ARLINGTON, Va .– The chief of naval operations has given the Navy an ambitious goal of eliminating operational days lost due to maintenance overruns by next year, and leaders of the Surface Navy and the maintenance community think they are on the right track to achieve this.
The Navy’s surface combatants and amphibious warships undergo periods of maintenance and modernization carried out by private companies and supervised by the regional maintenance centers of the Navy. In recent years, a combination of factors has led to appalling on-time completion rates of around 20%. Late award of contracts, increased scope of work once maintenance officials start opening tanks and compartments, delays due to material or labor shortages and more still have all contributed to these rates.
And yet, the CNO Adm. Mike Gilday wants to achieve zero lost operating days by the end of fiscal 2021 – in just 20 months.
“To responsibly develop and dynamically operate the fleet, we will maintain the fleet predictably and effectively – in peacetime and in support of conflict. As we’ve learned over the past decade, it costs less to maintain readiness than it is to redeem it. Our most difficult short term challenge is to reverse the trend of only delivering 40% of our vessels after maintenance on time, ”Gilday wrote in a piecemeal order last month.
“We will continue to develop and implement better productivity measures and identify the main levers to deliver all deposit availability on time and in full. Our goal is to improve productivity, reduce by 80% days lost through extensions of availability of depots in FY20 compared to FY19, and eliminate days lost through expansions of depot by the end of FY21 .
The fleet is up to the challenge, executives said last week at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference.
“If you look at 2018, 29% of the ships left availability on time. In 2019, 43% of our vessels left their availability on time. We expect for 2020 that 71% of these ships will no longer be available on time. It’s a lot of tremendous effort by industry and naval leadership to change the paradigm of how we maintain ships, ”said Naval Surface Forces Commander, Vice-President. Admiral Richard Brown, during the conference launch address.
In a subsequent panel, the Commander of Naval Regional Maintenance Centers, Rear Admiral Tom Anderson, said the maintenance community is already devoting serious efforts to improving on-time delivery rates outside of availability. maintenance, but he said Gilday’s latest command directives had focused this conversation.
When we spoke to the RMCs he oversees and the surface force commanders on each coast, how am I going to maintain this schedule? And if I have a problem, how can I minimize the number of days? What is the critical path on this ship? What are all the obstacles that I can remove? “
Anderson added that Gilday’s guidelines also created a “kind of emergency, which must act quickly and achieve short-term results.”
He pointed to a pilot program initiated by the RMC after noticing that Military Sealift Command auxiliary ships could get through underwater hull coating work much faster than Navy warships despite having the same equipment and the same workforce.
The admiral said the Navy is asking its subcontractors to make a report on the condition of the underwater part of the hull, submit it, allow the Navy to return an annotated copy, revise the report, then to finally start the coating work months later. – all in an effort to ensure that the Navy is assured that quality work will be carried out to keep its warships in good condition until the next maintenance availability. MSC, on the other hand, lets its maintenance contractor’s certified workers do the work, an independent third party inspects the work, and then the contractor guarantees the work for a period of time. Anderson said this model has caught the attention of RMCs and is being tested.
When asked if he thought these kinds of initiatives were enough to achieve the 71% on-time delivery rate Brown expects to see this year and the end of late deliveries Gilday expects in years to come. ahead, Anderson expressed confidence. He told USNI News in a question-and-answer session that most of the cash that will make or break the 71% rate has started or is about to begin. The maintenance community often says that good planning is the key to on-time delivery, but since these have already been planned and rely on solid execution, Anderson said he created a managerial position. materials among its staff to identify best practices and focus on the condition of materials and prioritization of their destination.
“I’ll give you an example: if I have a current uptime and I need a certain valve, and that valve is late – but I have an uptime that starts a little later and this valve is already in the box – before we weren’t going in that other box and taking the valve and using it ”because the sets of vessels were seen individually rather than as assets for the whole RMC to operate. “So the emphasis we have on hardware is part of that,” he said of his efforts to make this exercise a success.
In addition, high level decision making and accountability will also play a role. Although maintenance officials have said in the past that decisions need to be made closer to the waterfront to ensure more timely decisions – with recent efforts to delegate decisions related to the approval of growing works and cost increases – for a short time, leaders actually want to do the opposite and involve general officers in decision-making.
“Sometimes 24 hours, if the right people aren’t careful, turns into a week, two weeks,” said Rear Admiral Roy Kitchener, Commander Naval Force Atlantic, at the table. round. General officers of the fleet and the maintenance community – for the time being – will be briefed on decisions that affect potential delays and how to mitigate them or whether to accept the delay with an understanding of the risk it poses to the company. operational fleet.
Kitchener and Anderson agreed that this approach was not sustainable in the long run, but the hope is that general officers today will set a precedent for how they want decisions to be made keeping in mind. mind delay prevention and risk management, and possibly decisions can be delegated again once staffs understand how admirals want problems handled.
As an example, said Anderson, “for vessels that are on standby, [we should] doing only the work that is essential for this vessel operating in standby. Just because there is money available to do new work and for growth does not mean we have to spend it. And that’s part of the flag-level reviews going on right now – it might not have happened in the past, or if you had the money you spent it, and frankly you could spend it very late in availability and drive the risk in availability.
Ultimately, Anderson said the ability to hit the on-time delivery rate expected for this year is important for reasons beyond Gilday’s command guidance.
“What does 70% on-time delivery mean for the team that two years ago delivered 26% of their availability on time? It means they win, ”he told USNI News.
“When you’re at the water’s edge and deliver 26% on time and get run over you know you’re causing pain to operators, it’s crystal clear and your relationship changes a bit when you cause so much pain. … It’s miserable to gain 26%. So get 70%, 80% – one, you win, and you start attracting additional winners to come on the team and people are interested in staying.