Process modernization

By Michael Padilla

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Sandia, Kansas City seek to modernize process with New Product Introduction initiative

scientists work on vibration test equipment
NEW AND IMPROVED — Sandia and the Kansas City National Security Campus have established the New Product Introduction initiative to help enhance the security, reliability and performance of the nation’s nuclear deterrent. A Sandia team prepares a vibration test for the W80-4 Life Extension Program.  (Photo by Loren Stacks)

Modernizing the nuclear deterrent also means modernizing the weapon development process.

To this end, Sandia and the Kansas City National Security Campus have established the New Product Introduction initiative. By integrating lessons learned from past weapons programs and industry best practices into the existing process, NPI can help enhance the security, reliability and performance of the nation’s nuclear deterrent.

Mike Hardwick, director of weapon systems in California, and Brad Hughes, Kansas City’s senior director of nuclear weapons programs, serve as co-chairs guiding the new initiative.

“The goal of NPI is to help NNSA meet its mission in modernizing several weapon programs,” said Mike. “We’re focusing first on the W80-4 Life Extension Program and then plan to institutionalize successful resources and processes from the initiative for use in future NNSA programs.”

The day-to-day work of the initiative falls under the responsibility of 11 workstream teams, each led and staffed by a mix of Sandia and Kansas City professionals. The teams are integrating solutions based on past experience with approaches — such as advanced product quality planning — that have proven successful in other industries. These solutions will be tested and refined through the ongoing W80-4 Life Extension Program and introduced to other nuclear deterrent programs as they ramp up.

Collaboration up and down the line

Tight collaboration between Kansas City and Sandia is woven into NPI, from leadership through to execution. At the highest level of oversight, Sandia’s Dave Douglass, deputy laboratories director, joins with David Johnson, vice president and general manager of Honeywell Federal Solutions, and John Ricciardelli, president at Kansas City, to serve as NPI executive champions, authorizing the work and acting as the primary interface with NNSA.

The NPI Sponsors, a group that includes Sandia’s Scott Aeilts, Dori Ellis and Steve Girrens, along with Mike and their Kansas City counterparts, holds organizational and budget authority and monitors project execution. Likewise, each workstream boasts leads and staff from both Kansas City and Sandia.

“We are intent on maintaining the strong presence of both organizations throughout NPI,” explained Kansas City’s Brad Hughes. “That way, we know that the needs, ideas and processes of each are firmly entrenched in NPI’s efforts, products and outcomes.”

Investing now for far-reaching benefits

Ramping up to full implementation of the initiative will be an ongoing endeavor, as W80-4 Life Extension Program teams test and refine the tools and processes. Although led predominantly by Sandia and Kansas City, other sites across the Nuclear Security Enterprise are becoming more engaged and part of the NPI solution.

“Overall, the intense focus on improving processes should yield benefits far beyond the initial investment,” said Mike. “Based on value measured in industry, full implementation of the initiative’s tools could cut several years from the nuclear deterrent development process, while enabling production of systems that meet exacting customer requirements.”

For additional information, email NPI@sandia.gov. All ideas and suggestions are welcomed.