The chief of naval operations in January 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, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. Bill Galinis told USNI News that 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.
Galinis, who took command of NAVSEA on June 19, said his three main focus areas since coming into the job 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 – that are led by the vice chief of naval operations and supported by fleet commanders, type commanders and the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.
Galinis called P2P “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 Galinis said the three most likely to continue driving down ship maintenance delays deal with planning, materials and change management.
On the planning improvement initiative, he said P2P helped them 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, 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.
Galinis said that, 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 he said 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,” Galinis said.
In talking to USNI News, Galinis acknowledged that 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, he said, 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 work for which is being run by the CNA – 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 from CNA.
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 that I talked about are 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. And so I think that’s going to give us some more indications” of maintenance availabilities increasingly ending on time, he said.
“So the efforts that have been developed over the last couple years, I think this effort is 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 I would put on that is a portion of that has to do with the reset of the durations.”
Just two weeks into FY 2021, with a goal of zero lost days due to maintenance overruns by the end of the year, Galinis said “I think we’re on the right glideslopes” to reach CNO Adm. Mike Gilday’s goal.
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, the vice admiral said 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.
CNA 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 I think 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 in light of Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s announcement last week that the fleet would grow 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 I think about capacity, two levers, two opportunities I think 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 within that Naval Sustainment Shipyard effort that I talked about and driving some efficiency into the shipyard,” Galinis said.
Under Esper’s 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, Galinis said increasing the throughput at the current yards is important.
“The second part is, frankly, just bringing in more shipyards. More new capacity, I’ll say,” he said, as it relates to surface ship maintenance – where Esper’s 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.
“I think there’s opportunities. As I look at the industrial base around the country, there are shipyards out there that I think we can tap into to add more capacity than what we have today, and I think that’s part of it.”