The Shipyard Infrastructure Optimisation Plan effort will also include repairing and enhancing dry docks and replacing aging capital equipment, but the Navy hopes to hash out the layout issues early on to avoid installing large capital equipment and then having to move it a few years later.
“The Shipyard Infrastructure Optimisation Plan articulated a vision that shipyard infrastructure has three interdependent components: the dry docks, the facilities and the capital equipment; and that these configurations are fundamentally linked to the shipyards’ ability to execute the mission they are tasked to do..
“We are utilising modeling and simulation as a tool to integrate these components to better inform the desired infrastructure layout. Through this, the Navy will be in a better position to make meaningful, long-lasting investments that not only address the condition of the facilities and equipment but also change the way the work is conducted. Once we’re finished, the Navy will recover more than several hundred thousand work days per year, every year.”
A first step is the Digital Twin effort, where the yards as they exist today will be put into a modeling and simulation system that can then generate numerous options to optimise work flow.
We have designed a notional new design for the yard running simulations on transit times for various types of personnel to understand what shops, offices and other facilities need to be located near what other facilities to help optimise travel flow.
The impact of each worker having to walk an inefficient path from location to location to do their job may seem minute, but when multiplied by the total workforce over the span of a maintenance availability, an inefficient yard design can extend the amount of time it takes to repair a ship quite a bit.
The workforce walks the circumference of the earth every day getting to and from the worksite. 5% inefficiency in their time spent walking around the yard could be eliminated with a more appropriate flow from the shops down to the drydocks.
Workers train weekly to maintain readiness, so when the call comes to get the job done, they are prepared. “This trainer allows firefighters to work in virtual controlled environment that detects whether agent is applied correctly to extinguish fires. The trainer mimics the heat a firefighter feels and presents a multitude of fire scenarios, to include building and aircraft fires.”
Not only is the simulator safer, but it is also more cost effective and easier to use. Now firefighters do not have to load up their rigs with equipment, water, gas and wear heavy equipment when training. They are able to train in their training rooms without leaving the facility.
The simulator consists of a head monitor display, nozzle and protective gear. The computer central processing unit is in the simulated firefighter air tank system that the individual places on their back. This simulated tank is much lighter than what the firefighters would normally wear during a call.
“Lightweight means less physical stress . Our vehicles, and equipment stay in-service, allowing for faster responses to real world emergencies that occur while we’re training. While the simulator allows skill sharpening in a safe environment, the authenticity of a real fire is the best way to learn.
“There’s no substitute for fighting real fires. “In order to do what we do, we have to know how fire is going to react when you introduce something new to that environment - water, foam, ventilation, etc. If you apply any of those examples in the wrong way, you could end up with accidents.
We’re confident that transparently laying out those upcoming challenges will encourage industry to make the right investments in their infrastructure and workforce and avoid further ship maintenance troubles in the coming decades.
Today, the Navy does not have enough dry docks at its disposal to care for cruisers, destroyers and Littoral Combat Ships. A mismatch in the number of ships and number of dry docks is one issue; ships coming into the yards late due to deployment extensions and ships coming out of repairs late due to unplanned work popping up exacerbate the situation.
“When we looked at it, we had spent a lot of time analyzing and building the 30-year shipbuilding plan, which gave the industrial base a real clear signal on what was to come and then they could start making capital investment decisions. We were less clear and less transparent about the repair work.”
“And that, in combination with kind of awarding each ship repair individually, was causing us to sub-optimise performance. So the purpose of the plan was to make sure we were very clear with the Navy, with Congress, with all of our industrial partners, the workload coming forward and then get better at planning the work, which would allow our industrial partners to get more efficient at executing the work.”
The long-range plan does multiple things. First, it lays out the expected workload for the repair and modernisation industry based on anticipated ship inventory. Identifying the number of availabilities, the number of man hours, and the dollar value of the work helps both industry leaders and Navy planners see the wave of work coming in terms that make sense to them.
It also outlines ongoing initiatives with the ship yards to help address today’s maintenance backlogs by investing in the yards’ layout and capital equipment to create a more efficient place to do ship repairs and upgrades. The plan looks to create better workload stability and thereby be able to use new contracting models that promote efficiency and on-time delivery of ships.
Today, the Navy awards contracts an average of 90 days before the start of a maintenance availability, limiting yards’ ability to hire new people or rearrange their workload to accommodate a new ship. Our goal is to bring that average to 180 days to allow for better planning.
We have already reduced the number of inspections associated with ship maintenance work by 30 percent and hope to eventually bring that down to 50 percent. We are also increasing on-the-scene leaders’ ability to approve changes to the work package once an availability starts, helping to curtail what can be lengthy pauses in work while the approval request goes up the chain of command.
Better business practices will help ships get in and out of maintenance in a timelier manner, as well as encourage industry to spend money on yard and workforce investments that will be pivotal to the Navy’s and industry’s ability to keep up with demand in the next few decades.
