Ship Repair: Digitizing It


By a Submariner Machinist Mate

The earth is about 70% water, yet more people have traveled by plane than those who traveled by cruise ships for vacation. This is measured by revenue at $328 billion vs $35.5 billion respectfully. 

Why is this? Some easy answers that come to mind are faster travel times on a plane, fear of drowning, or not having to deal with the smell of the ocean to some. 

Either way both methods of transportation are important but as per the article title I will be focusing on ships. Large vessel ships, I personally have 4 years of experience being a machinist mate, repairing, living, and cleaning one. 

Maintenance is important and I want to quickly go through some things involved with ship repair:


  • Starting a ship repair job
  • Performing the ship repair job
  • Completing the ship repair job
  • Digitizing the ship repair process

Quick Background

I worked on a submarine in the US Navy, and the words ship and boat are used interchangeably between what navy sailors consider “ships” and submarines. 

Ships in general have a tight schedule because everyone wants to get the longest useful life out of their ship. When ships are in a maintenance period, everything that must be done will try to be squeezed into that single maintenance ship repair period.

My job code was Machinist Mate Auxiliary (MMA). I was the mechanic specialist of the submarine. I was in charge of maintaining and repairing; hydraulic, high/low pressure air, carbon dioxide/monoxide and oxygen monitoring, potable water, diesel generator, refrigeration, and ventilation systems. So maintenance ship repair periods for me were very busy times. 

Ship Repair Job Process Workflow

Many of these jobs have a procedure to follow, and working on submarine systems required a lot of approval, because submarine ship integrity was on the same level as working on a space shuttle. 

The process of working on ship repair jobs is as follows; get approval to perform work, perform work, obtain acknowledgement from supervisor ship repair job is complete, close/log ship repair job, obtain approval to retest the system to ensure ship repair job was completed correctly, retest system, inform supervisor satisfactory retest. (Shown in flowchart below)

Starting a Ship Repair Job


The diagram above shows the steps required for every ship repair job. The process takes 30-45 minutes to complete; talking to the supervisor and getting permissions to bring a system down, perform the ship repair job, bringing the system back online for testing. (This excludes time of performing the ship repair job). 

The down time is tracking the supervisor down to request permission. There is one, rarely two supervisors to grant permission for ship repair jobs. Most of the time junior supervisors are getting a deeper understanding of each system as they are going to be a captain in the future.

That means that the supervisor is going to each job site of every ship repair job so he can better understand what the job exactly is the worker is performing. There are times I didn’t know where the supervisor is and had to track him down to request permission for a job.

It’s not well known, but only about 20-30% of the submarine is visible on the ocean’s surface. Submarines are icebergs, the majority of their mass is below the surface. I wanted to give you a better idea of how big a submarine is. They are about as long as a football field with 3 levels to them.

There are days where it would take 15-30 minutes tracking down the supervisor running front to back on each level. The supervisor is also moving about on his own to approve jobs. Some days waiting for your turn to request the supervisor permission to perform ship repair work was halted by other crew members before you as lunch hit.

Performing the Ship Repair Job


Finally, received permission to start ship repair work. After waiting, it has become a realization, most important and longest jobs should get approval first. No-one wants to spend the first half of the day trying to get permission to do a ship repair jobs that take about an hour. 

Sometimes work has to be halted due to an unforeseen event. Before you can move on you need to ask permission to proceed with a step that wasn’t covered in the briefing. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure everything that might go wrong during the ship repair job is considered. Otherwise workers must track down the supervisor, and hold a briefing on corrective measures.

Even if you want to be productive and  work on another ship repair job you can’t. Why?, because these systems are critical and it was against ship repair quality control policy to leave the job site without an attendant. 

As a junior machinist mate, sometimes I would take over someone’s place in a ship repair job. I would wait for the supervisor so the senior crew member can perform other important ship repair jobs. However, as other mechanics may agree, it isn’t desirable to work on a job half-way through.

In the instance anyone ran into a hiccup, they are going to be waiting to brief the supervisor on corrective measures. The job site must have personnel on site. So you are going to flag someone down, ask them to track down the supervisor, and tell them to come to the ship repair job site to explain the situation. 

Completing the Ship Repair Job


Ship repair job is complete. Now it’s time to notify the supervisor and request to bring the system back online, in order to make sure everything is running normal. 

This means you are tracking down the supervisor again. Now it’s about 5 or 6 pm and everyone wants to go home. This means more waiting in line to get approved. Then bring the system back online. Once the system is successfully brought back online and retested, find the supervisor and notify him of the successful retest. Now the ship repair job is officially closed.

Digitizing the Process


At the time of working on my ship, workflow processes are structured and the system is set in place. Everyone just did what they had to in order to get the ship repair job done. I had no idea or thought that something like a business management software existed.

FAT FINGER would minimize, if not eliminate the downtime issues I was experiencing during my time working on my assigned ship.  FAT FINGER could eliminate the need for face-to-face requests and track down times by digitizing the process.

A ship repair job order could be created to perform maintenance. Someone performing that job can log in, open the chat function and do the request and notification processes with the supervisor. Complete the work and sign the job to close it out and notify the supervisor using the chat function again.

This would increase the productivity and efficiency of the job approval process and help meet or exceed deadlines. Here are a couple of pictures of what this would look like in FAT FINGER.

Use FAT FINGER To DIGITIZE Important Ship Repair Procedures and STREAMLINE Communication

FAT FINGER is BPM software that enables teams to easily digitize their essential processes, workflows, inspections, and overall operations.

For a visual representation, picture of sample job order for ship repair below.

Step One – Log into the FAT FINGER website and on the Home tab click “edit” on the job closest to the job you would like to make an application for. For the job I am creating with easy yes and no steps I circled it in red.

Step Two – On the right of the screen you can see a demo layout of how the job would appear on the workers phone. I used the tools on the left and dragged them to the middle in order. In red I used the “Yes-No-nna step”, so the worker can mark if they have completed each step. In Green I dragged the “Add a photo” option to show the finished condition of the item being worked on. Then, in blue I dragged the “Digital signature” feature, so the worker can sign the job, stating work was completed in accordance with the job order. Select “Save Changes” on the right. 

Step Three – Click on the task tab and click the new task button on the middle of the page

Step Four – You can select the priority level of the job, leave any additional comments for the person doing the job, set a due date, select the job you made from the new tab, and also assign who the person you want the job to be completed by. Then click create task.

Step Five – The worker assigned the job will open their app and select the “Tasks” button

Step Six – Here you will see a brief overview of when it is due, priority level, who is supposed to do the work, what the task is and if it’s open or closed. Click “Tap here to view activity”

Step Seven – Click edit and complete the job by selecting the choices Yes or No, Add a photo of the item being worked on, sign the job to show work completed in accordance with the job.

All ship repair maintenance procedures can be easily made into a job app in FAT FINGER. This software would help achieve new productivity levels by digitizing the process of using procedure cards, requesting approval to complete a job order and retesting a system.

Thanks to the easy, no-code, and fuss-free process management solution that FAT FINGER offers, companies using FAT FINGER have saved up to seven hours of wasted time for each process they create and follow. 

Imagine what you could do with those extra hours? 

Sign up for a free trial and see for yourself.