See how two civilians are transforming the way the Fleet Service Unit of the Royal Australian Navy is transforming the way business is done.
The introduction of business-like approaches to a military/naval environment that had long traditions (but outdated practices, unaligned culture, and less than optimal performance as a consequence) can deliver great results.
In July 2011, the Plan to Reform Support Ship Repair & Management Practices (Rizzo Report) highlighted key deficiencies in managing maritime assets across their lifecycle.
Key recommendations from the Rizzo Report included:
- 17: Rebuild naval engineering
capability. Be the masters of
the technology we employ.
- 19: Foster engineering talent.
Grow technical mastery
every step of the way.
- 20: Rebuild the Fleet
Support Unit. Provide
opportunity to grow
In April 2012 the Chief of Navy directed that the FSU-AUST be optimised to be more business-like in its operations in order to (eventually) reduce sustainment costs to Navy through better utilisation of its naval workforce.
The key to success from an FSU perspective was to combine the Chief of Navy direction with the requirement to meet the Rizzo report recommendations.
The FSU is an Australia-wide enterprise comprising naval personnel that are awaiting a posting to a ship. It is required to consistently deliver high-quality equipment and machinery maintenance, overhaul, and repair services to the ultimate customer, Navy’s ships and submarines. To meet the Rizzo Report requirements it must utilise the opportunity to provide these services to upskill its workforce and provide the avenue to foster talent through early identification of those with the aptitude and skill for advanced technician training. To meet the Chief of Navy’s direction, it must deliver these services in an efficient, cost-conscious manner.
The FSU comprises 758 Navy personnel located nationally in 5 regional workshops, is the largest single employer of ashore technical sailors, and is governed by a national headquarters located in Sydney. The provision of maintenance, overhaul, and repair services to ships and submarines is coordinated by the workshops through System Program Offices (SPOs), the immediate customers. It is led by a General Manager who reports to a Board of Directors chaired by the Head of Navy Engineering and comprising representatives of a number of immediate customers.
Jason Aquilina, the General Manager FSU-AUST, and Martin Drebber, the Business/Resources Director, were both recruited from the commercial aviation industry. Denise Drabble, the previous Director of National Operations, has significant industry experience and was transferred into the FSU from another area of the Defence Department. They were chosen to rebuild the Fleet Support Unit in line with the Chief of Navy’s vision for a more business-like entity.
This team with a strong industry background has enabled the transition of the FSU from a largely disconnected collection of five regional workshops into a national enterprise. The use of tablet technology to facilitate the introduction and implementation of a commercial-styled Production Planning Control system is an example of how the transition and transformation has been achieved. The requirements of the PPC system were drawn from the industry experience of the management team and contextualised for the FSU.
With the success of quite a few transformation projects, completed and ongoing, and the measured shift in culture of the enterprise, Aquilina has gained the respect and attention of the FSU employees and a number of kindred service-providing enterprises across the Australian Defence Organisation.
“We had several goals coming into the FSU, but one of the main ones was to make the FSU a place in which our sailors want to work and excel,” said Aquilina. “Before, sailors were somewhat reluctant to take up an FSU ashore position as the nature of the work was not challenging and was not highly value-adding. The high-performing culture wasn’t quite there, and the work we were being offered didn’t contribute significantly to the development of the sailors’ technical mastery. Now, we’re on track with delivering all
As sailors doing the ‘right’ work when they are ashore can make them more competent and capable of conducting the full range
of maintenance when they
are next at sea, employment
in the FSU must and is
- Build knowledge
- Develop new skills
- Build experience and
“We need to reinforce that cultural alignment in Navy, where people fully and instantly understand how their role contributes to the mission, and their behaviours reflect that understanding” said Aquilina.
After implementing a consistent enterprise-wide approach to the way in which the FSU-AUST accepts and plans work through a process defined as Maintenance Task Management, the offer and acceptance of “value-add” work has increased.
But that isn’t all. There’s been an investment in Machinery and Plant—as well as a
purge of that which was
not—compliant with contemporary safety standards. The enterprise
and its facilities have undergone a program of remediation, all based on a large risk assessment. The number of service lines has increased and we push the mantra of “safety and quality before schedule”.
