Increased carrier strike group deployment lengths have resulted in declining ship conditions and materiel readiness, and in a maintenance backlog that has not been fully identified or resourced. The declining condition of ships has increased the duration of time that ships spend undergoing maintenance in the shipyards, which in turn compresses the time available in the schedule for training and operations.
The shipyards face several challenges in completing maintenance on time, such as unanticipated requirements, workforce inexperience, and workload fluctuations. The Navy has been struggling to accurately define maintenance requirements—a key step to completing maintenance on time. Furthermore, private shipyard officials say they may also face challenges as the Navy implements a new contracting strategy.
Navy documents show that aligning ships’ command and control under the OFRP contributes to wide swings in port workload, which in turn can have a negative effect on the private-sector industrial base.
According to industry officials, these cycles result in unsustainable lows followed by potentially unmanageable highs in workload that they expect will eventually erode the ship repair industrial base’s skilled workforce. Additionally, Navy officials stated that wide fluctuations in port loading adversely affect private industry’s ability to support public shipyard maintenance work.
Navy has begun to take steps to ensure that ships being aligned under a carrier strike group have staggered maintenance start and stop timelines, and that they are studying the effects of OFRP ship alignment on the ship repair industrial base.
But while leaders admit OFRP may need to change, it’s worth noting that Fleet Forces Command was thoroughly warned that getting several ships in and out of maintenance at the same time could prove unworkable.
Getting the ships to come out of the yards simultaneously is difficult.“The challenge is lets say you want four destroyers in a battle group, all to come out at the same time in one port? That’s a real challenge, particularly in places with less infrastructure.
“Your big rub there is, the challenge of OFRP is … all those ships [in a carrier strike group], they go through maintenance together, they go through training together and they deploy together.” “So, what our challenge is, is to be able to take all that work from all those ships and try to schedule it for roughly about the same time, and to get all that work done on time. So that’s our challenge.
“Now, in big shipyards, a lot of people, a lot of ships, you can kind of absorb that type of workload. When you go to a smaller shipyard, they typically cannot work on more than one or two destroyers at a time.
Fleet Forces would have to be responsive to the shipyards because at least that way they could plan for delays.
“They know if they give us all this work at one time, it’s going to go long anyway,” “So they’d rather be able to plan that and at least know when they’re getting the ship back, as opposed to, ‘nope, we’re not going to talk to you, you’ve got to go do it,’ and then the ships go long because we don’t have enough people to do the work.”
The ideal situation for the maintenance community would be to have a steady flow of ships come through public and private yards for maintenance and modernization.
However, under OFRP all the ships of a CSG must be through maintenance and basic training and ready to start integrated training by an exact date. These opposing needs are being worked out in the OFRP Cross-Functional Team and have already led to some gives and takes.
The ships may need to split up and go to different yards to avoid overloading a single shipyard. A ship that requires a longer maintenance period may need to cut into basic training and compress that schedule, while still being ready to start integrated training on the I-date.
If maintainers know in advance that a ship needs major repair work during its availability, or will be stuck in dock longer to accommodate a system modernization effort, they can tell the training community well in advance and work together to find a mutually acceptable solution.
We could have done a better job of ensuring we had all the pieces and parts to that before we got started. The program executive offices, maintainers, trainers and others were all involved in the effort to field components but didn’t effectively synchronize their schedules.
The chief of naval operations threw down an aggressive goal for surface ship maintenance: zero days lost to maintenance delays by the end of Fiscal Year 2021.
For a navy and an industrial base that just two years ago delivered just 29 percent of ships out of maintenance on time, that seemed like a heavy lift.
Yet, the Navy had gone from more than 7,000 lost days in FY 2019 to just 1,100 in FY 2020 due to maintenance overruns and was on track to continue lowering that closer to zero, as a result of several ongoing initiatives at the private and public yards to do better maintenance more efficiently.
GAO noted that, while the Navy in its report said it’s aiming to cut the number of maintenance delay days by 80 percent between FY 2019 and FY 2020 and altogether eradicate maintenance delay days by FY 2021, the service has not achieved the 80-percent benchmark.
“NAVSEA officials said they still hope to meet the 80 percent reduction in days of maintenance delay by the end of fiscal year 2020 for both private surface ship maintenance and maintenance at public shipyards. However, our analysis of Navy data showed that the Navy had already incurred significantly more days of maintenance delay than would allow it to meet this goal according to GAO.
