The Navy’s four Naval Shipyards are transforming how they maintain and modernize submarines and aircraft carriers. Naval Sustainment Systems - Shipyard (NSS-SY) is a business and process improvement effort designed to increase the on-time delivery of submarines and aircraft carriers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine; Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia; Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Washington; and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Hawaii.
Leveraging the experience of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and its recent successes within the Navy Aviation Enterprise, the shipyards are integrating industry and government best practices with rigorous requirements tied to planning and executing submarine and aircraft carrier maintenance availabilities. With a bias toward action and a sense of urgency, NSS-SY focuses on ensuring the production workforce has the tools, equipment, material, and information they need to execute their job in the most efficient manner possible, while identifying and removing barriers that delay work.
“We saw the tremendous success that Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) had with their NSS – Aviation and the on-going work with NSS – Supply out of Naval Supply Systems Command and knew that our shipyards would benefit from this type of fast-paced program,” said Naval Sea Systems’ Commander Vice Adm. Bill Galinis.
Rear Adm. Howard Markle, NAVSEA’s Deputy Commander for Industrial Operations, pointed out that these strategies extend beyond the confines of the four shipyards.
“We’re changing the perspective not just the four naval shipyards, but also at the headquarters level, too,” he said. “We’re treating our project teams, the people who actually do the work aboard the submarines and aircraft carriers, like they are our customer. It’s our job, leadership’s job, to make sure they have everything they need to do their job as efficiently and effectively as possible. That means ensuring they have the tools, material, consumables, and information precisely when, where and how they need it. It also means they have a direct line up to us if they run into problems they can’t fix themselves.”
The initiative began late in 2020, with pilot projects started earlier this year. Each shipyard identified an on-going submarine availability to use as a test platform for various process improvements in real time. In each case, the shipyards realized positive results from their efforts.
Aboard USS Mississippi (SSN 782), a submarine currently undergoing maintenance at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & IMF, the production team avoided more than 100 days of potential delay using NSS-SY’s new escalation and resolution format to rapidly resolve obstacles with off-yard Navy decision-makers. This concept drives new behaviors by Navy leadership to focus on the most important issues and remove any internal and external barrier to the on-time completion of distinct work items.
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & IMF’s USS Louisiana (SSBN 743) project team executed a fast, focused effort called a “sprint” to increase testing certifications and capture lessons learned from past availabilities to streamline current and future work. Louisiana’s Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical test performance rates resulted in one the highest ever achieved when compared to other availabilities.
USS Virginia’s (SSN 774) project team at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard piloted tools and process changes to increase the visibility of barriers to production and provide easy tracking of issues creating delays. One of these pilot efforts is a new daily production meeting structure to convey project needs to supporting teams and align priorities for the day. Another weekly project materials meeting with the Defense Logistics Agency reduced material shortages on the availability. These new tools connected leadership inside and outside of the shipyard and resulted in improved material readiness which positively impacts the availability.
At Norfolk Naval Shipyard the USS Pasadena (SSN 752) production team implemented a new daily production meeting structure that focuses on driving solutions and quickly identifying issues that drive delays in the submarine’s maintenance period. This effort includes a new Zone Manager Goal Tracker that sets goals at the beginning of the week and tracks daily progress. Managers use this tool at daily production meetings to identify issues before the set goals are impacted.
“These efforts are tied to our foundational elements which are ‘get real,’ which means understanding our current levels of performance; and ‘get better’ in improving our cost and schedule performance to deliver every ship on time, every time,” said Galinis. “Our shipyard personnel, from our tradespeople, our first and second line supervisors, zone managers, engineers, logisticians, and more have to know that they are empowered to identify and clear barriers; and if they can’t fix an issue, they are empowered and strongly encouraged to elevate it up the chain until it is resolved. We need to provide opportunity for our waterfront teams to be more effective and more efficient; so they can focus on the important tasks of delivering ships and submarines on time.”
“What’s more” Galinis continued, “is each of these improvements is exportable to the other shipyards – these are being tested at one shipyard then shared with the others so they all benefit.”
NSS-SY kicked off its most recent effort April 19. Personnel from the four naval shipyards and the Boston Consulting Group discussed each shipyard’s production system and how best practices from industry can improve the naval shipyards’ processes and business practices and improve on-time completion rates.
“While we continue to develop and mature the full-blown plan based on these efforts,” said Markle, “we have aligned on our assessment of what’s working and what is not within our current production system. We will leverage corporate best practices to rapidly implement the required improvements within a standard system across all shipyards.”