Maintenance based on schedules and timetables is being replaced with a new approach aimed at getting out in front of maintenance, looking at available Digital Twin sensors to predict where there is going to be failure, and eliminating that before it comes to a head. Better mechanisms to streamline parts supply from industry partners will go a long way in achieving Readiness of the Force.
Extending the lifespans of existing ships using data-driven maintenance efforts is the best strategy for growing the size of the Navy. The key to maintaining ships and enabling the Navy to extend their lifespans is data analytics.
“We have ships with a number of sensors on them, measuring things like reduction gears, shafting components, turbines, generators, water jets, air conditioning plants, high packs, a number of components, and we’re actually pulling data off those ships, in data acquisition systems.
Navy is analyzing data gleaned from smaller ship component operations to determine how often such components need servicing, oil changes, filter changes, other maintenance actions and replacement.
“That’s one of the things we’re doing to get after utilising the Digital Twin technology we have today to operate the ships we have today more efficiently and more effectively.
During previous attempts at incorporating pilot programs, there was the concern that if major efforts like refurbishing tanks were only done when needed, rather than on a predetermined timetable, the Navy could avoid spending time and money on work ahead of need.
However, that also meant that shipyards wouldn’t have a clear work package before a ship showed up at the pier, adding uncertainty and, ultimately, more time and cost into the maintenance availability.
This time around, Navy is looking at condition-based maintenance as a way to address smaller maintenance items in such a way that data analysis points a ship crew to components that are experiencing minor performance issues or otherwise showing signs they are about to fail before the failure actually occurs.
A pilot program using enterprise remote monitoring will occur on an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. Data collected will be sent for analysis, and operators will learn how to use the data to understand how their systems are performing and if maintenance or repairs are needed.
Navy wants to have a system of apps used to collect data from ship components, analyze the data, share it with operators and schedule work. The systems that will be monitoring, for example the turbine; it will tell the operators when a work procedure has to be performed and it will also then tap into the work package side of the house and generate a work package that gets sent to the ship, to the work center, to do the work. And if there’s a part involved, it will be able to pull a part from the supply system.”
Testing is occurring now, but there are some obstacles the Navy has to overcome before large-scale deployment. The Navy is struggling with how to transmit data securely. “The performance of any given asset is something we want to hold close.
So what you have to do is architect this from kind of the get-go with that kind of security. “You can harvest that data and you could potentially discover vulnerabilities, so you have to protect that. That’s We’re bringing that security aspect into the program.”
The Navy doesn’t have enough forces to go everywhere we need to go, and we have a pretty fragile mix of ships, so that when we miss an availability coming out on time, or we don’t build something to the schedule they’re supposed to build to, there are real-world consequences to that.”
The true determining factor of whether a ship’s lifespan can be extended is flexibility of the platform. The Arleigh Burke-class is the Navy’s workhorse today because, during the past 30 years, the Navy has successfully updated its operating systems.
Moving forward, extending the life of the ships in this class means back-fitting many of the older Flight I and Flight II with a scaled-back version of the AN/SPY-6[V] Air and Missile Defense Radar [AMDR] to keep these ships relevant to current and future mission needs.
“If you’re willing to do the maintenance on the ships, from a hull and mechanical perspective, you absolutely can keep them longer. The issue is really not can you keep them 50 years; the issue is can they maintain combat relevance. If they can maintain combat relevance, we know we can keep them longer.”
We have big concerns about declining ability of crews to take care of their own Ships. Maintenance Crews today have fewer opportunities to become proficient at ship maintenance during shore duties, meaning crews going to sea bring with them less knowledge about how the ship and its systems work.
While a complex challenge to address, part of the solution would be ensuring that crews can begin pre-deployment training on time – without delays from ship maintenance availabilities going long – and ensuring that that training time includes an emphasis on maintaining and repairing the ship.
Years of constrained funding that have taken risk on things like tech manuals for Engineering Operational Sequencing System, Planned Maintenance System and resourcing maintenance, to where what has been the risk taker has been compressing that training timeline
Biggest takeaway from training period is the importance of being flexible and "adapt as-you-go" while prioritizing the task at hand. "Really, you have to have an ability to ask yourself … 'What are my priorities? What do I need to be doing at this moment with my hands?' You kind of have to figure out based on what's going on around you, whether I should be focusing on.
“It’s clear what the operational fleet’s demand is for us, which is to make sure the ship can be maintained, and the sailors where possible can do that. So we are focused on training for the sailors, making sure they had the equipment, the spare parts, the technical documentation and more to help the ship’s crews conduct more work themselves.
Crews found all kinds of things to 3D print – wrenches, assembly parts, protective covers to shield expensive equipment from repeated impact, and even a cover for a laser device that was on back order for several months and was instead printed in a single day.
