Digital Thread Shipbuilding

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Project Participants: Huntington Ingalls Industries – Newport News Shipbuilding

Project Start: February 2018

The Digital Thread Shipbuilding project, led by Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), is focused on helping the supply base improve first-time quality, cycle-times, schedule performance, and supplier readiness, which will lead to cost savings for the company and the Navy.

Acquisition of shipboard components is entirely based on ‘paper’ purchase order documents. Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) provides suppliers with 2D fabrication drawings that are developed from 3D component models. Suppliers use the 2D drawings to create their own 3D component models to support producing parts using Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines. Design and manufacturing collaboration during supplier contract execution is based on traditional spreadsheets, emails, and conference calls. Purchase orders are clouded with requirement noise relying on the supplier to determine what is and what is not required. With this complexity and overabundance of information comes inherent risk of supplier delays and quality failures that can have a tremendous impact on cost, quality, and schedule. In addition, shipyard quality inspection typically takes place after manufacturing and production is complete eliminating any possibility of in-process corrections. Shipboard construction installation and operation issues are discovered long after the supplier has delivered the product resulting in rework and schedule delays.

The Digital Thread Shipbuilding effort will incorporate NNS’s supply base into the company’s digital shipbuilding strategy by connecting the ‘digital thread’ from design through production/fabrication, assembly, test, inspection, integration, and installation/operation. In addition, the digital information produced by NNS will need to be consumable downstream by fleet provisioning and sustainment activities. The focus of this project will be on helping the supply base improve first-time quality, cycle-times, schedule performance, and supplier readiness, which will lead to cost savings for the company and the Navy. Through this project, NNS intends to simplify Technical Data Packages, produce 3D design disclosures, and establish a secure exchange medium to enable efficient two-way transfer of data with suppliers.

The project will be executed in two phases.  Phase I will focus on identifying internal and external stakeholders, defining requirements, capturing specific use cases, developing a future state process and R&D.  Phase II will focus on piloting and testing. Once Implemented, the process improvement could save an estimated $10.16M per Ford Class Aircraft Carrier.