NORFOLK, Va. - A tool designed by Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) employees will make servicing ships' breakers more efficient the Navy reported today.
Breakers prevent overloads and potential electrical fires in shipboard electrical systems. A Navy submarine typically contains 20 to 30 breakers, and an aircraft carrier has approximately 50. In order to service a breaker, a shipyard worker must flip the 540-pound unit repeatedly. The task is arduous, time consuming, and often requires several workers to accomplish the re-positioning in a safe manner. With the new tool, a single worker may maneuver the breaker with ease.
The tool was the brainchild of NNSY Second Year Apprentice Adam Fahy. Fahy himself is no stranger to manual labor. In his spare time he enjoys working on cars and engines. But after Fahy became familiar with the tasks involved in servicing ships' breakers, he was sure there had to be a better way.
Fahy submitted an idea he had for improving the process, and was paired with NNSY's Rapid Prototype Lab (RPL). The RPL develops new and improved tooling based on employee suggestions and input.
Kenny Kinstler, one of the RPL team members, worked with Fahy on the design, helping it go from paper to reality.
"We got the concept and went to work," said Kinstler. "We worked the design similar to the inside of a rotisserie oven, giving the breaker full range of motion for use."
The design is similar to a casing, which is attachable to the breaker; enabling a full range of motion without a worker needing to overly exert themselves.
"It's better than I imagined," said Fahy. "The design put the breakers on casters, which allows it to spin in all directions. This makes the job safer, faster, and it makes the breakers easier to maneuver. The worker is able to stay in one position and spin the breaker and work on the desired section with ease."
"We had shipyard welders, sheet metal mechanics, and painters; a full team giving us time, materials, and effort into helping us out and we couldn't have done it without them," said Kinstler. "That's what's so key about this shipyard. We all make connections and we take care of each other to get the job done."
Fahy estimates his device, the "Fahy Frame" as he calls it, could shave a couple days off the work time for each breaker serviced. This time savings becomes even more significant when factoring in the number of breakers on each ship.
"It's truly exponential to see what this one device can do," said Fahy. "I couldn't be more proud of what we have accomplished here. Every time I watched its development progress, my smile just kept getting bigger and bigger. I feel like Christmas came early for me this year."