Shipyard: Things To Consider


By a Submariner Machinist Mate 

What is a Shipyard?

Shipyard is an area designated for the purpose of building and repairing ships.

The U.S. has 115 ships related to foreign commerce, 296 military ships and 124 shipyards. 124 shipyards to cater to all 411 ships in need of repair when the time comes. Naval voyages take on average between 6-9 months at a time. Foreign commerce related vessels are constantly on the move between countries transporting goods to keep the global economic machine churning.

These machines don’t get a lot of time in the shipyard for ship repair, so when the time comes, they are in repair mode and out of service for months.

What goes on in a Shipyard?


Shipyard is a hefty and timely process. If you didn’t know shipyard involves docking a vessel in a flooded controlled enclosure. It is then slowly drained empty so that the vessel is no longer submerged in water and is propped up with planks. This makes it easier to see any damage to the ship’s hull that may require some attention before anything serious is a concern. It also allows for touch up paint or coating on the hull preventing rust damage. There are two reasons a boat is in a shipyard, corrective or preventative maintenance. 



During the shipyard period a vessel is in for ship repair, the repair is usually preventative maintenance. Preventative maintenance is very important to any type of machinery, not just ships. Machines are constantly in use and firing on all cylinders. For this article, we are focusing on just ship machinery. 

Preventative maintenance allows for cost savings, improved safety, and increased equipment efficiency

Cost Savings:

How would routine scheduled maintenance save money if you are replacing parts and doing it multiple times a period? That is of course to prevent corrective repair. 

While preventative is routine and expected, it is all for the purpose of not allowing something else to break in the system which is more expensive and time consuming. Not replacing a gasket or re-lubricating certain parts might lead to catastrophic damages that would lead to the ship being out of commission for a longer period of time.

As the saying goes, “Time is money”. – Ben Franklin.

This is when corrective maintenance is required. Due to failed proper performance of preventative maintenance, parts in machinery or equipment is damaged and requires replacement or re-haul of the entire system. It is important to note that these instances can occur even if all the preventative measures are taken as well, sometimes things just happen. 

Improved Safety:

This carries forward to something important, that is improved safety for all the crew members while out to sea. When machinery is working properly and has all the scheduled maintenance completed, that means 9 times out of 10 the equipment is not going to break. This is important because continued use of any equipment that does not function properly leads to more damages. Being out to sea, you may not be able to fix any damaged equipment until the boat is at the pier. Having all systems working at 100 percent is the surest way to not have any mishaps. 

Increase Equipment Efficiency:

Lastly, increased equipment efficiency. Manufacturers of the systems put into these ships have been stress tested for the crews safety and have clear instructions of preventative maintenance. When these instructions are followed, it helps ensure that the equipment works and lasts as long as possible with minimal discrepancies. You can always find these instructions in the machines tech manual.

What’s happening in Ship Repair?


Usually when a boat comes in for ship repair, the duration of the repair is up to 6 months. In May and August of 2020 there has been news about the shipyards not being able to meet repair deadlines for naval ships.

One is titled, “24 Navy Ships Went to the Shipyard for Repairs. Only 3 Made It Back to Sea on Time” and the other, “Navy shipyards struggling to complete ship repair jobs on time”.

Between 2015 and 2019 only 3 of the 24 ships in the shipyard located in Norfolk, Virginia finished on schedule and are back out at sea. Of those 3 ships that were completed, it was reported with an entry date of August 2017, they were expected to be completed May 2018. However, ship repair wasn’t completed until Dec 2019.

The other article reports that about 75 percent of the maintenance periods were completed late, totaling a combined 7,424 days of delayed maintenance. A brief video on this article’s web page shows one of the problems is that there is a low supply of workers available to actually complete the work on all ships. Also, a naval officer is cited for saying “We expect this problem to get worse over the next two years.” 

How Shipyard Ship Repair Can Improve


Having experienced first hand the processes of performing maintenance on machinery equipment during a shipyard, there are often times where the processes of workflow could go a more smoothly. There are less qualified people around to do the work, so hours of work are stretched among a few number of people.

I will be working on a system and would require approval of a supervisor to move on with my work or close out a job in order to perform another. However, the approving supervisor was busy approving other departments’ jobs. I had to wait in line for them to come and approve my closed job and obtain permission to move on to the next phase. Sometimes, the supervisor would forget about my job or I would have to wait until after lunch.

One could imagine the large amount of downtime everyday from waiting and chasing. Implementation of a business process management software such as FAT FINGER would have dramatically helped reduce downtime and overall help ensure that repair deadlines during shipyard were met. Maybe this is what is missing right now, and this is one of the changes that may need to happen within the workflow process to help these naval ships meet their deadlines and get back out to sea to patrol the high seas.

How FAT FINGER Would Help

Everything I did during a shipyard ship repair could have been a time the organization would have implemented the use of FAT FINGER.

Obtaining permission to start a job and receiving acknowledgement of a job close. The jobs itself could be made in FAT FINGER with steps required and signature of the worker performing it.

There are endless numbers of preventative maintenance jobs performed during these shipyard periods. Some quality assurance work which required more signatures and higher permissions with a very thorough checklist could be created and implemented using FAT FINGER as well.

With a business process management software in place, the instant access many workers could get by using the chat feature is valuable. Submitting the work into the program, the supervisor receiving an alert and being able to review the documentation on his own device and approving it would streamline the process. No face to face interaction is needed. Below is an example ballast tank cover inspection that was made using this FAT FINGER.

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 simply used the tools on the left and dragged them to the middle in order. I used the tools; single comment, multiple line, yes-no-true/false, and added a photo tool by dragging them over to the job in the order the work should be done. Click save changes in the top right when finished.

*on the right I clicked on the page over page icon to simply copy the steps down as the same steps were required to be done on the opposite side

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.

The beauty of using a BPM tool like FAT FINGER to document your workflows is that it’s so quick and simple to use. All your workflows can be created and stored in one, central place, you can analyze and update each one easily, you have access to real-time data that can help you improve your workflows, and you can automate all your manual tasks. 

If you’re looking for an efficient way to document and analyze your organizational workflows, look no further.

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.