Command, which makes it possible to quickly address challenges to work processes that originate outside the shipyard.

“We are always chasing best-ever performance,” said Capt. Dianna Wolfson, PSNS & IMF commander. “That’s how I like to look at it. We are never perfect, but it’s a journey. We are on that journey together.”

To help the shipyard achieve best-ever performance, Priest says the NSS-S team is closely examining five areas that may yield positive change: shipyard transformation, planning, engineering, material and technology. She added that the initiative starts “at the deckplates,” meaning with the first-line employees performing the work on the shop floor. By understanding the baseline processes and then aligning systems to provide tools, materials and assistance when and where they’re needed, the NSS-team hopes to eliminate barriers to performance.

“Our work is important to the Navy and the nation,” said Wolfson. “Completing ship maintenance on time, every time, is more than just a goal; it’s a strategic imperative. We must act with a sense of urgency in all we do as we strive for best-ever performance.”