“Our on-time availability is improving out of both the public and the private yards, but it’s not yet to the point where we need it to be. We’re starting to see performance improve. We’re starting to see we’re using shipyards we hadn’t used previously. As noted, the demand is there, the challenge is to meet that demand as efficiently as we can with the right acquisition strategy.”
The service is in talks with shipyards that have existing dry docks capacity to see if they want to do business with the Navy leaders who are offering to certify facilities before companies even bid on any repair contracts to reduce the risk the yard takes and to grow the field of possible repair yards. The Navy has also spoken previously of talking to industry to gauge any interest in existing yards adding new dry docks.
Despite the efforts to find more dry docks to work with, it’s unlikely the Navy will increase its dry dock capacity by 60 percent to keep up with the 60-percent increase in ships needing them. Business practice improvements are going to make up for some the difference, but Navy needs to take additional measures going forward to deal with the upcoming surge in surface ship maintenance needs,
When we’ve looked at it, industry responds to the demand signal we put out there. We were not clear in showing the composite demand signal, so a key element of that 30-year maintenance plan was so we could show the entire demand signal. Our experience has been, when we clearly articulate the demand, industry makes really good decisions on how to invest to help us deliver on that demand.
You have to fight with the fleet you have now. There is no other option; it is a necessity. Our Goal is to do that better and to lay the groundwork for the future fleet by focusing upon availability of assets. We have identified two principal Questions. First, how do we get our availability rates higher? Second, how do we get ships to the fight more effectively and more often? The essential assets required to fight and win are not going to make much difference sitting in Job Site Drydocks. We can provide for enhanced deterrence through enhanced availability. They are not going deter anybody if they are not available and capable of going to sea..
We have put a major effort in getting much greater availability from many of our ships, and the ways we have done so will shape our approach, our expectations and our template for the operation of the new ship classes. We have seen a dramatic improvement in our upgrade and maintenance programmes. For example, out maintenance engineering planning programme is already doing a better job of predicting the maintenance needs of specific ship hulls and should continue getting more accurate over the next few years.
We put as much effort into infrastructure design as we did into combat readiness, which is about numbers today. We want to shape infrastructure that is all about availability of assets required for mission success, and not just readiness determined with poorly designed metrics. Getting the right infrastructure to generate fleet innovation on a sustained basis is what is crucial for mission success. We are strongly promoting continuous build processes.
We have established technical foundation instructions that look at each class of ship and, based on where a hull is in its service life and what type of maintenance availability it is approaching, outlines what type of work the ship is likely to need. Instructions for each individual hull and monitors of deferred maintenance are active, in addition to other things engineering teams need to know about that particular ship..
The job sites at the Yards have created learning centers to help new hires become proficient at their trades faster so cases of schedule delays and cost increases due to workforce challenges will be less of a budgeting problem going forward. We want the trainers there, as well, so that when we’re maintaining one part of the system deployed in theatre, it’s the same people in the same building maintaining those things that will allow us to make future decisions about outdated operations and training requirements. We want these teams sitting next to each other and learning together.
Once all the ships have been through a docking availability, where they are more thoroughly taken apart and inspected, we will have a very clear idea of the state of each ship and what to expect for future maintenance periods. We anticipate the problem of work package growth will be reduced in the future but it will probably never completely go away. There is always something that will surprise us when you take a pump off of a foundation that you couldn’t see before and then that foundation is eroding.
The good news is that we anticipate work growth when drafting plans for future years out, and they generally can stay within that margin. Where we see growth today is still on ships that have not gone through that process, that docking process, and really getting into the tanks and understanding what those conditions are. It is a constantly improving process with the goal to know exactly what the condition of the ship is so we can properly plan for it, order the materiel and be able to do the work on schedule and on time.
We have initiated periodic meetings with each shipyard commander to get an update on progress of the ships and to find ways to empower the yards to do what it takes to deliver the ships on-time or early. It’s to get a quick update on where they are, where they’re having challenges, and then where can headquarters can provide help in terms of, do you need our help in getting materiel, do you need our help in clearing some technical issues that you need adjudicated before you can get back to testing. So that’s all begun to contribute to success of operations.
There are things we can do up at headquarters to advance quality of operations, if it’s a technical issue we can give them additional technical resources. We can provide them some focused effort from the headquarters; if our chief engineer sitting there with the shipyard commander brings an issue up, it cuts through the normal layers that these things have to get through. It has fostered key ingredients for the future fleet, most importantly that time matters, and there must always be a sense of urgency since ships need to get back to the fight as soon as possible.
We cannot overstate enough the importance of periodic reviews because we aren’t about to claim we are the reason these things have gotten better, but review do in fact provide the shipyard commanders with an additional level of a sense of urgency, that we have established a mechanism to get headquarters’ attention; that headquarters is there to support each worker at the yard; that if they’ve come up against a roadblock that they’re having a problem getting solved, then we can muster some resources to get the issue solved probably quicker than they can get the problem fixed in the normal way. We want to create better supervisors at the Deckplate, and initiatives are being put in place to train new hires more quickly so it is possible to start contributing to the workload even before they’re qualified to work on the ship.
