Q&A with Electric Boat on Defense Manufacturing
SME recently talked to Ned Kaminski, Principal Engineer at the General Dynamics, Electric Boat Corporation, to discuss defense manufacturing.
Q1. What would you say the biggest challenge is affecting defense manufacturing today?
A1. Like you’ll hear across various sectors of manufacturing, finding and hiring a new generation of workforce is a huge challenge. We have experienced people retiring from the field and it’s very difficult to find new employees to replace the retirees. Most people want to leave high school, go right to college and then have a six-figure job. And they wind up with a mountain of college debt with no job. The industry must change this mind set.
Q2. How is Electric Boat addressing this challenge?
A2. One example is that Electric Boat (EB) has partnered with New England Institute of Technology to establish a workforce development program. We provide them with guidance on the new technology, including welding and robotics equipment. The school even offers robotics courses that have been used to train the next robotic operators at EB. Some EB engineers also participate as judges in student robotics competitions. These are just a few ways we’re trying to get out into the community.
Q3. Technology is always a hot topic in manufacturing. Is it difficult to utilize all technologies in a cost-effective way?
A3. It’s very difficult to use new technologies for our customer. As an example, EB just recently productionized a robotic welding system at our Quonset Point facility. It took us 2-3 years to fully develop the system and get it qualified so that we can actually produce submarine welds.
One of the ways Electric Boat can develop and use new technologies is through funding from the Department of Defense. Quite a while ago, the Department of Defense said, “Hey, there’s technology out there that we could be using to reduce the cost of our defense items but it’s not ready yet for us to put into production.” So they developed, under the Office of Naval Research, the Navy Manufacturing Technology (ManTech) Program. Under ManTech, if companies can come up with ideas and prove their ideas are capable of advancing and developing into a program, the DoD will provide funding for up to two years for that program. The company must demonstrate the program’s ability to generate a return on investment (ROI) for the DoD programs. The funds enable EB to look at new technologies and develop them to the point where they are ready to be approved and productionized. We can then incorporate that new technology into how we build nuclear submarines.
Q4. How do you see Smart Manufacturing playing a role in the future for Electric Boat?
A4. Electric Boat is very actively pursuing what we call “mobile computing.” We are driving toward mobile computing-type data so that instead of giving the mechanics on the floor a pile of paper, they can access the information from some type of mobile computing device.
Q5. Will “mobile computing” play a role in replacing the Ohio-class submarines?
A5. Mobile computing hasn’t been implemented yet. We are moving towards it, especially with the Ohio replacement program. The Virginia-class submarine was designed with Electric Boat’s Computer Aided Design (CAD) system called CATIA (computer aided three-dimensional interactive application). It was developed by IBM and the French Aerospace Industry.
For the Ohio replacement program we are transitioning to a new CAD system made by Siemens called Siemens NX. As we transition into this new system, we are exploring ways to visualize and use that data via mobile computing devices in the future. To solidify the requirements for the future, we are going through prototyping to determine how to take the “technical” data from their CAD system and transfer it through our Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) system resulting in “build authority” information for the shop floor. This early on prototyping will result in the digital work packages of the future. We envision the shop floor personnel will be provided with an electronic portal back to the design technical data via mobile computing. Electric Boat is working towards a mobile computing future.
Q6. Another hot topic we hear about is 3D printing, or additive manufacturing. Are applications at Electric Boat related to prototyping or additive manufacturing?
A6. Right now, before Electric Boat can use additive manufacturing for actual submarine parts, the process has to be further matured and approved by the Naval Sea Systems Command. Right now we’re using additive manufacturing, but we’re using it for non-ship parts only. We’re moving forward with additive manufacturing in the non-metals area of manufacturing and anticipate making real submarine parts through additive manufacturing. We’ve started to look at it for metals, but at this point, we aren’t able to use additive manufacturing for actual submarine part manufacturing.
Q7. Can you tell me about Electric Boat and your past work with the U.S. Navy?
A7. Electric Boat’s relationship with the U.S. Navy goes back very far. The two premier providers of nuclear submarines to the Navy have mainly been Electric Boat and Newport News Ship Building. Back in the Trident and 688-class submarine days, there was a competitive bidding process between Electric Boat and Newport News with the Navy. The company with the lowest cost provider normally won the contracts. Electric Boat was the only provider of the Trident (Ohio) submarines. The 688 class contract was split between the two companies.
Q8. How is Electric Boat currently working with the U.S. Navy?
A8. When the Navy started to transition towards the Virginia-class submarines, it was determined that a teaming agreement would be the best way to go. Electric Boat is currently in a teaming agreement with Newport News. By doing that, the Navy assigned different parts to be built by both companies. At the end of the day, we have to help each other be successful, because if one fails we both fail. Electric Boat delivers the even numbered hulls and Newport News delivers the odd number hulls. They always build the bow section and the stern section. Electric Boat builds everything in between.
About Ned Kaminski
Ned Kaminski is a featured keynote speaker at this year’s Mfg4 event in Hartford, Connecticut on Thursday, May 5, from 9:00 – 10:15 a.m. His presentation will provide an insight into the General Dynamics Electric Boat Corporation (GDEB), the complex products it produces, and enabling technologies being implemented.
He has worked in the Shipbuilding Industry more than 40 years; joining Electric Boat in 1981. He has progressed through the Engineering Community obtaining the level of Principal Engineer.
Under the Navy’s ManTech program, Kaminski has lead technology insertion projects that include robotic welding, smart welding machines, and development of new software that will produce weld sequence plans for major assemblies.
Kaminski is currently leading a project that will provide a step change in Steel Processing by installing state of the industry cutting and marking machines at Quonset Point.
For more information about Mfg4 — to register, attend or exhibit — visit mfg4event.com or call 800-733-4763. For the most up-to-date information on Mfg4, follow @mfg4event on Twitter. Use the complimentary registration code of MFG4GUEST.