A major initiative is underway at Fleet Support Unit at HMAS Waterhen in Sydney that has the potential to save millions of dollars a year for Navy and keep ships supplied with valuable equipment.
The ‘repair of repairables’ initiative is gaining pace.
The Fleet Support Unit workforce at the base have been focusing on repairing items such as portable fire-pumps, damage control lanterns and signal lamps, windscreen wiper mechanisms and headsets used by Huon class minehunters.
The Executive Director of Fleet Support Unit-Australia, Martin Drebber, said in the past much of the repairing of repairables was either contracted out or the items were simply replaced with new ones.
“We were potentially spending millions of dollars in replacing broken items when we could be doing the work ourselves and putting that money to better use,” Mr Drebber said.
“The changes that we have introduced are aimed at bringing more work in-house and upskilling our staff and providing them with more meaningful work.”
Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Damien Clayton has been one of the driving forces at Waterhen; he said the changes have not happened overnight.
“We started working on developing our capacity late last year to help ensure our sailors were kept busy with meaningful work during non-production periods,” Chief Petty Officer Clayton said.
“We needed to encourage people to trust that we could do the work, and to the standard required – I think we’ve proven that we can.”
Already this year, out of 120 service lamps that had been declared unserviceable, 80 per cent were repaired by using parts from other unserviceable items; and by the end of the year, the team will have turned 100 broken headsets (valued at more than $1,000 each) into useable equipment again.
Leading Seaman Marine Technician Justin Faint, part of the team that repairs fire pumps, said the work he and the rest of the team have been doing is essential for maintaining the fleet.
“It’s also meaningful and satisfying – we’re getting more work into the Fleet Support Unit and as a result becoming more skilled and capable ourselves,” Leading Seaman Faint said.
The Waterhen examples are part of Fleet-wide initiatives to deliver viable in-house sustainment services, which will enhance the technical mastery of Navy sailors, offset the cost of maintenance and provide tangible benefits.