NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. –
Even the smallest change can make a difference to a big organization like Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY), and once those smaller changes begin to accumulate, you see firsthand the tremendous impact it can have across the board. The Radiological Department (Code 105) took on a ‘10K Manday Challenge’ with the goal of reducing 10,000 mandays by the end of 2020, seeking ways to be more efficient in their processes and procedures. Addressing various programmatic and oversight changes, the teams were able to come together department-wide and achieve their goal.
“This challenge for us started in late 2019 when Radiological Controls Director Gary Sauers came to us and said he wanted to find a way to return roughly one percent of our mandays worth of work back to the waterfront,” said Training and Innovations (Code 105.27) Branch Head Dan Gregor. “So the team collaborated and put together a pile of sticky notes on a white board, all of us taking a hard look at what our department does as a whole and looking for inefficiencies or non-value added steps to processes that we needed to tackle head-on to remove them from the equation.”
Across the department, team members came together and generated a spreadsheet of goals for what they could tackle, with NNSY senior leadership as well as Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) stakeholders standing by to assist and follow along on the progress.
“This was the first time we had a concentrated effort to reduce mandays across the board as a department,” said Primary Systems – Reactor Compartment (Code 2320) Branch Head Mike Hougard. “Everything became fair game for all of us to gather the data and see if this was something we could tackle to achieve our goal and help make our team more efficient. Everyone was on board to step up and look into what they could do.”
“Things were really taking off during the initial start of the pandemic. We had to overcome the challenges caused by the precautions in place to ensure the safety of our workers,” said Facilities/ Article 520 (Code 105.22) Radiological Engineer Chad McMahill. “Everyone really stepped up to the plate, communicating with one another and looking for ways to save time and make the job more efficient. It was a constant effort all around.”
“Items we’ve tackled range from removing steps not needed for inspections, hot work and containments,” said Gregor. “We’ve even begun pre-issuing Thermoluminescent Dosimeter (TLDs) to the waterfront personnel both as part of COVID-19 control but also because we want to keep our people on the waterfront. That alone saved us over a thousand mandays. With more items we tackled, the savings kept showing up and jobs were becoming much smoother for the workers on the job.”
He continued, “We approached the challenge with the intent of bettering NNSY, providing our team with better ways to handle the job. Whatever we could do to benefit the worker and the mission at large, we were ready to tackle.”
Hougard said, “We had a lot of ideas coming in early on but everyone took the time to ensure we had a way forward before we initiated any changes. Everyone needed to be comfortable and have a clear vision of the future before we made the leap. There were many healthy discussions on what to tackle and a lot of thinking out the box. The team was stepping out of comfort zones to ask what we could do to make a change.”
The group’s efforts supports Affordability, one of the five core principles of NAVSEA Commander Vice Admiral Bill Galinis Campaign Plan to Expand the Advantage 3.0. In the campaign plan, Galinis urges NAVSEA employees to challenge assumptions, look for ways to improve, and ensure every dollar counts.
So what’s next for the team in 2021? Gregor said he wants to keep the momentum going forward. “We want to continue to encourage folks to seek out new innovations and continue to make the shipyard better for themselves and others. There’s still a lot of things we can change going forward, we just need to keep pushing and looking for ways to improve.” He also noted that there’s been a lot of positive feedback from the other shipyards regarding the challenge’s successes and what NNSY has tackled for the program. “We’re all working together under the same mission so we’ve been happy to share every step with our fellow shipyards and with NAVSEA. And we’ve also been able to utilize different processes and procedures from them as well. Together, we’re changing the way we do business for the better.”
McMahill added that he hopes to see more chances for employees to make positive change as well. “We see it a lot at the shipyard, employees bringing up things that are troubling them on the job, or things that are impacting them in some way. They are looking for the ‘why’ in what they do and looking for ways to improve the job overall. They want to take positive actions to eliminate what’s troubling them. We’re all a team here at America’s Shipyard and even if it takes time, we can all do our part to help make that positive change. Whether it be taking a hard look at the processes, looking for ways to remove barriers, or looking for the innovative tools to bring to the deckplates – we can continue to improve NNSY for the better.”