“We’re at a turning point in terms of this transformation”, Drebber shared. “It started two and a half years ago, so now we’re really getting accurate data and a better picture of what’s going on. These changes have enabled deep-level analysis and condition-based monitoring of our performance to show us where the gaps are. They are helping us keep track of our workforce, which is largely transient because it posts to and from ships at about two-yearly intervals but is also required to undertake professional and advancement training when posted ashore and, at times, undertake short-duration postings to a ship
Although the bulk of the deep-level maintenance is undertaken by industry, the contribution of FSU sailors is offsetting some costs associated with up keeping
its ships and submarines: Aquilina estimated that these changes, whilst also contributing to increased levels of technical mastery in the sailors, have resulted in an over 150 per cent increase in cost offset over the two and a half years. But this is only the beginning of the transformation.
The Navy’s Continuous Improvement Program, a centrally coordinated activity in Navy, continues to identify opportunities in which the FSU can significantly contribute to better and
less expensive outcomes
for its Fleet.
MTMP: Maintenance Task Management Plan
One of the biggest problems the un-federated FSU faced in delivering improved outcomes was a consequence of differences in how business was done between the regional workshops and, at times, elements within a workshop. There were no standard, enterprise-wide processes or procedures, nor was there a common repository for data on which analysis could be performed.
A more standard, enterprise-wide way of doing business was needed; the Maintenance Task Management Plan (MTMP) is part of the solution. The MTMP is the plan by which the regional workshops considers offers of work from a customer and then accepts that offer after analysis of the task, the availability of a workforce with the skills to conduct the task, and the availability of necessary tools, test equipment, and spare parts. The MTMP also defines how an accepted task is then deliberately planned, how delivery is monitored, and
how completion is recorded and advised to the customer.
The MTMP lays the groundwork for processes
and procedures, but
Project Mutatio is the key
to providing performance
data for planning, control,
and decision making.
“Project Mutatio was launched on 22 Sep 14. It came about, initially, because of the lack of confidence I had that the information that was being presented to me reflected the activity that was taking place.” Aquilina said. “I was responsible for transforming the enterprise but had no substantive confidence in the information on which I was making decisions.” Subsequently, it has also
been required to deliver Production Planning and Control functionality.
The data associated with
the enterprise resided in
many different ICT solutions;
it was data rich but not all
of it was good data. The new management team knew it needed to bring good data together so that workshop managers, customers, and, indeed, the management team itself could understand the exact latent capability of the FSU enterprise insofar as the provision of maintenance, repair, and overhaul services were concerned. It was paramount that there was an accurate indication of the utilisation of that capability at call to facilitate planning as well as performance management and corporate decision making.
Mutatio outcomes will enable efficient and effective enterprise-wide planning
and improved resource utilisation. The project has been initiated to apply national-based governance to all activity. The Production Planning and Control (PPC) tool will enable effective and confident national workforce-utilisation planning and communication of workforce demands between workshops.
Through the outcomes of the project, the FSU headquarters will receive a consolidated and dynamic view of the availability of all actual and predicted enablers such as labour readiness, tooling and equipment, Material and Plant, and Inventory to facilitate planning, shortfall identification and analysis, and capability improvement decisions. Information provided by Mutatio will facilitate ‘what if’ modeling to support decisions on national workforce allocation to tasks.
The data will be sourced from existing data reservoirs. Automation will be used to remove high levels of manual administration. The current FSU Performance Management system will be overhauled to provide real time reporting of personnel time-on-task, tool/machine utilisation, and technical mastery development.
“We tried to come up with a way to bridge the divide,” said Warrant Officer Lindsay Hemy, the Operations Planning Manager at the workshop in WA. “We looked at systems used in different parts of the Navy, but many seemed to be inhibitors rather than facilitators. It’s our most significant innovation since the new team has been in place. It really allows us to be more informed and have finger-tip access to enterprise-wide resource and material availability, personnel disposition, and FSU documentation.”
Now things are managed in a coherent way—saving time, increasing capacity, and resource utilisation. Project Mutatio means the FSU can work as an enterprise across the whole of Australia, which is a game changer.
