Ready for Service – How Stainless Foundry and Engineering Measures up to NAVSEA
“Loose lips sink ships.” This catchy phrase from World War II discouraged people from leaking sensitive and secret military information. At Stainless Foundry and Engineering (SF&E), our tight adherence to the US Navy’s standards helps keep its surface fleet afloat and its submarines patrolling the deepest waters. And yes, confidentiality is very much an expectation.
Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) is the largest of the Navy’s six system commands. With a fiscal year budget of approximately $36 billion, NAVSEA accounts for nearly one-quarter of the Navy’s budget. They have complete oversight and responsibility for the design, construction, and maintenance of the largest military fleet in the world.
The lives of those who serve shipboard, along with our security and national interests, depend on the fitness of the US Navy’s fleet. Most importantly, the branch’s suppliers must live up to rigorous requirements for parts, systems, and structures crucial to naval operations.
More Than Half a Century Serving the Navy
As part of this network, for 50+ years, Stainless Foundry & Engineering (SF&E) has served the needs of the federal government, the US Navy, and the Department of Defense for castings poured to each customer’s highly exacting specifications. Consequently, we have evolved with the Navy as its technology and mission have changed.
Through those years, the Navy has come to appreciate our culture of quality. Whether it is the military or a commercial customer, the SF&E team is meticulous when it comes to writing and following production control plan procedures for efficient production and quality control. Over our extensive experience with the Navy, we have developed an elevated level of testing and inspection processes for high-specification castings.
“In keeping up with the needs of the Navy, we have been investing in our employees, equipment, and testing systems,” said Michael Porfilio, Director of Quality and Technical Services for SF&E.
SF&E currently has some of the best and brightest foundry engineers, process engineers, metallurgists, weld program coordinators, and technicians to be able to produce and test castings that meet the Navy’s strict specifications. To reach this level of precision, training is constant and in-depth, even to the extent that our quality inspectors undergo vision screening and color contrast discrimination verification.
All Hands on Deck – The Importance of Our Workforce Development
Employee development goes beyond job skills and includes a deep knowledge of Navy regulations. A large part of the job is for the SF&E expert teams of welders, heat treaters, inspectors, grinders, and lab technicians to run through specialized training.
“We train constantly, and these sessions are vital to our ability to provide what the Navy contracts require,” said Joseph Conrad, Quality Specialist for Stainless Foundry & Engineering.
The quality department at SF&E consists of three tiers. The Quality Management team monitors and adjusts for changes in standards, ensures that SF&E is program-compliant, and helps develop part designs for manufacturability. The Quality Assurance team focuses on part certification and is responsible for communication throughout the production process. The Quality Control team specializes in inspections to verify a part will pass all certification tests and fulfill traceability requirements.
Our production technicians have broad skill and knowledge, a direct result of the Navy’s unique needs. For example, the EB2678 revision N standard calls for a copper-nickel alloy because the copper element improves the corrosion resistance. This alloy is difficult to work with, but with training and experience, our team has a high rate of success with our pours and casting soundness.
When transacting for the needs of the life and death world of the Navy, audits are a fact of life to establish that SF&E will be performing per expectations before production begins. These audits involve all the government offices and military contractors with whom we interact when it comes to military contracts and prove that we are capable of the project. They are conducted by customers prior to choosing SF&E, and then periodically throughout the relationship to ensure we continue to be compliant and that we have adopted new standards as they are released. Change is constant in NAVSEA and accordingly, SF&E is continuously training staff on new procedures and specifications, but we are ready to prove it anytime we are contacted with an audit request.
In the last 2 years, SF&E completed over a dozen external audits. The audits range from general foundry audits to welding and non-destructive audits, as well as process control audits. While every audit has some sort of findings, we at SF&E welcome and believe in these audits as a way for us to continuously improve our processes and operations.
SF&E continues to pass its audits, and we are listed on the Newport News website as being capable of performing projects for above-sea and below-sea vessels. We have also been in the General Dynamics – Electric Boat Verify program for the past two years, which is part of their risk abatement effort with their supply chain base.
“We were one of the first companies in the country, let alone foundries, to pass this program out of the hundreds of companies participating,” Conrad said.
Confidentiality is an Asset
On top of the necessary skills to provide the Navy with the quality castings they need, these projects require confidentiality, as expressed by that World War II slogan. In strict accordance with Navy rules, SF&E is very tight-lipped about its processes and products, under a new reminder, “loose tweets, sink fleets.”
Confidentiality is essential to Department of Defense life, so it is for the SF&E team and other suppliers as specified under the operations security (OPSEC) protocol. In addition, SF&E follows and is registered to the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR) when we produce and subcontract work for another source that applies to manufacturing military products. Employees complete annual ISO training and are well versed in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) as well as, Title 10 CFR Part 21, which pertains to non-conformance reporting as well as false and fictitious claims about manufacturing and records and could lead to imprisonment if violated.
A Navy Built to Last
Looking to the future, no one knows the threats waiting for the US Navy or the next mode of warfare. However, we know that many ships the Navy launches today will be in service for many years to come, with SF&E doing its part to provide reliable castings to minimize maintenance. This concern is crucial to fleet readiness as the Navy expects to sail with smaller crews.
“There has been an impressive evolution in NAVSEA parts, and it just keeps getting more complicated,” Porfilio said. “SF&E takes pride in the continuous challenge of meeting the US Navy’s expectations. We have the right infrastructure and the right people to get the job done.”