Misreported material deficiencies take ships out of the fight. The surface warfare community needs to revolutionize the way it reports material deficiencies, improve the accuracy of each ship’s configuration database, and use enhanced data collection to improve fleet readiness. The importance of prompt and accurate reporting cannot be overemphasized. A user-friendly, automated process will reduce incorrect reports and speed repairs. It will keep ships at sea.
Ensuring the right parts arrive the first time will improve repair timelines. And with improved software programs and methods for updating technical documentation, information on material deficiencies will not be lost, also expediting repairs.
Commanding officers are accountable for material readiness, but they share responsibility for the execution of maintenance throughout the ship’s life cycle with the surface warfare type commander’s maintenance team. The first step in managing any ship’s material readiness is to identify deficiencies and the parts needed to repair them. Each deficiency must be recorded in a concise and understandable manner, and notice of deficiencies that cannot be corrected on board ship must be communicated to the appropriate office at the regional maintenance center (RMC). A new system can simplify data entry and make reporting much more efficient.
Build a New System
The organizational maintenance management system–next generation (OMMS-NG) is the software program sailors use to document and report a ship’s material deficiencies. A maintainer, typically a third- or second-class petty officer, has to open OMMS-NG and enter information about the system with the deficiency, creating a workcenter job. That requires gathering large amounts of information from various sources––technical manuals, commercial vendors’ inventories, etc.—and if any piece of that information is incorrect, the whole process must be repeated. Creating a more user-friendly, automatically updatable program that is fully integrated with digital technical documentation would greatly improve the process, saving man-hours and avoiding redundancy.
Every system on a ship has a unique technical manual database used to draft each repair job, and the ship is responsible for making sure every manual in use––hundreds of them, sometimes thousands––is the most recent version. All jobs are consolidated into the current ship’s maintenance project (CSMP), which lists all the jobs on the ship serialized sequentially by work center––again, often by the thousands. That immensely tedious and laborious process can be streamlined with a more adaptive software program that is fully integrated with the latest technical documentation.
Technology for a Better System
Sailors work hard; let’s give them the best tools available to enable their success. A new or updated user-friendly software program with embedded technical information will provide the shore maintenance team with the information needed to make swift repairs, complete root-cause analysis, and save money. A maintainer opening the program to document a deficiency should be able to select the location of the gear needing attention. The program should then guide the maintainer through a process to identify equipment needing repair, automatically selecting the relevant technical manuals and parts information. Technical documentation should be sent regularly to ships and embedded automatically in the job-writing program. Such a system needs to include every piece of equipment on board and should rarely if ever rely on a maintainer’s write-up.
Finally, a deficiency should be serialized not by work center, but by equipment type. Serialization for a fire-pump valve should clearly indicate it is a fire-pump valve/inlet on a cruiser, for example. That would enable fleetwide consolidation of issues across all hull types without the need for additional data manipulation. It also would help ships organize their CSMPs more effectively. Creating an intuitive serialization system can save time and improve the accuracy of every ship’s CSMP.
Widening the aperture
By changing configuration management, the surface warfare community will improve the reporting of material discrepancies. Naval Sea Systems Command and the surface warfare type commander have an incredible opportunity to improve material deficiency reporting; these two organizations can aggregate and parse the information from all ships to create a robust database. Creating a more thorough process—one beyond the current total ship readiness assists and equipment validation spot checks—would consolidate information regarding class-wide deficiencies. Equipment validation is a time-consuming burden that sailors often regard as low priority compared with other responsibilities, such as repairs and maintenance.
Teams of experts need to conduct equipment validation using the newest technical documentation capability, and the process must be iterative. During each maintenance availability, a type commander team could verify that a ship’s configuration matches its technical documentation. Investing this time and effort will empower the Supply Corps to develop a more accurate stockpile of parts held on board for expected repairs.
Coupled with a better system for reporting deficiencies, a more thorough, current configuration list will make it easier for RMCs to identify the right team for a repair. The chief engineer and port engineer will not need to call around to find the appropriate expert. The whole process can be institutionalized, funded, and automated.
New tools and processes for data collection will improve fleet readiness. They will enable a systematic analysis of supply chain management and identification of fleetwide issues. The surface navy is continually striving to establish such systems to improve a wide range of processes, but a robust analysis of fleetwide maintenance issues will be impossible unless maintainers have a tool that automatically pairs material issues with technical documentation.
Sustaining operations at sea requires proper planning, so goals must be established for the life expectancy of every system on a ship. The fact that a pump inlet valve fails every 18 months, for example, must be known, recorded, and accounted for in maintenance planning. Consolidating data across the fleet will allow the type commander to pair recurring maintenance issues with gaps in specific technical training. A better system will more rapidly identify skills needed to prevent common equipment failures and allow training commands to update curricula.
All data for a ship’s material issues should be consolidated in a standard, automated report. The report should contain enough information to tell the operational commander, type commander, and maintenance teams what they need to know about a deficiency the ship has identified, the hardware and skills to fix it, the time needed for repair, and the impact on the ship’s ability to complete its mission. This will give higher echelon-level commanders a clearer idea about the ship’s projected state of readiness and improve operational planning.
Developing a simpler, automated system to report material deficiencies and catalogue technical information will recoup countless man-hours for the Navy and help commanding officers focus on what matters most—fighting and winning at sea.