By Rear Adm. Dean VanderLey, P.E., CEC, M.SAME, USN, and John Douglass, AICP, M.SAME
In his November 1778 letter to the French dignitary Le Ray de Chaumont, John Paul Jones wrote, “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.”
The “Father of the American Navy” understood that modern, capable ships were key to establishing and maintaining maritime superiority for the fledgling United States. Today, more than 240 years later, maintaining a superior, modern fleet remains the cornerstone of military readiness in the era of Global Power Competition. When Jones penned his letter, the Navy’s first public shipyard (in Norfolk, Va.) had been operational for over a decade. Now known as Norfolk Naval Shipyard, it is one of four public shipyards, along with Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Washington, and Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Hawaii, that support our Navy today. However, these shipyards were designed and built in the 19th and 20th centuries for ships powered by sail and fossil fuels. They are not efficiently configured for the 21st-century mission to maintain and modernize nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines.
RIGHTING THE SHIP
Needing to prioritize operations under tight budgets, the Navy has often deferred shore facility maintenance and modernization, leaving shipyard workflow and processes to continue in the constraints of existing configurations. The result has been higher maintenance costs, slower production flow, schedule risks, and reliability issues. The need for modernization and the negative impact on readiness are well documented in the Navy’s Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Report to Congress and in the Government Accountability Office’s report, Naval Shipyards: Actions Needed to Improve Poor Conditions that Affect Operations.
SIOP is no small task. Bringing together NAVSEA, CNIC, and NAVFAC to form an innovative multi-command, multi-discipline effort requires integrating our own processes and understanding others’ priorities.
In acknowledgment that the health and productivity of the nation’s public shipyards are closely tied to the Navy’s ability to meet its operational obligations, a 20-year, $21 billion Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP) was established in 2018. With oversight for acquisition and program management, SIOP Management Office is tasked with modernizing fleet maintenance, real property, and equipment assets worldwide. SIOP is a coordinated partnership of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), and Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) to align sea and shore stakeholders to develop and execute an integrated and defensible strategic infrastructure plan to create the shipyard of the future.
Early initiatives for the new office have focused on gathering data and creating models to inform industrial optimization, ultimately feeding into Shipyard Area Development Plans. The first undertaking, using a NAVSEA cooperative agreement with Siemens, developed digital twins of each shipyard, beginning with Pearl Harbor.
This effort—the first of its kind at this scale—includes modeling and simulation of all existing industrial processes at the shipyards. In the models, NAVSEA’s current shipyard processes will be transformed from shop-based processes set up to perform specific industrial functions to product-based processes focused on components and parts of the ships being maintained and modernized. Digital twins allow the new industrial process flows to be simulated in order to visualize how location and configuration impacts productivity and efficiency. The intent is that each model will demonstrate output production of various layouts compared to fleet requirements.
The models also consider supporting documentation based on the new location, configuration, and process flows, with flexible, open-plan layouts. Processes and requirements can be updated in the model as needs arise. When a ship or submarine’s availabilities change, so too can the modeling of required facilities.
Alongside these efforts, NAVFAC has been developing new plans for supporting infrastructure. Modeling, simulation, and industrial optimization will introduce location-based production requirements—a significant improvement from the current process of developing requirements based only on general function.
Today, production spaces are scattered across the shipyards in various buildings and locations after years of restorations put processes into buildings where space was available, not where it made sense. This lack of deliberate configuration reduced productivity and efficiency, with time wasted in extra transit between various locations.
By analyzing industrial processes, facilities can be reconfigured and located closer to the waterfront, reducing wastes in both transportation and time. NAVFAC will be introducing location-based unified facilities criteria, informed by the process improvements supporting production-based facility requirements. The new location-based criteria will capture the output of industrial optimization and define the best location and configuration of modern processes, creating the shipyard of the future.
A MASTER PROCESS
These coordinated efforts are intended to be included in the development of a new Shipyard Area Development Plan process, which will incorporate the results of the modeling, simulation, and industrial optimization as well as advance planning studies, resulting in a comprehensive plan for the future of the shipyards.
Needing to prioritize operations under tight budgets, the Navy has often deferred shore facility maintenance and modernization, leaving shipyard workflow and processes to continue in the constraints of existing configurations. The result has been higher maintenance costs, slower production flow, schedule risks, and reliability issues.
The Shipyard Area Development Plans recapitalize dry docks, facilities, and capital equipment for optimized industrial processes that best support our nuclear-powered fleet. NAVSEA’s new models further impact the process, allowing engineers to optimize waterfront materiel, logistics, workflow, and enabling technologies configured to delivering ships and submarines back to the fleet on schedule.
NAVFAC plans to award the first contract in support of a Shipyard Area Development Plan process at Pearl Harbor later this year. These plans will flow from new requirements to advance studies and on to master planning. The new process marries the industrial functionality developed in the digital twin with the nonindustrial and support functions critical to operations. The intent of this planning process is to maintain as much pure optimization as possible while balancing constraints and valuable assets—such as historic resources—on the shipyards.
A second major acquisition, awarded by NAVFAC to AECOM, focuses on the advance planning and engineering studies needed to set the stage for master planning. The initial effort is tied to identifying capability gaps in all existing conditions and at each naval shipyard. The capability gap analysis narrows the focus of targeted studies, efficiently updating these data sets to planning-level quality.
SIOP is no small task. Bringing together NAVSEA, CNIC, and NAVFAC to form an innovative multi-command, multi-discipline effort requires integrating our own processes and understanding other’s priorities. Each stakeholder has specific needs and requirements that need to be met. While always partners in fleet readiness, SIOP is a unique opportunity to collaborate at a strategic level to meet the needs of our fleet.
SIOP execution will happen over the next two decades. By analyzing expected production efficiencies and construction costs, the Navy can make intelligent investments with an eye for total ownership costs. Coupling NAVSEA’s process modeling efforts with NAVFAC’s facility planning allows the Navy to effectively and efficiently plan and program future shipyard investments, maximizing mission effectiveness.
The ultimate goal is to build the shipyards the Navy needs in order to sustain the Navy that our country needs, today and in the future. While “making do” was the ethos of times past, “planning smart” is our path going forward. In a resource-constrained environment, SIOP is analyzing total mission cost to make the best use of every dollar programmed for our shipyards, helping to maintain maritime superiority to meet the challenges America faces in this era of Great Power Competition.
Rear Adm. Dean VanderLey, P.E., CEC, M.SAME, USN, is Commander, and John Douglass, AICP, M.SAME is Shipyard Optimization Planner, NAVFAC Atlantic. They can be reached at email@example.com; and firstname.lastname@example.org.
[This article first published in the Sept-Oct 2020 issue of The Military Engineer.]