NEWS | April 28, 2021

How to build, maintain more ready fleet

By Max Maxfield, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility

The Chief of Naval Operations NAVPLAN released in January calls on the Navy to build and maintain a more ready fleet by focusing on four priorities: readiness, capabilities, capacity and Sailors.

To this end, “we will accelerate our momentum in improving on-time delivery of ships, submarines, and aircraft out of maintenance availabilities,” the CNO NAVPLAN reads. “Better planning our maintenance availabilities, improving operational level maintenance practices, and providing stable, predictable requirements to industry will accelerate our improvements.”

Throughout the coming months and years, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility workers will learn about and help implement new process improvement/ transformation programs and infrastructure upgrade programs, such as Perform to Plan, Naval Sustainment System – Shipyards, the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, and the Public Shipyard Improvement Plan.

“It is no surprise, I think, to anyone that we as a shipyard have not delivered every availability back to the Navy on time,” said Matt Cady, PSNS & IMF product line director and innovation program manager, when explaining the need for PSIP. “The country counts on these assets being delivered to sustain our maritime superiority, support humanitarian efforts, and reflect our capabilities in wartime needs.”

According to Cmdr. Clint Hoskins, PSNS & IMF operations officer, during a Shipyard Board of Directors meeting Feb. 24, 2021, Naval Sea Systems Command 04, Logistics, Maintenance and Industrial Operations, asked all four Navy shipyards to develop solutions to specific problems that can be shared across the NAVSEA enterprise. The vehicle for this process transformation effort will be PSIP.

PSNS & IMF was tasked with developing schedule execution improvements, including backshift work execution, improving system throughput metrics, improving ship’s system training, and improving how standard work is performed.

According to Hoskins, this will be a shared effort among the public shipyards. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard will look at improving availability duration. Norfolk Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility is examining shop efficiency. Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard is tasked to review unplanned work.

PSNS & IMF will leverage “sprints” to identify and address areas that can be improved. The process improvement/ transformation teams will expend effort over a short time to specify the issue, pilot and refine the learning, and then scale the improvement as appropriate. The level of effort needed to address a problem must be directed at finding a lasting solution.

“Simply applying energy or pressurizing people for a short term gain is counterproductive to the desired result of creating a systematic change that is sustainable over the long term,” said Cady. “A scaling plan, including codification of the change, must be present to obtain sustained change over time. Otherwise, the system and behaviors will return to where you were prior to applying the short burst of energy.”

According to Cady, the initial effort to address the areas assigned by NAVSEA 04 identified four major “ribs” on a fishbone, but that is only an initial effort. As PSNS & IMF implements various process changes, leaders at all levels will continue to revisit and refine the fishbone diagram. It will become more fleshed out in some areas and restricted in other areas as the teams learn what helps improve on-time delivery of ships and submarines back to the fleet.

“We are executing sprints now and have sprints planned for the future,” Cady said. “We are learning how the sprint model aligns to our command process improvement efforts long term. The idea of a sprint has strong root in the overall Lean (Six Sigma) process, but is only one portion of improving process through Lean methodologies. The command is absorbing this learning as we speak to enhance the tools/abilities we will deploy.”

As PSNS & IMF ramps up process and systems improvements, the Product Delivery Executive Steering Committee will initially help guide the learning process to ensure process improvements and systems changes among all of the shops and codes work in concert, and not against each other, to bring about command-wide improvements.

“The PD ESC looks at the entirety of the systems employed at the shipyard and assures they are working in concert to deliver ships on time,” Cady explained. “The PD ESC identifies barriers in the systems and works to remove them. The PD ESC acts as the conduit to assure the right engagement is communicated and provided to optimize implementation as well as steering the efforts in the right direction to make sure we are working on the right things.”

Over time, how PSNS & IMF uses each process improvement/transformation program to complement the others will likely change as data are gathered and codified, and lessons are learned. PSNS & IMF will remain focused on finding any and every way to improve how efficiently and consistently the command can return ships and submarines to the fleet on time, every time, while also developing an openness to embracing process management.

“We as a command are focused on looking at the process and systems we employ to execute our mission as well as the culture and behaviors which feed the systems so that we can improve,” Cady said. “These improvements can very well be characterized as enduring transformations, but the more transformational we get, the more emphasis has to be placed on ensuring effective change management.”

(Editor's note: This is the second in an ongoing series of planned articles about process improvement and systems transformation efforts at PSNS & IMF.)