Transforming Warship Support

Tue, 11 December 2012

When amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s largest ship, played a military support role in the London Olympics this summer, the vessel had been made ready for its task by Babcock, as part of the company’s role heading the amphibious Class Output Management (COM) team within the Surface Ship Support Alliance (SSSA).

Moored at Greenwich during the Olympics, HMS Ocean acted as a maritime hub in support of police-led maritime security operations.  Work involved in preparingOceanincluded upgrades to fuel stowages, improvements to flight deck communication to support flying operations, an extensive habitability package (including installation of over 2,000 items) to accommodate additional personnel during the event, a galley and laundry package, painting of the weatherdecks and superstructure, and maintenance to critical systems including aircraft lift and the chilled water and salt water systems.  This was in addition to the installation of a ‘London berthing arrangement’ to allow the ship to berth in the Thames and accept the London Brow (a large pontoon moored alongside the hip with gangways providing access to the ship), including installing pontoon mooring eye plates and access platforms in the landing craft bays.

This preparation of HMS Ocean for her Olympics role was conducted under the auspices of the second phase of the COM approach now in place, and future refits of the amphibious vessels HMSOcean,AlbionandBulwarkwill be planned and implemented by the Babcock-led amphibious COM team.  The COM approach introduced by the SSSA (an alliance formed in 2009 between the Ministry of Defence, Babcock and BAE Systems) has revolutionised the way surface ships are supported through life to reduce costs and increase ship availability, and substantial potential annual savings are anticipated.

Step change in warship support

The COM approach moves away from the MoD-led teams to an industry-led COM team structure (a single cohesive team drawn from the MoD, Royal Navy and industry) for each class of vessel, led by Babcock or BAE Systems, with MoD taking the decider role.  The amphibious COM team, for example, is led by Babcock, as is the Sandown class COM team, with BAE Systems heading the Strike (Type 42s and CVS) and Hunt class teams, and the Type 23 COM being a joint team with Babcock and BAE personnel working alongside their Royal Navy colleagues.  The COM teams jointly plan and provide timely and efficient support for the ships, and provide a single point of contact for all day-to-day matters relating to warship support.

Following the success of the two year proof-of-concept pilot, which demonstrated the COM approach to be an efficient, effective and sustainable support solution, phase two of the Surface Ship Support Programme came into effect from April this year, and sees full implementation of COM across all legacy in-service platforms.  This full implementation phase involves significantly greater delegation to industry, on a performance-based ‘contracting for availability’ basis.  A new risk and reward incentive mechanism has been introduced, with the industry-led COM teams managing the budget, linking spend to availability and savings achieved, and all alliance parties sharing both ‘pain and gain’.  The COM teams are thus incentivised to drive out cost to generate significant savings on the individual contracts, generating the opportunity for shared gain.

Importantly, this full-implementation phase of COM applies lessons learnt during the pilot phase, such as the critical importance of building reliable knowledge of the material state of the vessel in advance of upkeep work, and the value of enabling and empowering industry to undertake planning in accordance with this knowledge, while the MoD remains the platform duty holder and strategic class authority.  It is anticipated that significant savings can be made in the upkeep, fleet time and design budgets by implementing COM across all in-service classes, with improvements in areas such as maintenance definition, planning and execution, and supply chain maintenance and operation.

Further, Babcock heading the amphibious COM team is also a valuable step in the establishment of Devonport as the Centre for Amphibious Excellence (CASE), with the objective of optimising the support, material state and availability of amphibious fleet, including the amphibious ships and surface manoeuvre craft.  Having previously established a MoD-Babcock amphibious Joint Project Team (in 2006), the introduction of a ground-breaking Continuous Engineering Support (CES) arrangement in 2010 for the long-term support of the 33 landing craft was a further contributory step in the CASE vision.  Under CES Babcock undertakes all landing craft support period activity, working with the MoD to develop the maintenance requirements jointly, making a proactive contribution to the work required based on its knowledge and experience, and working alongside the Royal Marines end user in a single team.  Indeed, two landing craft completed a Support Period Docking (SP(D)) at Devonport in the summer under the CES approach, under which availability has improved considerably, and continues to improve.  Now, the nomination of Babcock to lead the amphibious COM is a further move towards achieving a streamlined amphibious enterprise and coherent, efficient, affordable and sustainable support arrangement for the amphibious fleet.

Optimising delivery

A number of measures are being implemented to deliver the role heading the amphibious COM team with optimum efficiency, including the development of the 10 Dock facility in Babcock’s Devonport Royal Dockyard.  This has seen a significant investment and refurbishment programme to provide a first class facility to service the UK’s amphibious fleet, and amphibious ship refits in future will be undertaken in a facility where a full refurbishment of the offices to accommodate the project team and ship’s crew has recently been completed, as well as refurbishment of the dock, installation of new services, a new steel access stairway, and installation of two dockside cranes to aid productivity.

Various approaches and measures are being applied by the COM team, with a view to achieving significant savings and efficiencies in refit planning and execution.  Importantly, while future docking periods will draw substantially on prior experience from previous successful refits, to enable as much of the necessary work to be incorporated into the specification from the start, the knowledge and experience gained in each docking period undertaken will in turn contribute to future refits.  In particular the improving detailed knowledge of the material state that builds up will enable workscope development for future refits on the amphibious ships to be increasingly well informed, in turn achieving further efficiencies and savings.

Additionally, Babcock has introduced a number of improvements and new processes of its own to optimise delivery.  Not only will amphibious ship refits be undertaken in the newly refurbished facility, but moreover projects will be conducted under a new organisation structure in the form of zone management to further improve the planning and execution.  This involves organising the project team into distinct areas of responsibility with the managers managing multi-disciplined teams for maximum efficiency, and with technical support being provided by the newly formed support team, ensuring that materials, equipment and resources are provided in line with the project schedule.  Further, the introduction of improved planning techniques with a single integrated plan, and more automated information on the progress of overhaul of equipment, material supply, and financial controls all contribute to ‘a smarter way of working’, providing the team with better information to make more informed decisions.

In short various measures are being applied by Babcock and the amphibious COM team, under the full implementation of the class output management approach, aimed at achieving further significant savings and maximising platform availability within the available budget.  Additionally, the establishment of the amphibious COM team also represents a further step towards realisation of the CASE vision and the establishing of a Centre of Amphibious Support Excellence in Devonport that provides world-class, coherent through-life support and capability integration in amphibious platforms, delivering greater value for money within a reduced budget.

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