The 12 Explorers and the Age of Innovation Exhibit Opening

By Jennifer Boykin, president, Newport News Shipbuilding (remarks as delivered)
Newport News Shipbuilding

Thank you, and good evening. It’s wonderful to see so many of you here tonight, and it’s especially great that the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, is able to be with us. I’d like to offer my thanks to Christopher Newport University for hosting an exhibit that honors the past while exploring today’s innovations and those of tomorrow.

For more than a century, Newport News Shipbuilding has built the world’s most iconic ships. Today, we have 20,000 shipbuilders continuing this legacy. Among them are 11-hundred women and men with 40 or more years of continuous service. We call them Master Shipbuilders.

Jennifer Boykin Greets CNO
Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin, at right,  greets Adm. John Richardson, Chief Naval Officer of the U.S. Navy,and his wife, Dana Richardson, at the opening of "The 12 Explorers and the Age of Innovation" exhibit on Sept. 14 at  at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. HII photo

At the other end of the spectrum, we have our new generation shipbuilders – Millennials and Generation Z – who work side by side with our veteran employees. As you may expect, our Master Shipbuilders instill in us their knowledge and know-how, and we can’t help but feel a sense of pride and patriotism when they speak about the legacies they’ve helped to build over four-plus decades. But what’s equally incredible to witness is our Master Shipbuilders learning and gaining knowledge from our newer employees, who are sharing their technology expertise to solve problems.

I strongly believe in harnessing the ideas of our workforce, and this includes our newest employees. Although they aren’t experts in the traditional sense of the word, our younger workforce is also not encumbered by the mindset of “this is how we’ve always done it.” They possess limitless ideas of what could be.

As the late great poet David Bowie sings in Space Oddity, “The stars look very different today.” We see this proven every day – people thinking differently… People learning, people imagining and then reinventing business models. Uber, Airbnb and Netflix are great examples.

In the world of manufacturing, first came steam and water power; then electricity and assembly lines; then computerization. We are now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution – of making factories “smart” – where a machine with artificial intelligence can visualize an entire production chain and make decisions on its own. We are on the cusp of this at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Hopefully you had a chance to visit our mobile technology trailer outside and to see first-hand some of the innovations underway. Today, we are modernizing how we build ships, how we run our business, and how we improve the work experience for our people. We’re moving from traditional paper blueprints to digital formats, making work easier to understand and visualize.

This may not sound like a huge deal to those of you who have grown up with iPhones, tablets and other smart devices. But what we’re doing is the definition of big data. We’re taking more than three million piece parts of information and ensuring that it is not only available to our shipbuilders, but also, that it helps each of them add value. The process is highly complex, with the end goal of transforming the process of getting information into something relevant, simple and user friendly.

There’s an expression that “better sameness in not innovation.” The technologies we are exploring today are not better sameness. They are all about making dramatic changes in the way we do business at Newport News Shipbuilding.

They are about disrupting what we have done for over a century.

We are pioneering reality capture for shipbuilding and maintenance, using laser scanning to analyze existing ship spaces more efficiently. This innovative approach significantly reduces the time it takes to perform ship checks on aircraft carriers, saving the Navy millions of dollars.

Within our shipyard, we have a world-class, world-renowned augmented reality team, Dogfish Labs. They have become subject matter experts in industrial augmented reality, allowing shipbuilders and the Navy to see digital information like safety warnings, or the placement of future structure overlaid onto their physical surroundings, well before anything is permanently built. We are also on the leading edge of additive manufacturing for naval materials, and we are working towards installing the first printed metal part on a nuclear warship within two years.

Technology isn’t just about improving processes, though, it’s also about making the workplace safer. We are exploring ways to use drones to assist with inspecting tight spaces on a ship, and robotics to help our shipbuilders hold heavy tools more safely for longer periods of time. Leveraging these technologies and others to transform the physical shipyard into a “smart shipyard,” is exactly what we are doing.

The fourth industrial revolution requires new ways of thinking, and new leaders – leaders like those of you attending CNU, and those non-traditional students pursing vocational education. There is a real need for American shipbuilding and manufacturing prowess in today’s world, and it’s a challenge we are ready to tackle.

I recently had the honor of riding sea trials on our newest aircraft carrier, Gerald R. Ford – the first new carrier design since the 1970s. It was designed in a 3-D product model, and it is an engineering marvel. You’ve probably heard these slogans before, but they bear repeating. United States Aircraft Carriers are:

Statements of National Purpose
They are 100,000 tons of diplomacy
They are Four and a half acres of sovereign U.S. Territory.
Anywhere. Anytime.

The digital advances I spoke of earlier will keep Ford carriers relevant while making them less costly for the Navy to maintain. Today, Newport News Shipbuilding is the sole builder and refueler of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, and only one of two builders of nuclear-powered submarines. We are grateful that for 131 years, our ships have been made in America, in Newport News, by the world’s greatest shipbuilders. But we also know that longevity alone is no guarantee. In fact, we see the risk in overestimating this. That’s why we are working hard every day to innovate, to rethink and reinvent the business of shipbuilding.

Today, we are moving forward – committed to building a future focused on people and technology, not just for today’s workforce and sailors – but for their children, and their children’s children. With help from future innovators like many of you here tonight, I believe we will succeed in doing just that.

Thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to share some of the great things underway at Newport News Shipbuilding… and by the way, we’re hiring!

About HII

HII is a global, all-domain defense provider. HII’s mission is to deliver the world’s most powerful ships and all-domain solutions in service of the nation, creating the advantage for our customers to protect peace and freedom around the world. As the nation’s largest military shipbuilder, and with a more than 135-year history of advancing U.S. national security, HII delivers critical capabilities extending from ships to unmanned systems, cyber, ISR, AI/ML and synthetic training. Headquartered in Virginia, HII’s workforce is 43,000 strong. For more information, visit: