Austal Powers Ahead for USN
Mobile, Ala.-based builder continues building next generation of U.S. Navy warfighters
Austal USA has recently
• Received Award for Excellence in Safety for 3rd year in a row from the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) for commitment to improving safety and health in the workplace. The industry average Total Recordable Incidence Rate in 2011 was 9.2, four times higher than Austal USA’s rate of 2.3.
• Received Navy construction contracts for 4 Joint High Speed Vessels (worth $634.7 million) and 4 Littoral Combat Ships (worth $x billion).
• Celebrated the opening of three new shipyard facilities, including: Phase 2 of our Module Manufacturing Facility (MMF) (350,000 sf), a new office complex (108,000 sf), and a new final assembly bay (59,000 sf).
• Honored 38 graduates of Austal’s 4-year Apprenticeship Program who received their certificates of completion and designation as Department of Labor Class A Journeymen. The program is governed by the Department of Labor Standards of Apprenticeship and is certified by the U.S. Department of Labor, Alabama Department of Post Secondary Education, and the Veteran's Administration.
• Launched and christened first Joint High Speed Vessel, USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) for U.S. Navy in September 2011, scheduled for delivery in August 2012.
In 2004, the U.S. Navy awarded a final design contract for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) to Bath Iron Works (BIW). Austal is the LCS 127-meter trimaran seaframe designer and builder for this contract. The first order for a prototype was awarded to the BIW/Austal LCS Team in October 2005. USS Independence was launched at Austal's Mobile, Alabama shipyard in April 2008 and delivered to the Navy in December 2009. The LCS will be the most advanced high-speed military craft in the world and is intended to operate in coastal areas globally. As a key part of the U.S. Navy fleet, they will be highly maneuverable and configurable to support mine detection/elimination, anti-submarine, and surface ship warfare. The trimaran hull form provides the ship with superior seakeeping, fuel efficiency, and the capacity to carry a large, modular cache of weapons packages. A contract for a second BIW/Austal LCS was awarded by the Navy in May 2009 and Coronado (LCS 4) was launched and christened in January 2012. In December 2010, Austal, as prime contractor, received a Navy contract worth over $3.5 billion for construction of up to 10 more LCSs. Austal currently has 5 LCS under contract; 4 of which are from the new 10-ship award.
Austal USA was created to reach the commercial and defense aluminum vessel market in the U.S., and it brings a new dimension in high-speed marine transport, using the company's lightweight aluminum fabrication technology and capabilities. Austal builds large aluminum ships, including naval surface combatants and theater support vessels, at its 125-acre waterfront facility in Mobile, Alabama.
Austal USA made more than $100M in expansion and improvements in its shipyard from 2008 to 2010. Austal will invest an additional $300M as it doubles its facilities and completes the transformation of Austal. The investments made by Austal in its facility, partnering with AIDT to develop a hands-on employee training program at the Maritime Training Center and with the Alabama Technology Network to implement lean manufacturing principals into the culture of the workforce, and the partnership between the City/County of Mobile, the State of Alabama, and Austal has allowed for a reduction in the cost of the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS): evidenced by the $3.5B-award for construction of up to 10 LCS. The methods introduced at Austal also led to the $1.6B-Navy award of the 10-ship JHSV contract, which has helped to label the entire Mobile area as a rising star in the ranks of U.S. Navy shipbuilding.
Austal is committed to implementing R&D initiatives focused on increasing manufacturing efficiency and improving product quality. According to the company, the single greatest technological advancement in Austal's history is the development of the trimaran hullform (the seaframe for the Austal-designed LCS) which decouples vessel length from capacity and permits the marriage of a cost-effective platform with a longer hull form that offers superior sea keeping in a range of conditions. Austal also implemented modular manufacturing techniques in aluminum shipbuilding. Applying lessons learned from industries as diverse as aerospace and automotive, a new manufacturing approach for aluminum ships culminated with the establishment of the 700,000 SF Module Manufacturing Facility.
Austal continues to refine its operations and within its warehouse has implemented a number of “high tech” solutions to include Cribmaster software and hardware which manages its maintenance and repair operation (MRO) supplies, plant MRO vending machines, and provides daily updates of usage of items. Austal installed “Accuports” which allow for unmanned material cribs saving considerable labor and recently installed an RFID Bar Code/ Data Collection coding system which allows for automatic transactions of inventoried parts, real time updates, and traceability of parts throughout the process, reducing data entry errors and improving production efficiencies.
(As published in the August 2012 edition of Maritime Reporter - www.marinelink.com)