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Achieving a high level of real-ivorld effectiveness in naval weapons requires solving thousands of problems, most of them small, and many of ^which do not emerge until a new system is exposed to the stresses of the , operational environment as these aircraft are being exposed to the wind and rain that lash the Forrestal’s flight deck. Solving these problems both reduces a system's failure rate and improves the ability of maintenance ■ crews, supported by the entire logistic system, to get the hardware working
right again, qtiickly, ivhen it does fail.
It is important to distinguish between a piece of hardware as a “weapon system” and the much larger “system” which must work effectively to have real- world operational capability. (The term “total system” will be used to denote the larger system of which the weapons hardware is but one element, along with such other elements as technical data, test equipment, support personnel, spare parts, etc.) Not all problems require changes to weapons hardware for their solution.
The conventional process for solving material readiness problems is the following. Something fails. Sailors have to fill out maintenance action forms in order to draw parts to restore the equipment. These reports are processed, often several months later, in a central computer facility. Analysts review the computer printouts to identify trends and to attempt to spotlight problems.
Problems thus identified are studied, and proposed fixes, usually hardware service changes, are defined for the most visible problems. Funds are then sought for development of a change. If all goes well, the change is developed, and change kits are procured and distributed. Then, if installation money and capacity become available, the change is installed. This process (1) takes too long, (2) costs too much, and (3) is biased toward solving problems through hardware service changes, even when they could be solved faster and cheaper through some other element of the total system which supports operational capability. The worst shortcoming of this process is the time required. Often it takes 18 months from the first emergence of a problem until it is recognized by someone who can do something about it, another 18 months to develop the modification hardware and its related support, and then perhaps two years before the ship, aircraft, or weapon can get into a facility that can install the change. After a few trips around this circuit—particularly if a change does not solve the problem—the weapon is obsolete.
Why it Should be Done in Situ: Real-world effectiveness can best be pursued in situ, that is, where the weapon or system is operated. The people identifying and solving the problems can be most effective if they are on scene, totally immersed in the hardware’s operational environment. One of the central findings of recent research on the innovation process has been the high correlation between exposure of research and development people to users and the real-world success of new processes or products.1 These studies have confirmed what a lot of naval officers have long suspected, that if research and development people are going to produce things that are useful and practical, they need exposure to the needs they are trying to satisfy.
Another compelling reason for conducting the process in situ is that only by so doing is it possible to really deal with problems on a “system basis.” When the innovator is a part of the operational environment, he can solve problems through whatever element(s) of the total system—hardware plus support personnel, technical data, parts, etc.—offer the most advantageous solution. He can modify maintenance practices, change allowance lists for spares, modify the training of technicians, etc. The innovator working in situ could normally develop, test, refine, and retest a proposed solution long before the analyst studying computer printouts ashore will even suspect there is a problem.
Why it Should be Done by the Assigned Crews: Experience in industry in this country and abroad has amply demonstrated the “bottom line” payoff from harnessing the creative capabilities of the work force to solving reliability and cost problems.2 In the electronics industry, a steep cost-reduction “learning curve” is essential to survival. Texas Instruments has been a leader in reducing costs of electronic devices, especially calculators and digital watches. All T1 workers, including scientists, are trained in work simplification. Mr. Ray McCord, executive vice president of TI, when asked what portion of the company’s achieved cost reduction, not attributable to increased capital investment per worker, could be accounted for by innovations developed by rank and file workers, replied: “All of it.”
The Japanese have been particularly effective 1° harnessing the heads of the blue collar work force to the task of improving the bottom line. This has been true not only in Japan, but also in Japanese-managed plants in this country. In writing on the success of Japanese products in world markets, August B- Mundel reported that:
“Part of their ‘secret weapon’ has been a psy' chology that the employee who makes the product knows much about the problems of manufacture, quality, work methods, and industrial health- They have proven that this knowledge, properly channeled, can improve working conditions, output, quality, market penetration, and company profits. The Japanese Q.C. (Quality Control) Circle movement is the embodiment of this psychology and is reported to have hundreds of thousands of members. It uses the minds of its employees and makes use of their abilities and competence.’ Under this approach, the workers are trained to identify and solve quality control problems. Small teams consisting of foremen and workers identify major problems within their departments. The circle, a portion of the group, works to understand the causes of the problems and to develop solutions.
Would anyone undertake to argue that the crews maintaining the Navy’s advanced weapons do not have native competence at least equal to that of bench workers in American and Japanese factories? If a 19-year-old high school graduate with two years of engineers who designed the equipment probably have a superior understanding of the weapons hardware, the knowledge of competent Navy technicians in this area is by no means trivial.
