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News

Submarine Maintenance Contract Focuses on Availability

Babcock International Group, Marine & Technology Division : 03 August, 2010  (Application Story)
Babcock’s Devenport facility reaches agreement with the MoD on the Warship Support Modernisation Initiative for improved availability and costs for nuclear powered submarines belonging to the Royal Navy
Trafalgar class submarine availability is to be optimised and maintenance costs reduced, under a new ‘contracting for availability’ (CfA) approach to T-class submarine in-service support introduced by a joint MoD and Babcock team, incorporated into the Warship Support Modernisation Initiative (WSMI) agreement at Devonport.

The requirement to improve nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) availability and certainty of delivery from maintenance periods in order to meet the Royal Navy’s operational demands was jointly identified by Babcock and the MoD, along with a need to reduce maintenance costs to improve affordability. This was highlighted as part of the re-letting of the WSMI agreement for a further four years at Devonport (from April 2009), and a joint project team was established to develop and manage a programme to achieve this.

Contracting for Availability is an output-focused commercial arrangement that incentivises improvement in asset availability, where availability is defined as an asset (in this case T-class submarines) fulfilling its programmed requirement. Its introduction for T-class submarine support is a first for the submarine community (where the approach has further aligned the availability measurement throughout the submarine community, providing a joint common goal), following successful application in other areas of defence.

A key starting point in establishing a contracting for availability approach for T-class submarines has been to quantify and analyse the availability of the submarines today, and to identify and fully understand the factors that impact on delivery of Fleet Time Support maintenance periods.

With availability requirements agreed, and recognised measurement methods established, this then allows the identified factors currently hindering delivery (from emergent defects or scope changes to manpower availability, among others) to be addressed via a joint improvement programme. Areas identified for improvement to date include planning, monitoring and control, cost performance, risk management and facility management interfaces. Performance measurements, tools, models and reporting structures have been developed to support the programme. This work complements the continual improvement of safety.

A further key element has been to move to a positive performance-based commercial arrangement that is centred on incentivising and rewarding improved delivery and availability, and encourages partnering behaviours and relationship development.

The new contracting for availability arrangement is now in place and ‘live’, with performance being actively monitored by the joint project team based on collated data, for further refinement and on-going continuous improvement as jointly agreed.

Commenting on the new approach, Babcock Operations Director Devonport Gavin Leckie said: “Improved availability at sea to meet Fleet’s requirements is all the more vital as the flotilla size reduces, and as the Trafalgar class submarines get older innovative approaches are needed to deliver that. Moreover, the required outputs are needed at lower cost, demanding maximum efficiency within affordability constraints. Ultimately the goal of CfA is to deliver greater assurance of T-class submarine availability, at reduced cost, on a sustainable basis, via a performance-driven and incentivised relationship that makes best use of Babcock and MoD resources. Successful implementation of a contracting for availability arrangement is also a valuable test bed for future contracting arrangements under a broader Flotilla Output Management (FOM) approach.”

Cdre Ian Jess, Naval Base Commander Devonport, commented: “This is a significant step in moving from contracting for submarine engineering load towards a commercial mechanism that is focused on the MoD’s submarine output requirements: the delivery of safe, capable and available submarines to meet the Fleet programme.”
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