Deep diving into innovation

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), LSIS Justin Brown (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Albatross

Topic(s): Training, HMAS Albatross, Helicopters, Squadrons

Commodore Chris Smallhorn, RAN, presents Leading Seaman Shane Bell  with an award for the best  innovation strategy presentation, during the Fleet Air Arm Shark Tank forum at HMAS Albatross. (photo: LSIS Justin Brown)
Commodore Chris Smallhorn, RAN, presents Leading Seaman Shane Bell with an award for the best innovation strategy presentation, during the Fleet Air Arm Shark Tank forum at HMAS Albatross.

The Fleet Air Arm recently presented the first of an ongoing series of events dedicated to celebrating and inspiring innovation.

Based on the format of a reality TV show, the ‘Fleet Air Arm Shark Tank’ is an interactive forum where presenters brief a panel of their peers on their proposals for making their workplace more efficient.

While the forum aims to be a fast-paced and fun event, the intent is to offer all the opportunity to improve operations and contribution to the Navy warfighting effect.

From the initial innovation concepts submitted, two were chosen to present their ideas at the inaugural ‘Shark Tank’.

The first presenter was Deputy Fleet Aviation Officer Lieutenant Commander Gus Stretton, who presented a virtual reality training option to replace expensive and time consuming Flight Deck Marshaller training and certification.

The second presenter, Leading Seaman Aircraft Technician Avionics Shane Bell from Training Authority Aviation, provided justification for a scenario based training environment within the computer-aided maintenance management system.

Commander Fleet Air Arm Commodore Chris Smallhorn said he was impressed with the calibre of the suggestions the format had attracted.

“The aim is to encourage ideas and input from staff at all levels,” he said.

“We have, in my view, the best people Australia can offer and we have been furnished with the best equipment available in the world.

"When you put the best people and the best equipment together you get great capability – but we must be greater than the sum of our parts as there is no prize for second best in our business.

“Our rules and regulations give us a foundation of capability, but it is the innovative manner in which we approach our work that will be the offset to success.”

He said that being the best is offering the opportunity for the team to think differently, continuously improve, to look at every day as an opportunity to be better tomorrow.

“This program is about giving people that opportunity to come up with an idea, something different, and drive it up into the hierarchy of the organisation for decision; it breaks down artificial barriers.

"The Fleet Air Arm has always been pretty good at finding smart ways to do business, but our innovative behaviours program, of which Shark Tank is a part, is about making good people great.

"In doing this, and building a strong culture of innovative behaviour we can and will be the best up threat maritime warfighters we can be,” Commodore Smallhorn said.

After much enthusiastic discussion by panel and audience Leading Seaman Bell’s suggestion was announced the most popular strategy. 

The current management system tracks all maintenance conducted on an aircraft, but is unable to provide training in simulated scenarios without affecting the real data.

Leading Seaman Bell’s idea enables maintainers to use simulation to increase learning outcomes.

“Our proposal could put people in accurate, real life scenarios and then evaluate their performances and ensure everything is being done correctly,” he said.

"It would even allow us to throw the odd spanner into the works and see how they react.

“This would allow personnel to learn to use the system more efficiently in a simulated environment where mistakes would not risk the safety of the aircraft," he said.

Commodore Smallhorn praised both presentations, saying each had considerable merit.

“The bottom line is what we have here is a competing funding environment and that’s what you would expect in any business or any government agency.”

"Both ideas presented today are demonstrable in their ability to save money, so looking at them through that lens it is my job to find a way to get ideas like these forward.

“Looking at the workplace with both a business mind and a military mind is a wonderful combination. It means our nation gets the best value for money. It’s all about further developing the Fleet Air Arm and the Navy as a whole.”