A team of shipbuilders overcame obstacles to ensure NNS’ first Columbia-class deliverable remained on schedule.

Shipbuilders Overcome Challenges to Meet Columbia Milestone

Published February 22, 2022

Newport News Shipbuilding’s first deliverable for Columbia (SSBN 826) – a deck ring – shipped on time, thanks to shipbuilders on all three shifts who worked long hours through the holiday shutdown, the January surge in COVID-19 cases and even snowstorms.

Despite work starting several weeks later than scheduled, the date of shipment to General Dynamics Electric Boat remained the same. NNS is a major subcontractor and shipbuilding partner in Columbia-class submarines with Electric Boat. This successful delivery sets the pace for future program milestones.

“They’re committed to the overall goal of on-time delivery. Quality was 100% on all of our checkpoints, and they were accident free,” said Superintendent Jerry Campbell. “This is a win for the shipyard, not just the Columbia-Class Program. By no means was it easy, but it is rewarding for the team members.”

The NNS team included fitters and burners (X11), welders (X18), Non-Destructive Testing (O38), Nuclear Quality Inspection (O39), Metrology Solutions (O68), Nuclear Propulsion – Construction and Process Engineering (E86), Waterfront Support Services (X36), the Columbia-Class Program Office (K07), Columbia-Class Construction (X62) and representatives from Integrated Planning and Production Control.

The qualifications required to do this specialized work led to the Columbia team reaching out to the Virginia-Class Submarine Program for experienced welders to keep the project on track. The programs collaborated to ensure shipbuilders with the right skill sets were available to keep the project on track despite several challenges.

“My biggest takeaway is the collaboration between programs,” said Welding General Foreman Dave Dunlap. “Where we were as a team and where we are now is a 180-degree turn.”

O38 Manager Andy Morgan said what he witnessed during the project embodied what “quality” looks like.

“Quality looks like commitment. Commitment to the O38 team. Commitment to the product. Commitment to the shipyard and, ultimately, commitment to the customer. Quality looks like leadership. Having the leadership it takes to set the standard, even when the pressure is highest. Having the leadership to understand the ‘we’ is bigger than the ‘me,’ and then taking the action necessary to ensure the job is done correctly so that the team can meet its commitment,” he said. “Quality looks like integrity. The integrity to do the right thing to ensure that what we’re inspecting meets the standard. Why? Because lives depend on it.”