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NEWS | Feb. 3, 2022

Eye on Innovation: Schematics in the Palm of Your Hand – NNSY Tests BILT App to Bring 3D Maintenance Instructions to the Mechanics

By Kristi Britt, Public Affairs Specialist Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Va.

Think of your favorite science fiction films, the main character pulling up entire holograms of schematics, 3D interactive figures flickering to life. Details ready in the palm of their hand, technology flourishing in its futuristic setting. We might not be quite at that point at Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY), but with efforts of Process Improvement and Innovation (PI&I), America’s Shipyard is leading a corporate charge forward in bringing 3D maintenance instructions to the mechanics virtually via an online application. 

The NNSY Technology and Innovation (T&I) Lab first began researching into the BILT software and application in 2020. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) noted that the United States Air Force was already working on similar avenues and it could prove a worthy investment for the Navy as well.

NNSY T&I Lab Technology Insertion Manager Dale Berkley said, “We currently still use paperwork instructions, including blueprints, and tracking steps. However, with newer generations coming through the gates, we’ve found more and more people find difficulty grasping the use of paperwork. With many folks learning visually, they want to see firsthand what they are working on, how the job gets done, and what parts are used. As we continue to venture into this digital era, we wanted to find new ways to bring the tools needed to the mechanics to help them succeed in the jobs they do.”

The BILT application provides assembly and download data to their customers, providing a 3D maintenance instruction for each designated process. These instructions are fully interactive and provide a list of the products, tools, and steps for the job in question.

With interest to pilot the program, NNSY collaborated with Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Immediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS&IMF) as well as NAVSEA to work with BILT in developing ten instructions on current processes in need of improvement at the yards. The instructions cover a range of work performed by electricians, pipefitters, brazers, and marine machinery mechanics. These instructions were built from the ground up with assistance from engineering, quality assurance, safety, and the shops and codes that work those specific jobs to ensure that the instructions capture not only the technical side of the job but also that firsthand experience from the mechanics on what works best to ensure a first-time quality product.

“The application breaks down step by step the whole process from assembly to disassembly, including any stopping points that might be noted from previous research from the team,” said Insulation and Piping Mechanic and NNSY T&I Lab BILT Lead Kristopher McKenzie, who has been leading the charge for NNSY in research and development of the instructions. “It tells you the tools you need, shows you virtually what goes where. You can pause each step, interact with the components and see exactly how the job should look in person. I’ve worked on the waterfront and seeing this technology be a possibility for our workforce is huge to me. The mechanics can use the application for training, for simulation, for tabletops, and even on the job as a reminder for each step. It’s a tool designed to help the mechanic every step of the way and I can already see from our customers how excited they are to have this in hand.”

With research being conducted, Carrier Team One were able to see a demonstration of the BILT application in action for the shipyard. Seeing its potential, they wanted to see what they could do to get the application into the hands of the mechanic. “When it comes to innovating the way we do business, one of our biggest end goals is getting these technologies on the ships,” said Carrier Team One Process Master for Project Planning Optimization (PPO) Aisha Washington. “We began opening up discussions with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) project on what processes they believe would best benefit from these virtual instructions. From there, we would put tablets in the hands of the workforce and gain their feedback as they pilot the program onboard the ship.”

McKenzie added, “From the feedback we’ve been getting, we’re seeing a lot of excitement from the workforce and across the enterprise for what this program could bring to the Navy. The mechanics can see firsthand and interact with the instructions while on the deckplate and if we have any updates to add to the instructions, we can get the updates added to the system from the engineers to BILT. What’s more, BILT is working on creating a Windows application that can lead to even further possibilities of bringing the application to work computers and more so everyone has access to the instructions wherever they are located. A huge reason I’m pushing this program is that it will help us reach that first time quality work, help keep our mechanics safe on the deckplate, and will get them information in a timely manner. It’s a tool that will help us strengthen our workforce to its fullest potential.”

"There has been a huge focus on digital transformation and mobility at the Naval Shipyards and this is one avenue where we can get those detailed 3D interactive standard work instructions into the hands of our mechanics," said PSNS&IMF Technology and Innovation Lead Tonya Shuler. " Mechanics and engineers alike have viewed the BILT App with excitement and many have said “it’s about time!”.  With an application like this, we fully expect to see an increase in first time quality along with a reduction in the time necessary to train our new employees.  This app takes the guess work out of the job with clearly defined tools, steps, safety warnings, and more."

When it comes to the future of this application, Berkley noted that there is still work to be done but he’s excited to see more interested in what they can do with this project. 

“This was a collaborative effort from a team of folks who were excited to see what the future could be for our mechanics and for our Navy with digital instructions, adding value to the research and implementation for the pilot. Together we’re looking to bring a fundamental technology to the forefront of our workforce, which will continue to evolve along with our mechanics. It’s going to change the way the Navy does business,” said Berkley.

"Since the start of this initiative, our team has been engaged, we’ve learned together, solved problems together, and each of us believes in this technology and what it will do for our workforce," said Shuler. "This has been a very successful cross corporation partnership with amazing team members from NNSY, PSNS&IMF, NAVSEA, Carrier Team One, and the BILT App Team; all of us working together to advance digital technology at the Naval Shipyards."

Washington added, “I’m very excited to see where we are headed with the future of shipyard maintenance. This application brings many possibilities to our Navy and I believe it can be a game changer. I’m looking forward to where we go from here.” 

To learn more about the BILT application pilot and how you can participate, reach out to McKenzie at kristopher.j.mckenz2@navy.mil. To learn more about the REAL Ideas Program or to reach out to the team for idea submissions, email NNSY_REALIdeas@navy.mil, contact (757)-396-7180, or stop by the lab in Bldg. 31.