Pipe Shop Process Re-Engineering
Project Participants: General Dynamics Electric Boat
Project Start: May 2009
In support of the increased construction rates of the U.S. Navy VIRGINIA-Class Submarine (VCS), General Dynamics Electric Boat’s (EB) pipe manufacturing facility has anticipated the need to double production in the near future. This project, completed in September 2011, focused on overhauling current methods, developing more efficient processes, and introducing manufacturing technologies that will transform the pipe shop into a lean manufacturer of pipe details and assemblies.
The EB team identified and classified pipe detail deliverables into specific product families based upon common manufacturing and assembly characteristics. The purpose of this effort was to design and introduce processes that streamline the planning and manufacturing efforts and develop manufacturing process lanes and cellular work centers that are specifically designed to be self-sufficient and support a streamlined product flow through the pipe shop. As a result of these efforts, span time and all of the associated direct and support costs related to pipe detail and assembly fabrication will be drastically reduced.
EB executed this project in two phases. Phase 1 concentrated on mapping out the “as is” process and developing the “future state” process map. Phase 2 focused on the technology insertion possibilities to address the problems identified in Phase 1. These efforts resulted in the overall modernization of the pipe shop facility at EB’s Quonest Point, RI facility including streamlined process lanes, centrally located primary work centers, an expanded nuclear pipe shop, centralized gas bottle management system, and updated tooling for fitters and welders. The project team also developed business rules for the discrete sequencing of joint-to-joint pipe fit-up and welding to provide pipe fitters and welders with written direction for pipe detail weld sequencing.
Implementation is ongoing, and once fully implemented, savings from this effort are expected to exceed $1.3 million per VCS hull. Findings from this project will be applicable and beneficial to construction activities at other major shipyards and easily extended to commercial and other combatant platforms.