A team representing the Poarch Band of Creek Indians was invited to tour a world-renowned shipbuilding operation, Austal USA. The group included Tribal Council Vice-Chair, Robbie McGhee; Tribal Council Treasurer, Eddie Tullis; Tribal Council At-Large Member, Dewitt Carter; CIEDA President/CEO, Cody Williamson; CIEDA COO, Tim Manning; CIEDA CFO, Chad Klinck; Muskogee Technology President/CEO, Westly L. Woodruff; Muskogee Technology Business Development Manager, John Christy and Adrienne Mathison, from PBCI office of Government Relations.
Austal USA, headquartered in Mobile, Alabama, is a global leader in aluminum vessel design and construction. Its state-of-the-art campus was designed specifically with LEAN manufacturing principals in mind and features moving assembly lines and module construction components.
Eddie Tullis stated, “I was thankful for the tour and amazed by the technology used at Austal. Everything was so in-line and moved through at such a rapid speed, that it was really impressive. I am just amazed that we have a company in Alabama doing that quality of work. I was highly impressed.”
The tour as described by Michelle Bowden, Manager of Media and Marketing for Austal USA, “ consists of a short presentation which gives our visitors an overview of our history, our facility and the ships we build. The company is under contract with the U.S. Navy to build two advanced high-speed high-performance ships, the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) and the Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).Then we take them on a walking tour of our facility to include our 750,000 SF module manufacturing facility (MMF) where we build the modules that make up each ship. Our Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) are made up of 40 modules and our Expeditionary Transport ships (EPF) are made up of 43 modules. The MMF is set up like an automobile assembly line – the aluminum is cut for each ship by a router at one end of the line. Then the aluminum pieces are welded together to form the module’s shape and as it moves down the line, electrical equipment, piping/plumbing, insulation, and HVAC equipment is installed. Depending on the module, the walls are put in place, cabinets/closets are installed and most of the furnishing is added. When the module is as complete as possible, it is moved from the MMF on transporters (multi-axel flatbed remote-controlled vehicles) down Dunlap Drive to our final assembly bays. The ship modules are lifted by cranes and welded into place in this location. When the ship is ready to enter the water, it is launched from the assembly bay onto a launch barge which takes the ship downriver to EPIC Alabama Shipyards where there is a drydock. The Austal ship is transferred from the barge to the drydock, the drydock is flooded to float the ship and the Austal ship is returned to Austal with the assistance of tugboats.
The visitors also tour our vessel completion yard (VCY) where the ships are moored while final work is being completed prior to sea trials.”
During the tour, the PBCI team had a chance to take photos and see close up the future USS Charleston (LCS 18), USS Cincinnati (LCS 20) and USNS Puerto Rico (EPF 11). They were also given challenge coins featuring the latter two ships. Military challenge coins have been used since WWI and were issued to service men and women as symbols of brotherhood and sisterhood and unity. This tradition is still carried on to this day.
The purpose of Tribal Representatives visiting Austal was to learn more about their company and to create relationships which could someday become strategic partnerships that translate into future work for some of our tribally-owned enterprises. Muskogee Technology and PCI Aviation both perform manufacturing processes as secondary suppliers to many DOD contractors like Austal. Learning more about Austal’s processes allows our enterprises to better understand how they can position themselves to be a viable option for sub-contracting opportunities with the shipbuilder.
Muskogee Technology President/CEO, Westly L. Woodruff stated, “ “Muskogee Technology is ready and prepared to provide quality goods and services to our Strategic Partners at Austal USA which provides elite vessel support to the United States Navy in an effort to proficiently equip our Military personnel with the highest level of degree as to ensure consistent combat readiness.”
Factors such as MT and PCIA’s minority status, proven record of contract fulfillment and achievement of quality standards for DOD contracting create a win-win situation for large companies such as Austal to sub-contract to our enterprises. These strategic relationships can often take years or decades to nurture before the right opportunity presents itself. But its efforts such as this that begin the process of cultivating relationships that can be very fruitful down the road.
By Jen Chism CIEDA Marketing Manager