DOD-Navy Success Story


Agency: Department of Defense--Navy

Title: Quality for our Customers, Improvement for our Future--Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division

Background Information

Undersea Warfare Center Division, Keyport, with some 3,000 employees and an annual budget of about $300 million, had its "wake up" call in 1990 according to Executive Director Estes Grade. The Division passed but did not score well during a Torpedo Certification Examining Board review. This, followed closely by torpedo test problems experienced on their underwater test ranges, resulted in Keyport self initiating a "quality stand down" -- literally stopping every major submarine torpedo work process while they reviewed their day-to-day operations and processes. The impact of this decision was bigger than Keyport because Keyport accept all of the torpedoes for the entire U.S. Navy! Keyport redesigned their process control systems to focus on prevention and effectiveness.

In essence, Keyport bet the company on their continuous improvement transformation. It was either give their customers the products and services they desire and deserve on a competitive basis or face certain loss of business and possible Department of the Navy directed restructuring. Keyport's then Commander, Captain Ed Segrist, and Executive Director, Estes Grade, together with their senior people, developed their Total Quality Triangle based on a balance between cost, schedule, and performance -- simple logic that everyone understood. Through putting customers first, Keyport refocused their priorities and their work force back to basics with outstanding results! Keyport is extremely pleased and proud of their people for being selected as a Winner of the 1994 National Quality Improvement Prototype Award. Keyport's people joined as a team in recognizing the merits of continuous improvement and the value of making it their way of doing business. Keyports's goal is to provide best value products and services for their customers and to be the customer's provider of choice.

Keyport's senior managers, together with their people, responded to a challenge from a principal customer, VADM G. R. Sterner, to formulate and embrace a simple but compelling vision, "Quality for our Customers, Improvement for our Future!" And having a customer culture has been the Keyport way of life ever since. To better satisfy their customers' needs, Keyport reorganized the entire Division to provide an organizational-wide customer focus. The understanding and need to focus on the custom permeates their organization. Some work areas even held contests to identify their customers, both internal and external. Today, they listen carefully to their customers through direct contact by people working on the customer's project and by senior management. In addition, they formally survey customers on a voluntary basis to find out how they perceive Keyport and how Keyport can improve. Each returned survey receives a response and follow-on action is taken as appropriate. In addition, voluntary survey forms are forwarded with many of our specific product and service deliverables to both external and internal customers.

Keyport's current Commander, Captain Dennis K. Gibbs, proudly tells visitors that Keyport's reputation for satisfying their customers and the respect, shown for their people are the reasons being Commander of Keyport is the only job he ever lobbied for in his Navy Career. Gary Lowery, our customer service program manager for metrology and calibration, reports our external and internal calibration customers consistency rate us above 9 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest. Our consistently below industry standards.

We developed our corporate indicators with one simple criteria --what is important to our customers? These indicators, updated monthly, are used by our Total Quality Council to determine how well we are meeting our customer needs. We are benchmarking our process improvement methodology with former Presidential and Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award sinners to make our improvement process equal to the best in business.

In addition, Keyport's employees are treated as customers. We created and then refined, our infrastructure to facilitate participative ownership of our products and services. Keyport surveys 50 employees selected on a random basis every month to listen to and understand their concerns and take appropriate action. Keyport also surveys all hands every 2 years with the goal of letting our employees tell us how to improve the organization. We expanded our avenues of proactive two-way guidelines for management by walking around and holding town meetings As a result of feedback from our surveys and Town Meetings, we now hold Open Forums after hours where all employees are welcome to question senior management and share information and concerns on any topic. Most importantly, we listen carefully to both our customers and our employees.

Through their tutoring, scholarship, partnering programs, and serving as a Project JASON interactive education site, Keyport is recognized as a major community contributor. Keyport is proactively partnering with the community through Cooperative Research nd Development agreements and Advanced Research Projects Agency technology reinvestment proposals.

Because participative management and teamwork are their way of doing business, Keyport is the preferred employer in their area. Time and time again, our people are taking ownership of their process and are proud to give their customers better performance on schedule and for less money. Our Configuration Management Team, headed by Lisa Corey tackled a major work backlog project in support of our Navy. Supply System customer and reduced the backlog over 93 percent in just 7 months.

when Art Maroon became a supervisor in the cable fabrication shop, he asked his employees how to fix the problems they encountered, and then encouraged them to try out their ideas. The intuition and initiative of his people began to shine through. Through teamwork between engineering, planning, and shop personnel, they investigated and experimented with their process. And the outcome has been dramatic! They went from a poorly performing marginal process to a very stable and high performing process to produce cables critical to the Fleet. In fact, the employees gave their supervisor an "On The Spot" monetary award which is normally given by management to employees.

Mark Schuler led a team where 97.5 percent operational reliability was no longer good enough. We use small devices that emit acoustic energy on our underwater tracking ranges. If this device does not work, we cannot trace objects on our range and we waste expensive range time. This creates very unhappy customers. Mark's cross functional process improvement team eliminated organizational obstacles, recognized the need for process continuity, and focused on training and periodic certification of personnel. The outcome yielded a breakthrough resulting in a 98.7 percent operational success rate today and customer savings of over $700,000 each year.

We use our corporate indicators to measure the outcomes from the critical products and services we provide to our customers. Each department has a living 5 year corporate business plan measurable annual performance goals and reports on their progress in achieving these goals. Similarly, our 5 year corporate business plan includes and measures achievement of our corporate goals. We invest heavily in our employee training. This investment includes a formal education program to train our people in public management and leadership training for all supervisors. Based on listening to our employee customers, we developed and trained department heads as trainers for our "Continuous Improvement In the Work Place" class which they, in turn, are instructing for all of their employees.

Keyport enjoys an excellent Union Management partnership. According to Steve Bower, local Chairman of the Bremerton Metal Trades Council which represents 11 different unions and over 2800 employees, this partnership is based on mutual respect. Steve and Ron McFall, our Human Resources Director, were responsible for incorporating our commitment to continuous improvement in our negotiated agreement.

Keyport is actively involved in developing the Northwest Regional Defense Industrial Base Hub Plan with the goal of improving productivity and efficiency through elimination of overlapping capabilities and surplus capacity. As a result our Planning Facility Upgrade Team, spearheaded by Brian Dougherty and Dave Gisi, partnered with their counterparts at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to plan a distributed regional plating facility and avoid duplication at the different commands. Their effort resulted in a 48 percent cost avoidance savings of $7.2 million.

The people of Keyport are demonstrating what a customer-centered government can do when there is a strong shared vision and a commitment to excellence throughout their organization. Keyport's focus on putting customers first, improving processes, and empowering employees to get results saved over $85 million between 1986 and 1993. The recognition our people have received include the 1994 National Quality Improvement Prototype Award, the 1994 Secretary of the Navy Pollution Prevention Team Award, the first ever Secretary of the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation for Environmental Achievement (1993), the 1991 and 1993 Governor's Awards for Outstanding Large Public Employer of the Year, the 1992 Secretary of Defense Productivity Excellence Award, and many others. Keyport is striving to deliver best value products and services to their customers. But most of all we are proud of our people and the pride they take in their work.

Main NPR Category: Customers Service

Related NPR Categories: Cutting Back To Basics

Contact Person: John Ebert

Contact Phone: 206-396-7982

Contact Address:

Commander (Code 000) Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division

610 Dowell Street

Keyport, WA 98345-7610

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