September 19, 2019 – Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) kicked off an aligned effort with Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) this past August to ensure timely delivery of all of ship and submarine availabilities. This is the Naval Sustainment System – Shipyards (NSS-S) transformation, which centers on empowering project mechanics and ensuring continual work execution on the deckplates.
“This effort pulls in the entire ‘availability enterprise’ to resolve challenges internal as well as external to public shipyards,” said Shipyard Commander Captain Kai Torkelson. “There have been real improvements at the shipyards already, and NSS-S builds on many of these things we have been doing. However, challenges remain. The intent of NSS-S will be to cement those wins and accelerate the pace of improvement.”
NSS-S is modeled after the effort at Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs) to achieve more mission capable Super Hornets during the past year. If comparing aviation and ship maintenance has one thinking of the classic apples-and-oranges analogy, the same objectives that drove success at the FRCs can be applied at the public shipyards. These goals include having a sense of urgency for improvement, willingness to challenge established modes of thinking, and ensuring quick and visible change on the availability deckplates. The central question to the entire NSS-S transformation is “does this help meet the goal faster?”
One of the first goals in realizing the transformation at NNSY is releasing the constraints to improve performance for topside work on USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), particularly its jet blast deflectors. Bush arrived at NNSY in February 2019 for a Drydocking Planned Incremental Availability. As one of the most complex and extensive CVN CNO availabilities in NNSY history, requiring an estimated 1.3 million mandays, ensuring timely delivery of Bush back to the Fleet is critical.
Jet Blast Deflector Zone Manager Jeremy Clark said that thanks to the NSS-S transformation, “We are seeing change and this will benefit the team. I am embracing this and hopefully we will be able to transfer this though out the shipyard.”
One of the immediate improvements on the project as part of NSS-S was implementing a topside temporary material storage area for NNSY’s Outside Machine Shop (Shop 38) on the carrier flight deck. The material storage area improves accessibility and convenience for mechanics performing jobs onboard. “This allows waterfront mechanics quicker access to tools and material they need to help get George H.W. Bush back to sea on time!” said NAVSEA Commander Vice Admiral Tom Moore. “Thank you to those who helped make this happen. Your hard work does not go unnoticed.”
Matt Merciez, NSS-S Champion for NNSY, said another benefit with the transformation has been establishing an Availability Production Center that is driving the discussion of issues, such as the gas free engineering process ensuring confined spaces onboard are safe for workers. “We’ve identified issues with the gas free process—it’s forcing those conversations to get resolutions instead of just living with inefficiencies,” he said. “These issues were impacting the gas free process not just on this ship, but all the ships on the waterfront. Now when we streamline the process, all the ships on the waterfront will benefit.”
The NSS-S transformation is founded on five pillars enabled by a change management plan. Four of these pillars—planning, engineering, material and technology—are external to the shipyards, while the internal pillar lasers in at the source of the work on the deckplates. “This is about making it easier at the deckplate to execute the work, and ultimately ensuring we have high performing teams delivering all of our availabilities on time or early,” said Torkelson.
Members of the Boston Consulting Group, the international management consulting firm partnering with NAVSEA on the NSS-S transformation, has spent six weeks at NNSY focusing on deckplate mechanics and examining what inhibits them from timely execution of work—is it waiting on paperwork? Material availability? What other factors are causing delays? At the conclusion of this six-week evaluation, the consulting group will be performing an assessment of barriers—as well as outcomes of immediate improvements—to develop a corporate implementation plan to ensure lasting change.
This transformation directly supports NAVSEA’s mission, as defined in the NAVSEA Campaign Plan to Expand the Advantage 2.0, to “design, build, deliver and maintain ships and systems on-time and on-cost for the United States Navy.”