When innovations in pursuit of operational effectiveness are performed by the assigned crews, the bias toward hardware service changes would be reversed. With their superior knowledge of all of the non-system hardware elements of the total system re-
n*vy (naval shjp weapon systems engineering station)
experience can be trusted to do the preflight checks °n a $ 14 million dollar fighter aircraft, he certainly bas the competence to participate effectively in improving that process. The crews who “own and must maintain systems have a far superior underhanding of the non-hardware elements of the total systems than can ever be acquired by anyone working ^hore. It is probably also greater than the understanding which could be acquired by a civilian er»gineer on temporary duty in situ. While the
Operational testing of a new weapon system is but one part of the process of achieving its potential. It must also he used in fleet ships, not just test platforms, to find out its real-world assets and liabilities.
quired to support capability, the “owners” would look first for ways to solve problems without changing the hardware. Major hardware redesign (as differentiated from minor changes such as rerouting a wire) would be a last resort.
A very great advantage of the in situ owner- innovators over the conventional problem-solving process is the ability to exploit very minor improvement opportunities. As pointed out earlier, the rate of progress in closing the gap between the design- limited, or potential, performance of the system and what the system actually delivers is a reflection of the cumulative impact of all the problems solved. Industry has found that “breakthroughs” in quality improvement and cost reduction are usually not one or a few big advances but rather the result of thousands of “nickel and dime” innovations.
While the current official system certainly does not promote innovation by assigned crews, such innovations are far from rare.4 Few people have spent many years in the Navy without becoming aware of innovations, produced by assigned military personnel, which either improved equipment readiness, reduced costs, or both. Most innovations by crews of operating units have, in the past, been more to “beat the system” than to improve it. By the “system” here we mean the standard configuration, standard maintenance procedures, etc. Sailors and marines have shown great ingenuity in making things work, “in spite of the system.” What we are proposing would harness the energy, dedication, and creativity formerly invested in beating the system to perfecting the system. When the owning crews beat the system, they solve problems for the particular pieces of equipment assigned to their units. When they improve the system, they solve problems for all units of that system wherever they may be assigned.
Cases of in situ, bottom-up innovation seldom receive much publicity, since they are usually undertaken on a bootleg basis at some personal risk to the innovators.
One case which was published, and which was officially sanctioned, involved maintenance innovations at VA-126.5 Attack Squadron 126 flew transonic F9F-8T Cougars and provided instrument training to pilots going through the replacement air group at Naval Air Station Miramar. In 1961, the squadron invited the Fleet Work Study Team to help it reduce the time planes were down for check, reduce maintenance man-hours per check, and improve quality control procedures. The team, a blackshoe lieutenant commander, a chief personnelman, and a chief aviation machinist’s mate, spent less than four months working with the VA-126 people to help them solve these problems. Team members served as catalysts for applying the common sense of the VA-126 people, the “owners” of the problems. Solutions were found through a combination of the visitors’ knowledge of the work study process and the squadron members’ technical knowledge of the system and their commitment to do a job faster, easier, and more effectively.
After completion of the project, the VA-126 personnel continued to improve the innovations started with the help of the Fleet Work Study Team- Within a year, average time in check had been cut from 7.6 days to 2.5 days and maintenance manhours per check from 275 to 100. Quality control gripes went from 20 to 30 per post-inspection test flight to 5.2 and availability of aircraft from under 70% to about 85%.
The most impressive figures of all related to flight safety. The years rolled by without an accident. In October 1966, five years after the visit of the Fleet Work Study Team (and redesignation to VF-126), the squadron passed 55,000 safe flight hours, a new Navy record for single-engine, fighter-type aircraft- The first accident did not occur until years later, after more than 70,000 safe flight hours.
A Proposal for Action: The Navy must move, now, to harness the creative capabilities of its sailors and junior technical officers to the task of speeding up achievement of a real-world capability for new systems and equipment. The concept should be demonstrated and shaken down in an experimental implementation, then exploited to the full extent test results warrant.
Selected maintenance crews should be designated as innovation teams. The specific pieces of equip' ment on which the team is authorized to make changes should be designated in writing by serial number. The officer or petty officer in command of the crew designated an innovation team should be issued a charter analogous to the charters for managers of weapon system development projects. In addition, each team leader should have control of a sig' nificant amount of money. Funds can be provided by letting the teams retain all or part of the funds saved through the improvements they accomplish, a practice recommended by the Comptroller General of the United States.6
The functions of the innovation teams must be clearly defined in terms of what they are to accomplish, what they are authorized to do, and what they are forbidden to do. Their job should be identify problems, develop and demonstrate solutions, and document the worthwhile ones to the extent necessary for broader application or further de-
C°URTESY of COR VERNE HUBKA
velopment. Responsibility for selecting from this base °f demonstrated options should rest with the material systems commands and other organizations currently responsible for such matters. The innovation teams should have full authority to do anything they drink useful to the specific pieces of equipment dedicated as experimental hardware for development of Capability-improving innovations but no authority to change anything on any other pieces of equipment.
