As potential adversary threats increase in complexity and lethality, the U.S. Navy’s forward presence around the world has never been more vital. To sustain this presence, Naval Sea Systems Command (NavSea) has a primary mission “to design, build, deliver, and maintain ships and systems on time and on cost.”1 Planning ship maintenance and modernization is key to the Navy’s mission success. Therefore, since 2016, as part of its Culture of Affordability campaign, NavSea has focused on better aligning the maintenance and modernization communities.
On-time delivery of ships and systems from maintenance or modernization availabilities may seem like a clear-cut goal, but the increasing breadth and complexity of required upgrades for surface Navy platforms have created an almost insurmountable challenge. Unlike the carrier and submarine fleets, the surface Navy’s expansive range of platforms and a sizeable and concentrated modernization community have resulted in situations where incomplete alignment between maintenance and modernization has led to delays in ship delivery. Given that the Navy data environment (NDE) information technology system is a critical communication link between maintenance and modernization, it has become the recent focus of a multiorganizational initiative to resolve this alignment disconnect.
While this initiative already is having far-reaching effects on both modernization and maintenance stakeholders, its origin was nothing more than an action item from an unrelated continuous improvement event. In January 2015, the Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems 2.0 led a Lean Six Sigma event for the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) installation. The objective was to reduce installation times across all current and future platforms. During this event, a small subset of the SEWIP installation team, combined with multiple maintenance and modernization stakeholders across the community, identified a critical issue involving the communication of advance planning milestones for ship availabilities. Any needed changes to planned milestones are made during integrated project team development (IPTD) meetings for ship availabilities. Such changes were being tracked and communicated throughout the maintenance community, but they were not being effectively transmitted to the appropriate modernization stakeholders, which included more than 50 organizations, such as program offices and warfare centers.
Upon further investigation, the team determined the root cause of the communication breakdown derived not only from simple inefficiencies, such as failed transmission of information from IPTD meetings or delayed naval messages, but also from a more systemic issue involving the use of secondary tracking systems, such as the Afloat Master Planning System (AMPS) and the Space and Electronic Warfare Program Executive Office Integrated Data Environment and Repository (SPIDER). These systems still relied on manual input and frequently did not compute or display milestones accurately because of changes of which they were not made aware. As a result, organizations were regularly late with deliverables, creating a chain reaction that led to added premium and service costs, availability delays, and ultimately the surface Navy losing critical operational days.
The obvious recommendation was to identify a common distribution medium that all relevant modernization and maintenance community stakeholders could access. NDE was the logical choice, given its commonality and accessibility to both communities. Historically, NDE has been used to communicate ship availability dates and date changes, but it has never had the capability to track milestones. Under the new initiative, NDE evolved into a focused effort that includes both a software modification and a carefully orchestrated entry process that will allow the maintenance community to input advance planning milestones and milestone changes as they become known. The NDE initiative culminated with an additional tab that auto-computes and displays advance planning milestones based on inputs from the type commander and regional maintenance centers, with edit capability to reflect nonstandard changes.
In addition to improving the communication and alignment between the maintenance and modernization communities, the NDE initiative is seeing increased efficiencies in surface Navy scheduling and operational availability. Based on a review of metrics from the type commanders, regional maintenance centers, and warfare centers spanning fiscal years 2010–15, the NDE initiative will save the program offices more than $62 million per year in premium costs, the type commanders more than $2 million annually in service costs, and the surface fleet more than 130 operational days.2
Where We Are Today
According to the Continuous Process Improvement Management System database, which tracks metrics and lessons learned for the Navy and Marine Corps, the projected cost and schedule savings for this initiative exceeded that of any event across the entire Department of the Navy for fiscal year 2016. The initiative also was featured at the 2017 NavSea Culture of Affordability Workshop on 29–30 August 2017, as a case study for lessons learned.
After going live in October 2016 for Atlantic Fleet ship availabilities, NDE has received continual positive feedback from stakeholders. Based on this input, the intention now is to transition the software feature to Pacific Fleet ship availabilities, along with an adapted process appropriate for that planning structure. The final phase of the initiative will be the modification of secondary tracking systems, such as AMPS and SPIDER. While all the necessary information will be available in NDE, many organizations, understandably, have grown to rely solely on secondary tracking systems for milestone dates. Even so, to reap the full benefits of the initiative, these systems will require minor modifications to ensure the appropriate milestone data is extracted for internal processing and display. The full scope of the initiative is expected to be completed and a test platform available to users by the end of fiscal year 2019.
2. James H. Wagner, “Surface Ship Maintenance and Modernization: Overview and Metrics,” 19 May 2014, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division.
The authors would like to thank the following for their help with this article: Jeffrey Baur from U.S. Fleet Forces Command; Michael Dalton, Phillip Redden, and Terry Demarah from Commander Naval Surface Force Atlantic; Steve Lawyer from Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division; and Chris Picone from Naval Sea Systems Command.