“Specifically, the Navy incurred 3,096 days of maintenance delay through June of fiscal year 2020 on surface ships—more than twice the 1,419 days or fewer that would have allowed it to achieve an 80 percent reduction,” it continues. “Likewise, the Navy incurred 730 days of maintenance delay through June of fiscal year 2020 on aircraft carriers and submarines at public shipyards, more than the 430 days or fewer that would have allowed it to achieve an 80 percent reduction.”
Navy took issue with how GAO assessed the Navy’s objectives and said the 80-percent benchmark for cutting maintenance delay days was a “stretch goal,” but GAO said that, “none of the Navy’s comments demonstrated that our characterization was inaccurate.”
Naval Sea Systems Command told GAO that the service is not on track to eradicate maintenance delay days in FY 2021 as planned.
“According to these officials, it is already apparent that there will be delays in fiscal year 2021 because delays in fiscal year 2020 pushed back the start dates for some fiscal year 2021 maintenance periods,” the report reads. “Pressure on shipyard workforce capacity have been a major cause for the delays, in addition to the other factors contributing to delays identified in the July 2020 report.”
Navy also pointed out that the Navy and GAO use different approaches to determine the number of maintenance delay days and that the service has altered its baseline maintenance timelines recently. Still, GAO argued its approach is “more appropriate” for quantifying the number of delay days.
“The Navy stated that it was able to reduce such delays by nearly 80 percent in fiscal year 2020 from the prior year. However, the Navy also acknowledged that its method included adjusting the baselines—the expected durations of the maintenance periods—for fiscal year 2020 maintenance periods,” GAO wrote.
“The Navy stated that it made these adjustments to align work with available shipyard capacity and improvements in planning and directed maintenance. Our calculations did not include such adjustments to baselines, and instead measured the days that a maintenance period extended past its original planned end date. We believe this is a more appropriate method for measuring days of delay during any given maintenance period, rather than adjusting the baseline.”
Three main focus areas for the Navy have been on-time delivery of ships in construction and maintenance; improving material availability to support maintenance activities; and increasing capacity to do work by creating more efficiency and better flow within public and private repair yards.
Among the main ongoing efforts is Perform to Plan (P2P), which has several iterations – including one for the surface ship enterprise, one for the undersea enterprise and one for public yards.
P2P is “a data-driven detailed analysis of the processes that we use and really looking to identify the drivers in terms of maintenance delays and how we improve our performance outcomes.” P2P has generated a number of focused improvement initiatives, and the three most likely to continue driving down ship maintenance delays deal with planning, materials and change management.
On the planning improvement initiative, P2P helped look at everything that goes into making a plan for maintenance and getting ready to execute it: developing a work package that includes modernization work, directed maintenance derived from class maintenance plans, and fleet maintenance work that’s based on what’s broken or worn down on a particular ship; drawing up an execution plan, where the lead maintenance activity takes the work package and maps out how many tradesmen are needed at a certain time.
Must determine what work can be done simultaneously and what must be done in sequence, what testing will have to take place on the back end and more; and creating an integrated master schedule that lines out not only what the yard will be doing but also how subcontractors, ship’s crew and other Navy installation teams will all work around each other.
For surface ship maintenance at private yards, this planning can’t happen until a contract is awarded, which is why the service is trying to get all contracts awarded 120 days before the start of the availability.
And that unplanned work is a main driver of availabilities going long, which means that good planning – which includes scheduling activities most likely to lead to growth work, such as tank inspections and repairs, early in the schedule – can anticipate and mitigate areas where growth work typically occurs.
The contracting improvement initiative looks not only at these issues but also recommends “best value” types of contracts that allow the Navy to take factors other than price – such as smoother port loading – into consideration when awarding a repair contract.
On the materials improvement side, NAVSEA’s goal is to have all material at a shipyard by the day the availability starts, and the command stood up a Material Management Group within the SEA 21 surface ship lifecycle management organization to help track material that has a history of being tied to execution problems and ensuring sufficient material is on hand at the start of work. “The metrics show we’re moving that in the right direction.”
These are all pretty standard best practices: doing detailed planning early on, having the right people and material on hand, and knowing the condition of the ship well enough to avoid unexpected growth work that will throw off the plan.
What P2P has done here, is take a data collection and analysis approach to making sure that good ideas are being applied and executed in the right ways, and suggesting ways where the data show there’s room for improvement.
