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NEWS | Sept. 29, 2021

Breaking Though Traditions

By Lorraine Butler, PHNSY&IMF Program Analyst

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – Optimists expect a better future. Their positive thinking can also become a self-fulfilling prophecy. That can be said for the group in the Piping, Insulation, Tool Room and Equipment Maintenance shop who frequently heard that their goal couldn’t be achieved. They took those words as a challenge, shrugged off setbacks, and kept plugging away, confident in their ability to find a solution. The team involved in this project were recently honored by the command with Shipyard Commander Commemorative Coins for achieving what many said couldn’t be done. Their work resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PHNSY & IMF).

The shop’s workers are responsible for the Vertical Launch System (VLS) Missile Tube Air Pressure Vent (APV) pipe drying on Virginia-Class (VACL) subs. It’s a freshwater flush of the APV Piping followed with drying the system to a dew point of -40° F. The suggested temperature ensures the missiles are able to fire properly. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard had been successful in completing this job in a fraction of the amount of time it had taken PHNSY & IMF to complete and were able to obtain the required -40°F dew point. However, engineers at PHNSY & IMF declared that due to Hawaii’s high humidity, it would be nearly impossible to meet the requirements. Undeterred, the team believed that they could achieve the ideal temperature and set out to overcome the challenge.

Community of Practice members from the shop met with team members and developed flow charts depicting the traditional method and proposed a new process for obtaining the desired dew point. With a new understanding of the process, the workers began to test the outcome of blowing dry- filtered air for a longer period of time and allowing for a dwell time prior to the nitrogen blow-down process. The modification was successful! While working on the USS Mississippi (SSN-782), they found that they could reach the -40° F dew point if they concentrated the air flow on one pipe verses two, and if they continuously blew nitrogen into the system until it reached the desired temperature, rather than stopping after 24 hours.

The new approach to the process led to an immense amount of savings. The port side, which initially began using the old method and transitioned to the new process, expended 992 man hours and took 29 days. Once they developed a new approach, the starboard side was completed using only 160 man hours and took 15 days. What typically took 12-14 weeks to complete, will now only take 6 weeks. The new approach results in a cost savings of 84% and duration savings of 50%. This procedure will be applied in all future VACL availabilities.

Their achievement was the result of embracing the challenge with a positive attitude and striving to find a new way to accomplish an old task. Lee-Crockett, the shop’s work leader, stated it best, “I wanted to change the mindset of the culture here. Just because someone tells you it can’t be done, doesn’t mean you should take it as gospel. It’s important to challenge that mindset. If I always tell myself that I can’t do it, then it won’t happen. But if I tell myself that I can do something, then it can be done. It’s all about having a positive mindset.”



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