NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. –
Removing obstacles that challenge the Navy’s ability to complete submarine and aircraft carrier maintenance on time comes down to two key areas, according to Naval Sea Systems Command Commander, Vice Adm. Bill Galinis.
Galinis discussed these and other challenges May 19, during the weeklong Naval Sustainment System—Shipyards (NSS-SY) workshop at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY). “We need to drive consistency and standardization across the four shipyards,” he said. “And we need to closely look at how divergent we are yard to yard in a number of areas. That collectively skews how we look at ourselves and evaluate our performance.”
The workshop brought together ship-maintenance experts, or “champions,” from the four shipyards, along with NAVSEA personnel who oversee the shipyards’ operations. “The amount of experience and diversity of thought you each bring is very important,” Galinis told attendees. “This is absolutely the right team to help us move this forward.”
NSS-SY is an initiative that combines the experience of shipyard experts and commercial business process specialists to improve the efficiency of required maintenance and upgrade periods in the Navy’s shipyards. This is to support NAVSEA’s top priority to return submarines and aircraft carriers to active service in the fleet on time. While adopting best practices from commercial shipyards, the initiative brings full workforce collaboration, from deckplate employees to senior leaders, to an effort that focuses on ensuring strict Navy standards are met and that any technical, contractual, or other obstacles preventing on-time completion of required work are resolved immediately.
The workshop’s focus helped to identify and minimize supervisor and zone manager administrative tasks that eat into their workdays, providing these decision-makers more time on-site with their teams where their coordination skills are needed. “Ultimately we want to get them to the deckplate engaging with their folks,” said Amanda Gulledge, NSS-SY Champion for NNSY. “There are definitely opportunities to improve in that area.”
The NSS-SY initiative encourages and requires a willingness to challenge established modes of thinking that will ensure quick and visible improvements throughout the shipyards’ maintenance process. A central initiative supporting NSS-SY’s drive to improve productivity is the establishment of Operations Control Centers now implemented on pilot projects at each of the four shipyards. NNSY’s pilot is USS Pasadena (SSN 752). “These centers are co-located with the project, allowing members of the team to focus on the work driving to the next key event in an availability and to ‘fix or elevate’ any barriers in execution,” said Gulledge.
According to Galinis, the selection of pilot projects was not random. “There’s a reason we chose the four pilot projects we did, and that’s really to build consistency across the four shipyards, to capture any measures of performance improvement, or maybe where it’s not working,” he said.
Galinis also discussed the implementation of a daily production meeting to continually identify any issues as they arise and center on solutions. Aiding that effort is a new zone manager goal tracker setting weekly milestones and tracking efforts to completion.
NSS-SY is modeled on the successful effort at the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs) to achieve more mission capable F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. Not limited to discussions in a conference room, NSS-SY workshop attendees had opportunity to meet directly with those involved in the FRC effort to leverage lessons learned. “Their excitement about their journey was very beneficial to us,” said Gulledge.
Galinis said NSS-SY is a critical component in the Public Shipyard Improvement Plan focusing on assessing—and ultimately transforming—planning and execution of the shipyard workload over the next 15 years. Other key elements in modernizing the naval shipyards include the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP) dedicated to completely refurbishing the Navy’s shipyard infrastructure. The effort will update equipment, improve workflow, upgrade dry docks and facilities, and modernize the supporting information technology infrastructure.
“So where do we go next?” Galinis asked workshop attendees. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there. Fundamentally, from yard to yard, project to project, work crew to work crew, we need consistency in being able to manage and execute our scope of work. Some of the inherent reasons for differences may be due to some larger issues that we have to get after. Don’t shy away from the hard problems that are keeping us from executing across the four shipyards.”