“If you have a cable assembly for your utilities, you can only order the entire assembly – but if you don’t need the entire assembly, you just need one little component, you could print that one component for a few dollars rather than have to order the entire assembly which may cost several thousand dollars spending on what the item is.
There is still an ongoing conversation on the division of labor between sailors on the ships’ crews and the Regional Maintenance Centers, along with the role of contractors.
In a contested operating environment with denied communications, he noted, “you are not going to have the ability to phone home.”
We have a certain amount of maintenance that’s in hands of the crew, we have a certain amount of maintenance that’s in contractor hands, and over the life of the program we’d like to get more of that into sailor hands and less of it in contract hands. “That not only decreases cost but it increases ownership.”
“The key is to increase sailor ownership and decrease the reliance on contractors and original equipment manufacturers. Manning requirements do not support shifting the entire maintenance workload to the crew, as their capacity is limited. But we are committed to maximizing the amount of planned maintenance that we perform by the crew.
Navy is trying to boost its crews ability to perform more maintenance work on the ship without outside assistance. While this wouldn’t make much of a dent in the looming surge in workload, it could cut down on contractor maintenance costs, and it would lead to a more self-sufficient fleet capable of operating in complex environments.
“From talking to crews, one of the frustrating things for them was, it was just kind of the way we set it up, but contractors would come aboard and do the work but the crews would have to hang all the tags … so it was kind of like, rather than having the crew do the work, we would just have the sailors do all the setup and teardown, and then the contractors would step in and do the work and the sailors would watch them do the work. It’s crazy. There’s some maintenance items that are appropriately done by the depot – reset and safety … some smaller day-to-day tasks we just had to get after that.”
It would be nice to get all the open and inspects done before the avail and put the results in the solicitation for you to do the work,” so the work package is accurate and the tank work doesn’t show up as “new work” later on, which impacts cost and schedule.
“By not getting it in the solicitation, it guarantees that you’re going to have growth and new work in the availability. You’ve got it scoped in to the solicitation to do the open and inspect, but not the results of it. What we do there is we have industry provide us hours on what they think may be needed. So it’s one of the additional parts or final parts of the avail that’s not defined.
“The Navy can go do the open and inspect work. We do multiple assist visits to the ships for areas that doesn’t include things like hot work, cutting something open to look, or something that would cause a system to come down, because the ship’s not in the avail.
“We’re conducting a very extensive conditions-based engineering reliability maintenance examination. The Navy, certainly the surface navy, in many cases by default, has done a very heavy reliance on time-based maintenance – so it’s monthly, time to change the oil, and we would do that. Well, that certainly is preventive, but is it the most cost-effective, most efficient and most effective way to do maintenance:”
“So we’re going to take a big swing at, are there ways we can certainly be more effective and efficient? When you have an optimally manned or minimally manned crew, you need to be effective with that time because you want to make sure you’re doing the right maintenance.
If you just say, time-based, you’ve got to do all this, you might have to make some risk decisions on which maintenance to do, but it might not be the right maintenance to do and the right maintenance to forego.
If you had sensors and systems and the ability to say this piece of equipment is more at risk – so do I go do the change oil on my port diesel engine or change the oil on my starboard diesel engine? If we had the metrics and assessment rigor that would say we might be getting ready to experience a casualty on your port engine, then we would say, we wait to do the starboard and I’ll go do the port engine. So that’s sort of the thought process behind the conditions-based maintenance instead of the time-based maintenance.
Where you are constrained with man hours with a smaller crew, you sometimes have to make those decisions, so we’re taking a look at how we can use the assessment rigor to help drive us into making the right maintenance decisions. And then what that may allow us to do as well is examine do we have the right crew complement, numbers and by ratings, designators, skillsets. Do we have the right total numbers, and do we have the right skillsets?”
Every launch. a slew of maintenance checks have to be conducted. “All of those checks that are in the regular routine operations of the ship are what the ship crew does naturally when they’re out to sea, which is why we end up with so many man hours a year”
“It was really about the monthly level and below checks are kind of within the capacity and the capabilities of the crew. And then those checks that went beyond the monthly scope usually were more intrusive and demanded more man hours – not always the case, but typically – and those were, in many cases, planned for those to be contractor-executed checks, because if you were doing them quarterly you could probably schedule them in conjunction with periods of time when the ship would be in port.”
As the fleet operates the ships more, crews will find more efficient ways to schedule maintenance work, trimming down on the number of hours required to do maintenance. The way to make a real dent in total maintenance, though, would be to fully implement the conditions-based maintenance model.
One ship was equipped with thousands sensors that send data off the ship on the status of various shipboard systems. Using that data to make decisions about when to perform maintenance – rather than just doing a daily, weekly or monthly check because a manual says so – would be the most efficient use of the small crew’s time
It's long days, it's busy days … it's not an easy job. "But it's rewarding. Its an organization where crew members have the ability to impact operations at a strategic level. And that's a pretty amazing thing."
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