“Mutatio is Latin for ‘change’ or ‘transformation’. So with Project Mutatio we are transforming the FSU into a more capable state,” Aquilina said. “I want to leave a legacy with FSU, and I’m proud that this will be part of it.
“Martin Drebber is the Project Director and responsible for the end to end solution through to me and the FSU Board chaired and wholly supported by Rear Admiral Mick Uzzell, Head of Navy Engineering” Aquilina said.
The FSU is also looking towards making component repair maintenance a bigger part of its business. It hasn’t been a huge focus to date but it represents a significant opportunity for mastery building work when few ships and submarines are alongside undergoing maintenance—it is the type of work that can level-load FSU’s workforce utilisation on these lower tempo occasions. The strides that FSU has been able to make in terms of technology adoption, cultural alignment, and business process change are monumental, putting the organisation on track to deliver against the requirements set by the FSU-Board and Chief of Navy.
Technical Mastery Approach (TM)
Many of the changes to FSU under Aquilina’s watchful eye have been in response to the 2011 Rizzo Report. Other than responding to the requirement to rebuild the FSU, he was very conscious of the way in which the FSU could contribute to responses to two other significant recommendations, namely
- R17: Rebuild Naval engineering
capability. Be the masters of the
technology we employ.
- R19: Foster engineering talent. Grow
technical mastery every step of the way
Accordingly, the FSU Headquarters sought to understand the nature of the work that developed technical mastery in FSU sailors, identify this type of work as being of greater ‘attraction’ to the FSU if offered, and then working hard to accept that work, even if it meant not doing more traditional tasks.
The Total Maintenance Effectiveness (TME) Tool was developed to assist in identifying the nature, type, and specifics of the work that the FSU should focus upon to achieve the technical mastery development objective.
The tool works by allowing the specification of the type and nature of technical mastery that requires development and then matching it with tasks that have been identified as developing mastery.
Because it is normal that everyone wants every type of mastery developed all of the time, the approach was to require a relative importance of each type of mastery to be identified. Once a weighting algorithm was applied based on this relative importance, the tasks that were being offered by any and all customers that represented the greatest technical
mastery development potential were flagged. This allowed the planners to focus on accepting those tasks and, where acceptance was not possible, enabled the identification of potential capability gaps in training, machinery and plant,
facilities, and test equipment. The identification of gaps allows the FSU headquarters to focus on closing them
and the consequent preparation of business investment change cases for FSU Board consideration.
“Our experienced sailors
were not being optimally utilised to further develop their mastery. With the combination of the PPC through project Mutatio
and the TME tool, we will
be able to accept jobs and assign them to sailors based on an approved technical mastery development imperative” said Aquilina.
Office and Beyond
As the FSU headquarters continues to roll out its business and technological improvements, it continues
to focus on further improvement in view of
the future Fleet composition. A program management office is being established to centrally develop and coordinate all improvement projects in alignment with
the FSU Business Plan.
The PMO will be responsible for development of projects based on a Project Prioritisation matrix, which will weight each Project (and aligned Projects) for “Potential Benefit” and “Required Effort” and categorise the project
(or aligned projects) as “should not happen”, “Quick Win”, “Nice to have”, or of “Strategic Importance”.
“This does not remove the accountability of the project managers within the FSU to deliver the projects to quality requirements, on time, and
on budget” said Aquilina.
The Royal Australian Navy is the naval branch of the Australian Defence Force. Following the Federation of Australia in 1901, the ships and resources of the separate colonial navies were integrated into a national force: the Commonwealth Naval Forces. Originally intended for local defence, the navy was granted the title of ‘Royal Australian Navy’ in 1911.
The Royal Australian Navy provides maritime forces that contribute to the Australian Defence Force’s capacity to defend Australia, contribute to regional security, support global interests, shape the strategic environment and protect national interests.
This is achieved by providing maritime patrol and response, interdiction and strategic strike, protection of shipping and off-shore territories and resources, maritime intelligence collection and evaluation, and escort duties.
Peacetime activities include maritime surveillance and response within Australia’s offshore maritime zones, hydrographic, oceanographic and meteorological support operations, humanitarian and disaster relief, and maritime search and rescue.
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