The new General Manager of Fleet Support Unit (FSU) Australia, Jason Aquilina, has a clear message to deliver to sailors – FSU Australia is different to what it was eight months ago and it will continue to transform.
“We are now a national organisation focussed on applying our trade skills to become a maintenance and repair service provider-of-choice,” Mr Aquilina said.
He was appointed GM FSU Australia in March after an extensive recruiting campaign and brings experience in the operation of a civilian engineering services business.
In his 23-year career with Qantas Airways, he rose from aircraft mechanical engineer to be appointed one of Qantas’ youngest executives in 2000.
Mr Aquilina said he was keen to apply the ‘Lean Six Sigma’ business improvement methodology to transform and sustain high levels of service performance at FSU Australia.
Lean Six Sigma
GM FSU Jason Aquilina explains the principle of lean six sigma:
FSU must have a common platform of understanding of what the term ‘lean six sigma’ embodies to deliver consistent business outcomes.
The lean philosophy has evolved from the Toyota Production system and academic research at MIT and is simply a systematic approach to removing the various forms of waste.
In FSU, the standard definition which needs to been adopted is as follows: Lean production is based on the relentless elimination of waste to reduce costs, shorten lead times and improve quality for the purpose of increasing customer satisfaction.
“I’m looking forward to taking this business to a place it hasn’t been before,” he said.
“What I want to do with the FSU team is focus on understanding our customers’ needs, applying techniques and learning from our suppliers to help identify what our inputs, processes and outputs need to be to become more efficient in maintaining, overhauling and repairing our ships,” he said.
“If we can identify and eliminate the processes that don’t add value, we can demonstrate that FSU should be the preferred supplier of services, not just an option.”
He said one of the keys to FSU delivering high quality services was to directly apply sailors’ trades and training to outcomes.
“That will provide sailors with enhanced competency so that when they’re out at sea, they can better understand the issues and have the capability and experience to undertake the task at hand,” Mr Aquilina said.
“It’s about creating an organisation that provides end-to-end maintenance capabilities in order to deliver seaworthy materiel to ships and submarines throughout their whole life.”
About nine months ago, FSU had more than 1200 sailors in about 550 defined positions.
The FSU Continuous Improvement Project, which resulted in the raising of the Personnel Support Unit (PSU) and the reinvigoration of the Skills Development Centre (SDC) at HMAS Cerberus as well as the establishment of the Competency Management Agency, has significantly eased this overbearing.
FSU Australia Assistant General Manager CAPT Gavin Irwin said the raising of those agencies and the Navy Reform Board’s vision for the FSU provided solutions to many of the issues the organisation was attempting to manage.
“FSU was the first posting for a large proportion of sailors emerging from Category training at Cerberus as training bunks at sea were limited,” CAPT Irwin said.
“Because there was a limited scope of work in which these sailors could be employed, based on their level of competence, the focus of the FSU shifted to competency training rather than providing maintenance, overhaul and repair services.”
He said there was confusion as to whether FSU was “a training agency, a maintenance service provider, or something in between but CN has made it quite clear that we are to become a high-performing maintenance and overhaul service provider”.
“The relaunch of NGN provides a driver for us to significantly alter our culture to continue the improvements we have seen so far,” CAPT Irwin said.
He said drawing experience from the commercial sector through the engagement of the GM and further involvement with industry partners would benefit FSU.
“We can now add the business intelligence and the hard lessons the commercial world has learned over the years and apply that to what we do in the FSU,” he said.
Mr Aquilina said that, while there would inevitably be contractors providing maintenance and overhaul services, the imminent delivery of the LHD and AWD offered a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transition some of the traditional areas of contracted support to FSU.
“Our challenge is to improve our performance and prove to our customers, our Systems Program Offices, that such a transition is not only feasible, but desirable,” Mr Aquilina said.
“Most importantly we have to generate outputs through our actions and not just words. We need to put big runs on the board.
“We have sailors who are keen to do the work, so investment in these people with the right skills and training to produce a willing and able workforce will result in Navy being able to reduce its maintenance costs at the same time as proceeding to sea with seaworthy ships and submarines.”
For an insight into everyday operation and role of FSU check out the following video:
Naval Today Staff, April 10, 2013; Image: Royal Australian Navy