For example, P2P – the data showed that the Navy was cramming a lot of work into surface ship maintenance availabilities but holding private yards to too short a timeline, leading to inevitable delays – not because of poor workmanship at the yards, but because the critical work that has to get done end-to-end in sequence just didn’t add up to the timelines the Navy was asking of the repair yards.
Between FY 2019 and 2020, the service used this data to reassess surface ship availability durations and created an Availability Duration Scorecard 3.0 that reflected the data collection and analysis.
The FY 2020 maintenance availabilities were given new end dates based on the updated scorecard, and “so right now coming out of FY ‘20 we’re tracking just over 1,100 days of maintenance delays. Now that’s a pretty significant decrease. Part of that was attributed to that avail duration adjustment … but the other is some of these other initiatives taking hold.”
“We’ve got an effort going on right now to really get into the project teams on the waterfront – so this is both the Navy and the shipyard project teams managing those availabilities – to really assess how effectively we are implementing some of these process improvement initiatives we put forward.
So that’s going to give us some more indications” of maintenance availabilities increasingly ending on time. The efforts that have been developed over the last couple years are going to give us an opportunity to see how effective we are in driving that change right down to the waterfront, to the individual ship availability level.
We are seeing a good decrease in the days of maintenance delays from 2019 to 2020. And the only caveat to be put on that is a portion of that has to do with the reset of the durations.”
Seeing what a difference the P2P analysis and the availability duration scorecard overhaul has had in creating more predictability and ability to stick to the plan on the surface ship side, and a similar effort is happening on the aircraft carrier and submarine maintenance side at the public yards, with analysis taking place now to inform new duration guidelines.
Navy is “seeing some things in their model that we weren’t effectively picking up in the way we plan avail durations. So we’re going through the process to maybe look at that. We went through that on the surface side probably a year, maybe 18 months ago, where … we just found that there was so much work going into these availabilities we had not properly set the duration of these availabilities that we were giving the shipyards to go do the work. We’re looking at that right now in the public sector. So that’s going to be one of the outcomes coming out of this.”
Another effort on the public yard side is Naval Sustainment System – Shipyard, which follows the NSS Aviation effort that helped the service achieve 80-percent mission capable rates in the fighter fleet that just years before had been hovering in the 40- to 50-percent range. NSS-Shipyard, like its aviation predecessor, will involve a third party coming in to look at processes and efficiency at the shop level all the way up through the yard level, seeing how work flows and suggesting improvements.
The notion that ship maintenance work should be done efficiently and on time isn’t new, but it holds a new importance sine the new plan is to grow the fleet by 66 percent in the next 25 years – from today’s 296 to about 500 by 2045. Though the first question many have asked since the announcement is, how will the Navy afford to buy 200 more ships in the next two decades, a reasonable follow-up question is, how will the Navy maintain them all?
“When you look at capacity, we see two levers, two opportunities to increase capacity. One is to improve your efficiency of the work you’re already doing. You do it for less man days, less man hours than what you’re doing today. So that will buy back some of that capacity. And that’s what we’re going after in the public shipyards, the efficiency gains .”
Under the new plan, the Navy would have the same number or slightly fewer aircraft carriers that are maintained at these public yards, but the service would have 70 or 80 attack submarines – plus a dozen ballistic missile submarines as part of the national nuclear deterrence triad – compared to the 50 attack subs in the inventory today. Since the Navy doesn’t have the option to build another public yard right now, increasing the throughput at the current yards is important.
“The second part is, frankly, just bringing in more shipyards. More new capacity as it relates to surface ship maintenance – where the new plan would double the size of today’s small combatant fleet and add 140 and 240 unmanned and optionally manned ships that the Navy hasn’t even had to think about maintaining to this point. “There are opportunities. As you at the industrial base around the country, there are shipyards out there we can tap into to add more capacity than what we have today.
1. Material Consumption May Grow Differently Than Maintenance Workload
2. Generalizing Across Fleets Will Enable Forecasting of Newer Fleets’ Workloads
3. Effects of Calendar and Organizational Transitions Can Be Mistaken for Age
4. Modification Life-Cycle Patterns May Differ from Maintenance Patterns
5. Designers’ Horizons Limit the Operational Usefulness and Supportability of Original Designs
6. Changing Operational Requirements May Cause Episodic Maintenance Workloads
7. Material Consumption Were Categorized According to Work Content and Maintenance Echelon
8. Most Maintenance Workloads Grow as Fleets Age, Although at Varying Rates
9. Material Consumption Growth Decelerates as Fleets Age
10. How Aging May Relate to Safety, Availability, and Support Costs