Support: March 18, 2004


The U.S. Navy is using the Internet to cut shipboard maintenance costs, and make crews capable of making more extensive repairs while having fewer sailors on the ships. Warship crews have long been capable of undertaking substantial repairs at sea. Since antiquity, this was a matter of survival. Ancient mariners could, if need be, build them selves a new (smaller) ship to get themselves out of a shipwreck situation. When metal ships came along in the late 19th century, the self-repair tradition continued, with crews containing electricians, machinists, plumbers and metal workers. But ships are increasingly automated, and cost pressure is forcing navies to reduce crew size. The solution is the Internet, which  crews can perform maintenance and repairs by working with teams of experts via Internet connections. Shipboard equipment is expensive to maintain, with 30 percent of the total lifetime cost of equipment the development and manufacture of the gear, with the rest being maintenance and repairs over the life of the equipment. Network based maintenance and repair can cut the post-manufacture costs by 15 percent. All of this is not a new development. Equipment has increasingly been equipped with self-diagnostic capabilities (as do all automobiles and many appliances), and it was a natural progression to plug the diagnostic computers contained in shipboard equipment to a network based system that can do a more thorough analysis, and then connect highly skilled technicians ashore to assist the sailor on the spot with repairs. This new system will help morale as well. No longer will sailors be all alone with a particularly tricky repair job, and senior technicians can look forward to longer periods ashore, manning network help teams for helping shipboard repair problems anywhere on the planet. 


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