The authority and responsibility of the team should be almost open-ended. Technical authority should be delegated to the team to the maximum extent possible. Along with this virtually unlimited technical discretion, each team leader should have unfettered authority to spend his budget in whatever fashion he thinks best. All specifications, standards, Procedures, etc., except for those directly based in Mandatory laws, should be subject to challenge and 'rnprovement. A team should be free to effect changes in any aspect of the software or hardware of the total system. Their primary objective would be the pursuit of solutions to identified problems hindering achievement of mature operational capability.
The fact that working maintenance crews would “double hatted” as innovation teams does not ‘triply that these teams would be typical fleet maintenance crews. The crews designated as innovation
One of the few publicized cases of the successful application of the innovation techniques described in the article involved VA-126 (later VF-126). A fleet work study team brought about much better performance from the squadron’s F9F-8T Cougars.
teams for important new systems would have specially selected members. The teams could be augmented in terms of skills, and perhaps even numbers of assigned personnel. The leaders of these teams would be carefully selected. Many would be technical officers from the NESEP (Navy Enlisted Scientific Education Program) with years of hands-on experience with related equipment plus training as engineers. For the 32-year-old NESEP lieutenant, being selected as innovation team leader would be comparable to a 44-year-old aviator captain being selected as commanding officer of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. It would be a great honor, a great challenge, and an indicator of future career success.
We anticipate some resistance to these proposals, based on the contention that once a few sailors get a license to change things, there will be no way to “contain the contagion,” and all configuration discipline will be lost. The result would be a degradation of maintenance and support capability. On the contrary, the innovations advocated herein would strengthen, rather than weaken, configuration discipline. The changes we propose would neutralize the forces that lead conscientious officers and men to make unauthorized service changes. Most unauthorized changes are made by people determined to get their equipment ready and who see the conventional system as hopelessly slow and ineffective. The proposed process would provide both a means for solving problems quickly “within the system,” and a source of information on how to deal with problems without resorting to unauthorized hardware changes. A sailor with a problem would often be able to solve it legally by contacting the innovation team for a particular piece of equipment. The innovation teams for specific types of equipment would be identified to all holders of such equipment, perhaps by decals on the equipment itself.
A multiphase implementation process is proposed, with decision milestones preceding each phase. In the initial phase, the concept would be tested and refined in a single organization. This limited test would be to validate the payoff from the process and identify and solve implementation problems. A product of this phase would be a “transfer package” for implementing the concept in other organizations. The second phase would cover implementation of the concept in a limited number of additional organizations. In Phase II, the training program and other elements of the transfer package would be tested and refined. At the completion of the second phase, the Navy would have the capability to implement, smoothly and efficiently, in situ in-house system capability innovation for all systems and equipment.
Summary: New weapons entering the inventory generally have impressive combat potential as a result of superior technical characteristics. However, the actual operational capability delivered in the real world of the fleet environment is usually much below that potential. Closing the gap between the actual operational capability and the design-limited potential capability requires solution of countless problems to reduce failures and the time required to restore equipment when it does fail.
Improved maintenance practices can often be achieved through the use of “applied common sense." Innovation teams for various weapons could institutionalize the legal use of maintenance techniques which now must often he practiced on a “bootleg," illegal basis.
The process of achieving a high real-world operational capability from new weapon systems can be vastly speeded up by tasking selected maintenance crews to perform aspects of the process in situ—on the ships, in the squadrons. Benefits to be expected from in situ in-house innovation include:
► Achieving full operational capability for new weapons during the early part of their operational life, the period when they enjoy a technical superiority over the weapons they can expect to meet in combat
► Achieving this superior operational capability at a fraction of the cost of the conventional system with its bias toward solving problems through timeconsuming and expensive changes to system hardware
► Reducing the fleet’s dependence on civilian contractors and civil service technical representatives whose availability under combat conditions is questionable
► Drastically reducing the cost of ownership of weapons as the in situ teams devote attention to innovations designed to reduce ownership costs directly, as well as indirectly through improvement in equipment reliability
► Improving the “quality of work life” for talented enlisted technicians and junior technical officers. The uniformed “David” teams, and their rooters, would get a lot of satisfaction out of beating the “Goliath” of the conventional bureaucratic-contractor approach to solving the problems barring delivery of the full combat potential of modern weapons. If they were permitted to use their higher capabilities in pursuit of real-world operational capability, the Navy might find that more of the most talented enlisted technicians and junior technical officers would elect to stay in the Navy rather than go elsewhere to find outlets for their talents.
