SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The people involved in maintaining Navy ships are no strangers to overhauls. But the overhaul they are now preparing for promises to be like none they've ever seen.
In this overhaul, instead of breathing new life into a worn steel ship, the Navy ships' maintenance team hopes to breathe new efficiency into their own processes.
Called SHIPMAIN, this new initiative will involve a team effort by the leaders of a number of Navy commands that have a stake in the maintenance of ships. SHIPMAIN will examine the various phases of the ship maintenance planning process, starting from the point where work is first identified by ship's force up through the start of execution.
"We are already very effective at maintaining our ships. We do it very well. But SHIPMAIN is going to help the Navy team of maintainers find ways to do it more efficiently," said Vice Adm. Timothy LaFleur, Commander, Naval Surface Forces and the chief executive officer of the SHIPMAIN process improvement team.
By improving the processes across the spectrum of ships' maintenance, LaFleur said he hopes that the greater efficiency will translate into smarter spending.
"One of the keys to achieving the Navy's vision of Sea Power 21 is the concept of Sea Enterprise, which includes finding greater process efficiencies," said LaFleur. "If we can keep maintaining ships with the high quality we currently have but in a more efficient way, then we can direct more of our efforts towards recapitalizing and modernizing the fleet."
In addition to the commanders of Naval Surface Forces Pacific and Atlantic, the SHIPMAIN team will also include the commander of Naval Air Forces; commander of Naval Sea Systems Command; flag officers from the Chief of Naval Operations staff, the Pacific Fleet and Atlantic Fleet staffs; and program executive officers for ships and aircraft carriers.
At this time, SHIPMAIN is concentrating on investigating and improving the maintenance planning process involved with surface ships and non-nuclear carriers. Representatives for both carrier and submarine non-nuclear maintenance have been involved in early process reviews, however, and the goal is to make the best maintenance processes as universal as possible.
"This isn't just another program for improving the way we do business," said Vice Adm. Philip M. Balisle, Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command. "SHIPMAIN will look at all of our current efforts to improve, and help us to coordinate them to get the maximum benefit. It is going to help us measure what we are doing in our own organizations, and understand the collective impact of how we do business."
A key part of SHIPMAIN will be to identify best practices and standardize them where possible.
"This represents the next phase of the Navy's transformation effort in ship maintenance," said Rear Adm. Jeff Brooks, Deputy Chief of Staff for Maintenance, Pacific Fleet. "We know our ship maintenance is very effective, but we must continue to become more efficient. SHIPMAIN will allow us to examine our processes, make modifications where appropriate and incorporate those enhanced efficiencies throughout the fleet as best practices."
With guidance from process efficiency experts of The Thomas Group, an organization with experience in successfully helping the naval aviation community improve their processes for pilot training and inter-deployment readiness, the SHIPMAIN team understands they will also require changing certain aspects of the culture of maintaining ships.
"Time warfare is our business," said Tom Zych of the Thomas Group. "We are going to help the Navy find ways to align their processes and organizations, so they know they are making the best use of the time and money they spend maintaining ships."
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