News | Sept. 23, 2020

Virtual inspections providing “eyes on” support to the Navy fleet

By Leon Moore DLA Aviation Public Affairs

Months of preparation, training and planning goes into readying Navy vessels for overseas deployments. The slightest delays can alter their schedules.

Navy maintenance and readiness are responsible for maintaining and repairing these ships before deployment and Defense Logistics Agency Aviation Engineering Directorate’s Industrial Plant Equipment Services Division writes the contracts and performs quality assurance inspections to ensure the needed equipment is available for repairs.

One such piece of equipment is a pipe bending machine, capable of bending pipe up to 6 inches in diameter. Different types of fluids and gases flow throughout the ship when these pipes are installed.

The IPE Division recently awarded a contract to a Tacoma, Washington based metal fabricator to replace the pipe bending machines at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center in Norfolk, Virginia and the Southeast Regional Maintenance Center in Mayport, FL in early 2021 and at the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest in San Diego.

Jim Boler, an IPE quality assurance specialist supervisor, said the contract quality assurance provision requires the machines be inspected before they can be shipped to the customer.

“This is to help ensure that the machine meets the requirements of the contract and it’s much easier to correct any deficiencies at the manufacturer’s facility,” he said.

Due to travel restrictions put in place by the Department of Defense due to the coronavirus pandemic, Boler said the normal IPE process of conducting in-person inspections were not possible and contract completion was in jeopardy.

To accomplish the mission and keep the acquisition process flowing smoothly and without delay, Boler said they decided to implement a virtual inspection procedure allowing the manufacturer to submit photos, videos and reports as evidence of contract compliance. The alternative to virtual inspections was to simply stop the procurement of the pipe bending machines until travel restrictions were lifted. An option David Theriot, Industrial Plant Equipment Services Division chief, said they were not willing to accept.

Theriot said conducting virtual inspections is not a new concept for IPE. They have used video and pictures in the past when they weren’t able to travel.

While providing machine tools to the customers in a timely manner was one of the main driving forces behind the virtual inspections concept, Theriot said they didn’t want to be the reason for a delay in the process.

He said until travel restrictions are lifted, they will continue providing support to the warfighters utilizing virtual inspections.

“We have to adjust and change to meet today’s challenges,” Theriot said.