a Lieu tenant Commander Massey entered the Navy as an aviation cadet in 1943, was commissioned and designated a naval aviator in January 1944. He flew combat in the Pacific in Patrol Squadron 117 in World War II. Switching to fighters, he integrated into the regular Navy while flying F4U-4 Corsairs in the USS Midway (CVB-41) air group. He retired from active duty in 1964. While on the staff of Vice Admiral William F. Raborn, DCNO (Development), in the early 1960s, Lieutenant Commander Massey developed the first edition of the Department of the Navy KDT&E Management Guide (NAVSO P-2457). He received his bachelor of arts degree from San Diego State University in I960 while serving as executive officer of Fleet Air Service Squadron Twelve at Miramar and his master s and doctor’s degrees in public administration from American University in 1962 and 1967 respectively. He now heads Progress Management Serv- lces, a consulting firm he established in 1968.
Mr. Witten was called to active duty in the Naval Air Reserve as a seaman second class at Naval Air Station Glenview, Illinois, in February 1940. He made chief aviation machinist’s mate in July 1942 and progressed from mechanic to senior instructor in pilots’ ground school. In 1943, he was assigned to Fleet Air Wing 16 in Brazil where he trained Brazilian Air Force men in afrcraft maintenance, served as maintenance chief, and flew antisubmarine patrols over the South Atlantic as the commanding officer s crew chief. He became a technician in experimental engineering in Johnson (outboard) Motors on leaving the Navy at the end of World War II. Returning to the Navy as a civil servant and aircraft maintenance specialist in 1946, he progressed through a succession of duties related to modification, maintenance, and logistic support of naval aircraft. He was first Technical Director of the Naval Air Integrated Logistic Support Center at Patuxent River, Maryland. He retired in 1975.
Enlisting in the Navy in early 1943, Dr. Henderson was selected for the Naval Academy and commissioned in the Supply Corps on graduation in 1948. Not wanting to be a supply officer, he left the Navy in 1950 and returned shortly as a reserve line officer and spent his last two years of active duty in the Korean area in an ammunition ship and gasoline tanker. Returning to civilian life after the Korean War, he managed the largest garment plant in the Hawaiian Islands and then became a consultant to the garment industry in the Pacific Ocean Area and later in the American South. He earned an MBA from the University of Miami in 1967 and a Ph.D. from Georgia State University in 1970. He is currently associate professor of management at Georgia State.
‘A good summary of what has been learned from these studies is in Edward B. Roberts, “Generating Effective Corporate Innovation,” MIT Technology Review. October-November 1977, pp. 25-33. Still useful is a survey article by James M. Utterback, "Innovation in Industry and the Diffusion of Technology,” Science, 15 February 1974, pp. 620-626. Highly recommended reports of recent studies are Arthur Gerstenfeld, “A Study of Successful Projects, Unsuccessful Projects, and Projects in Progress in West Germany,” IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, August 1976, pp. 116-123; Eric Von Hippie, “Users as Innovators,” MIT Technology Review, January 1978, pp. 30-39; and Roberts, “What do we Really Know About Managing R&D?” Research Management, November 1978, pp. 6-11.
2For a readable overview, see Max Ways, “The American Kind of Worker Participation,” Fortune, October 1976, pp. 168-171, 174, 176, 180, 182.
’August B. Mundel, “Comments on Education and Jobs: The Great Training Robbery," IEEE Engineering Management Group Newsletter, November- December 1970, p. 8.
4An impressive number of innovations have been brought about by crew members and former crew members. These include the revolutionary improvement in gunnery brought about at the turn of the century through the efforts of Lieutenant William S. Sims (see “Gunfire at Sea,” Chapter 2 of Elting E. Morison, Men, Machines, and Modern Times [Cambridge: MIT Press, 1966]); the Naval Aircraft Maintenance Data Collection System; maintenance requirement cards; configuration management; Naval Aircraft Maintenance Program; portable x-ray equipment; spectrographic analysis of aircraft engine oil to detect incipient engine failures through increases in wear metals; inflatable dunnage—and on and on and on.
5Material on VA-126 is based on personal interviews with participants in 1962; the article “Squadron View of Fleet Work Study,” Naval Aviation News, September 1962, pp. 32-35; and recent interviews with two former commanding officers of the squadron.
6Comptrollcr General of the United States Report to the Congress, “Improving-Federal Agency Efficiency Through The Use of Productivity Data in the Budget Process,” GAO Report FGMSD-73-33, 10 May 1978, p. 19.
Father Knew Best------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
On three applications for warrant officer in the Navy, my father went into great detail in answering the question, "What special qualifications do you have for this rank?” On the fourth try, he was advanced to warrant officer when he answered the same question with, "I Possess all the qualifications required by the Constitution for President of the United States.”
(The Naval Institute will pay $25.00 for each anecdote published in the Proceedings.)