SSI USA Director of Operations Patrick Roberts recently had meetings with U.S. senators, congressmen and navy brass to discuss the upcoming Pentagon Department of Defense Budget as it relates to the U.S. Navy shipbuilding programs.
It was noted that Roberts' position is somewhat unique in that as an industrial engineer representing SSI, he was able to bring a neutral, yet broad and objective perspective to analyzing this subject. This is because SSI's ShipConstructor software is not only used by shipyards building both versions of the navy's Littoral Combat Ships; SSI's ShipConstructor application is also the standard at shipyards constructing a variety of different types of U.S. naval vessels.
During his visit to Capitol Hill, Roberts had the opportunity to speak with Senator Jeff Sessions, Senator Richard Shelby, Representative Bradley Byrne as well as Rear Admiral Brian K. Antonio. At the meetings, Roberts commented on the economic impact of the Pentagon's proposed plan for reducing the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) block buy that is currently under contract. He also commented on the plan for slowing the number of these ships to be built from four to three per year in FY2015 & FY2016. As shown in Figure 1, 39 of 50 states across 576 suppliers will be impacted in some form or fashion by the budget cuts.
The biggest concern from Roberts' perspective is the proposal to build two vessels per year at one of the LCS shipyards (Austal or Marinette Marine) but only one LCS at the other instead of building two per year at each location. As an industrial engineer with years of experience involving marine related construction, Roberts' pointed out the inefficiencies that this would cause and how these inefficiencies would ripple through the nationwide supply chain causing a negative economic impact.
Roberts noted that SSI has been heavily involved in efforts to help American shipbuilders improve efficiency via the U.S. National Shipbuilding Research Program (NSRP). These efforts have led to measurable productivity improvements as a result of enhanced technology and processes but these improvements could be swamped by inefficiencies resulting from modifications to procurement plans.
Ongoing sustainability and efficiency is a subject that is important to SSI so representatives from the company have repeatedly spoken at conferences (e.g. CCMS, RINA Warship, Cutting Steel and COMPIT) and given advice to governments around the world on this topic.