Many availabilities that experience problems, on the other hand, are much more complex. The biggest factor is that many availabilities take much longer than anticipated, not due to unexpected maintenance work but rather because modernisation work suddenly started driving schedules. Modernisation, in the past, has generally not been a driver for schedule in availabilities – they mostly have been specific to particular parts of the ship, or particular machinery, or some capability like that.
We’re now getting into modernisation that really takes the ship apart completely. The scope and duration of some systems installation are now understood to some degree, but often times we will not know until between that budget process and the beginning of the year. We have shifted some of the money over to help address all those challenges – though ultimately the shortfall is about the same size now as it was at the beginning of the fiscal year.
The fact that the deficit hasn’t shrunk much over the last period isn’t for lack of trying, though. We had begun awarding firm fixed-priced contracts for surface ships instead of the old multi-ship/multi-option setup. Preliminary observations shows that costs are coming down, freeing up money to spend on other emerging ship maintenance work.
But sometimes we find ourselves facing a big unplanned bill this fiscal year when ships return from a deployment that was not only extended for a significant period but was also essentially the second in a back-to-back deployment with only bare-bones maintenance work in between.
We have been warning Congress for years that extended deployments since have led to more severe maintenance problems when ships can finally go into an availability. Insufficient time and funding have led to partial completions of the work in some cases, which then creates bigger problems down the road – for example, tank inspections get skipped and then we have to deal with major corrosion issues later on.
What we’re seeing now with the actual testing of equipment prior to the availability, the additional work the ships are tasked with over the course of deployment, we’re seeing a lot more work now coming into that package. The consequences are manifested in an availability that will be much bigger than we anticipated.
So as we grow the size of the workforce and we go look at all the ship work we have on the plate we’re trying to get out in front far enough in advance so we can go to the fleet commanders, telling them don’t have the capacity at the naval shipyards, and then we can go talk to industry earlier than we’ve typically done before. If you look at the list of ships out there, there are several cases where looking into the future we may have to go to industry earlier than we’ve done today.
In some years, Pentagon-level reprogramming can take money from other Service acquisition programmes, but most of the time we cannot get money from the other services for the year to cover shortfalls. Due to funding shortfalls, we have reduced contract support levels, intermediate level repairs, and ability to provide after-hours support in specific areas. Although extensive efforts have been expended to limit adverse impact to the ships undergoing maintenance, fiscal realities have forced us into these actions.
Specifically, we are forced to stop engineering support to include tank and void inspections, infrared surveys, underway vibration analysis and surface ship availability work certifications. Reduction in parts procurement means a stop to all major diesel work, surface ship torpedo tube repairs and refurbishment, air compressor overhauls, communication receiver and transmitter repairs, and repairs to electronic warfare and anti-ship missile decoy systems. When supplies of on hand materiel run out, repairs to additional systems will be impacted.
Delaying maintenance periods, pressing them into the next fiscal year with the budget currently under consideration not being optimal, affects even the smallest number of ships, impacting the final decision on how to deal with the operations and maintenance shortfall. We do not want to embark on a path that partially accomplishes all availabilities across the entire fleet. That is a dangerous practice that rapidly builds maintenance and capability backlogs that are difficult to recover. Indeed, we are still digging out from that sort of policy implemented more than a decade ago that is difficult to recover from.
The fleet takes on operational risk when it has less than full operations and maintenance funding, meaning acceptance of less readiness across the whole of the Fleet, less capacity to surge in crisis, or perhaps living with reduced readiness in our ships that would keep them from reaching the end of their service lives. In any case, recovering from these situations will cost us more in time and money in the future, limiting utility of the Force.
1. How do you fight with the fleet you have and prepare at the same time for tomorrow’s fleet, especially when you have several new programmes in the pipeline?
2. How do you execute initial steps to a successful maintenance availability like proper planning, determining what people and materiel will be needed at each step along the way?
3. By learning how to ramp up availability with today’s fleet, are you preparing solid templates for future operations?
4. Several months before the availability starts, do you commit to having a resource plan --in other words, these are the people you need, when you’re going to need them, so you can finish on time?
5. Isn’t one broad aspect of changes you are responsible for clearly setting out solid goals for build/upgrade the Fleet of the 21st Century?
6. Isn’t it important for you to have periodic calls with each shipyard commanders to get updates on progress and find ways to empower the yards to do what it takes to deliver on-time?
7. How important in your view is building a new shipyard training infrastructure to support a 21st century combat force?
8. If you have work backlog, how do you plan to move availabilities around so you have workers with the capacity to do work?
9. Overtime is one of must important factors to adjust, but isn’t it difficult for you to fine-tune how many man-days of work get accomplished without taking major workforce shortages into account?
10. So it is apparent your focus is on advanced planning, the growth in the workforce, worker-efficiency initiatives and more—how do you plan to achieve success in these areas?