Information-technology program puts shipbuilder on FasTrak

by Stephen Larsen

FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. � Among the key workers building U.S. Navy vessels in the shipyard at Bath Iron Works, Maine, are the welders, the electricians and the person standing behind them wearing a vest.

That person is a designer/liaison from the engineering department. The vest is a �computer suit� hooked into mobile information-systems technology, including a computer tablet, wireless phone and digital camera � and where there�s enough bandwidth, a videocamera for streaming video. It�s all part of a Joint Computer-Aided Acquisition and Logistic Support application called FasTrak, developed through a technology partnership with Bath Iron Works, the U.S. Supervisor of Shipbuilding Bath and Computer Sciences Corporation.

FasTrak extends the services of remotely located designers and engineers, as well as making available the vast array of logistics data � drawings, specifications, plans � from wherever they reside in the database, right to the worker building the ship. The result? Bath Iron Works, which has been using FasTrak since November 2000, can now resolve ship-construction problems in minutes rather than days.

A case in point: say a pipefitter is installing a pipe in a ship, only to find the space needed for the pipe is taken up by a cabinet or some electrical conduit. The computer-vested FasTrak designer/liaison can snap a digital photo and post it on-line. Engineers at a remote location can compare the �as is� picture with computer-aided-design models and drawings. The engineers can diagnose and correct the discrepancy and post corrective drawings, parts lists and instructions on-line in the JCALS work folder � which the person wearing the computer suit/vest can display on his computer tablet for the person with the tool in his hand � an efficient and secure electronic transfer of technical data and a timely resolution of the production problem.

FasTrak saves money

This implementation of FasTrak has slashed the time (which translates to money) needed to make on-site internal correction at Bath Iron Works. Larry Tondreau, Bath Iron Works� project manager for FasTrak, said they�re still crunching the numbers to quantify exactly how much time and money. �But I do know that FasTrak has allowed us a 74-percent reduction in our paper products,� said Tondreau. �We at the engineering division used to need four different paper products, and a long timeline, to get an internal correction made. Now we only need one paper product.�

That�s important when you consider the workload of Bath Iron Works, which is International Organization for Standardization 9001-certified by the American Bureau of Shipping. Bath Iron Works has been the lead shipyard for 10 surface-ship classes (more than any other U.S. shipyard) for the U.S. Navy. These include the Arleigh Burke Class Aegis guided-missile destroyer, the most technologically advanced surface-combat ship in the world � which, like a huge steel puzzle, take years to build, component by component, module by module.

�Now, thanks to FasTrak,� said Tondreau, �any changes we make on one ship, we can roll down to other ships that have the same impact and we�ll go out and fix those.�

FasTrak support Bath Iron Works, Maine (left side of photo) � shipyard for technologically advanced surface-combat ships such as the Aegis guided-missile destroyer (upper right side of photo) � can now resolve ship-construction problems in minutes rather than days, thanks to a JCALS application called FasTrak. A liaison (lower right of photo) wearing a �computer suit� vest is hooked into mobile information-systems technology, including a computer tablet, wireless phone and digital camera. FasTrak extends the services of remotely located designers and engineers, as well as making available a vast array of logistics data � drawings, specifications, plans � from wherever they reside in the database, right to the worker building the ship.

How FasTrak keeps track

Changes that designers make to drawings or parts lists via FasTrak ripple down, via �parent/child� relationships, throughout all the logistical data in the JCALS Global Data-Management System database, according to Nannette Stueck, a CSC employee who is the project manager for JCALS database liaison at Bath Iron Works.

Stueck said that FasTrak then creates the job flows and taskings based on templates stored in the JCALS workflow-manager software, which models the engineering process and assign roles or individuals to the tasks.

�GDMS enables Bath Iron Works to task the job through all the processes needed to do that job,� said Stueck, �and it lets them know this team�s got to do that job.�

These templates are continuously refined to reflect improvements to the engineering process.

The templates allow the engineering division to �see� the workflow process,� said Stueck. �They can see which steps are and aren�t value-added. Then, they can modify and improve the process, eliminating unnecessary or redundant tasks.�

And that, according to COL Robert Buckstad, the PM for JCALS, points to the true value-addition of JCALS, a joint-service program with the goals of designing more supportable weapon systems; transitioning from paper-based to digital logistic and technical information; and acquiring and distributing logistic and technical information in digital form.

�A lot of people, when they think of JCALS, think only of electronic technical manuals,� said Buckstad. �Joint technical manuals are a JCALS product. But to get to that product, we have to collect an enormous amount of data � and that all goes into the JCALS database, where all members of the enterprise can access it. And that�s the true value of JCALS � in helping Defense Department activities re-engineer their business processes.�

Tom Sepka, deputy PM for JCALS, echoes that idea.

�The idea is, buy the data once and use it many times,� said Sepka. �There are many applications out there that provide solutions, but JCALS is the only DoD-owned solution � and JCALS is accredited, secure and sustained. We can do it in an enterprise environment. Any member across your enterprise who is tied into the database � and who you allow to � can take advantage of the data and use it to re-engineer their business processes in a more efficient way.�

JCALS infrastructure

Sepka said there are about 60 operational JCALS sites within DoD supporting business processes ranging from acquisition, engineering, data management, maintenance to supply. JCALS is furnishing more than 35,000 users in all services with an interoperable infrastructure that provides seamless, authorized access to information regardless of where it�s stored, how it�s accessed or how it�s formatted. When fully deployed, Sepka said, JCALS will support 245 global locations supporting more than 200,000 users � such as the 1,000 FasTrak users at Bath Iron Works.

As Tondreau put it, �Building a U.S. Navy ship takes years and involves the inner fabric of the whole shipyard. It gets very complicated real quick. So having FasTrak to expedite the process of making changes is a great help.�

�And FasTrak can similarly benefit other DoD developers of complicated, sophisticated systems, such as aircraft or tanks,� said Sepka. The proof? Just look at the success of the FasTrak implementation at Bath Iron Works.

Mr. Larsen is the public-affairs officer for the program executive office, enterprise information systems, at Fort Monmouth.

Acronym QuickScan
CSC � Computer Sciences Corporation
DoD � Department of Defense
GDMS � Global Data-Management System
JCALS � Joint Computer-Aided Acquisition and Logistic Support
PM � project manager

dividing rule

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