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Caterpillar Inc. Impressed with SERMC Maintenance Process

By Dan Smithyman | SERMC | May 18, 2015

MAYPORT Florida — MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- A former member of the Southeast Regional Maintenance Center (SERMC) returned to his old command April 30 to explain some maintenance efficiencies practiced as a Sailor to his current employer, the heavy equipment giant Caterpillar Inc.

Martin Groover was a lieutenant commander and the combat systems repair officer from 2005-2007 at what was then SIMA (Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity). Back then, he was responsible for integrating the old fleet technical team into the regional maintenance mode. Groover is now retired from the Navy and currently uses his Navy experience and Lean Six Sigma certification as the facility manager at Caterpillar's Danville, Kentucky, plant.

"As a factory manager, one of my biggest costs is maintenance - service contracts, parts, downtime, etc. I mentioned to [general manager] Ken Hoefling we needed to build a better life cycle management model for Caterpillar and that we had no visibility of the material condition of our factory equipment or a good budgeting model based on our life cycle management," Groover said. "I mentioned how the Navy had detailed, condition-based assessment data to help understand the level of effort to maintain the equipment to prevent run-to-fail events."

It was that conversation that led to Groover, Hoefling and four others from across the Caterpillar enterprise to visit SERMC with eyes wide open and a curiosity for learning the regional maintenance concept with an emphasis on scheduled preventive maintenance. Groover explained that run-to-fail costs are not captured at the moment, but it is usually a 9-to-1 ratio to preventive maintenance costs.

The Navy recognized the high cost of repairing large equipment such as ships, submarines and aircraft long ago. The expeditionary nature of how the military operates lends itself naturally to providing its own maintenance professionals and supply system. Adapting the Navy's process improvement with regard to maintenance would be easy for a veteran like Groover.

Groover's Mayport visit took another nostalgic turn when Rich Evans, ship superintendent for USS Philippine Sea (CG 58), took the group to see the ship under a full maintenance availability. It turns out Groover once served on the guided-missile cruiser when it was seven years old.

"To see it at 26 [years old] years later increased the appreciation of the level of effort [to keep the ship operational]," Groover said. "I have very old equipment in my factory and we have had to really invest in getting the availability and reliability to meet our efficiencies and quality standards. You can't perform combat operations or make profit if your capital equipment doesn't perform as designed."

Lt. Cmdr. Gene Honeycutt, SERMC's repair officer, led the group through the maintenance shops to see firsthand how the organization works and how scheduled maintenance prevents downtime while increasing operational readiness.

What the group learned from their visit to SERMC was something the Navy has practiced for many years, and a lesson Groover took with him when he retired from the Navy in 2007: preventive maintenance works.