Marinette Marine Corp.

A longstanding U.S.-based shipbuilder is taking the next steps in its evolution. After more than 70 years of serving as a custom builder for the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and other clients, Marinette Marine Corp. (MMC) has transformed into a full-scale manufacturing company.

The Marinette, Wis.-based company’s corporate parent, Fincantieri, has invested more than $73 million during the last four years into expanding and upgrading the company’s shipyard and personnel. The company now boasts 550,000 square feet of manufacturing, warehouse and receiving space.

New additions to MMC’s manufacturing capabilities include dedicated steel, welding, blast painting and other production lines. “We have a world-class facility and a large talent pool to draw from,” President Chuck Goddard explains. “While still classified as a mid-tier yard, we now offer many aspects of being a major shipbuilder, and we can draw on the resources and experience of our parent company, Fincantieri.”

Naval Support

The upgrades will allow MMC to fulfill a contract with the U.S. Navy to produce up to 10 littoral combat ships (LCS) through 2018. LCS  vessels are 3400-ton, 387-foot-long mission-focused vessels designed for shallow waters that support larger naval ships in combat, Goddard says.

As part of the Lockheed Martin Team, MMC has delivered two FREEDOM variant LCS vessels to the Navy since 2001.  Other LCS vessels are currently under construction in the yard, one of which, the LCS 5 Milwaukee, will launch in December and be officially commissioned by the Navy next year. The fourth LCS ship built by Marinette Marine, the LCS 7 Detroit, will launch next summer. Two other LCS vessels are in other stages of construction, and materials are being procured for two additional ships that will start construction next year. The company will produce one ship every six months for the duration of the contract.

“We’re transforming from a ship builder into a ship manufacturer,” notes Goddard. “We’ve gone from building unique ships one at a time to having a dedicated production line, without sacrificing quality or our pride in craftsmanship.”

Providing the Right Tools

Lean manufacturing methods are playing a large role in MMC’s transformation. The company is using 5S and other methodologies to reduce its cycle time and improve its internal processes and overall product quality. This has included installing tool boards at workstations and engaging in ongoing projects such as monitoring the ways it manages and uses materials.

The company also employs modular construction methods in its manufacturing operations. Each component of a ship is built individually and then the components are assembled and welded together. Cutting-edge computer-controlled manufacturing equipment and heavy-lift machinery are used to build and assemble ships.

Along with expanding and reconfiguring its manufacturing operations, MMC is also investing in an expanded workforce and training for its  employees. Training focuses on two areas: entry level skills such as steel and aluminum welding, ironworking, sealing, installing electric components and testing; and advanced skills such as welding stiffened ship panels and component module seams. Training is also being provided to managers. “We’ve developed a rigorous and well-defined process to train our supervisors in leadership and management,” Goddard says.

‘A Very Special Business’

Founded in 1942, MMC was founded along the Menominee River in Wisconsin with a mission of meeting America’s growing demand for naval construction. Seventy years later, its legacy in fulfilling this vision is well-established.  In addition to the LCS vessels, the company’s portfolio includes Naval mine countermeasure vessels and ocean tugs, U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers, buoy tenders, and response vessels. Its recent non-military work includes a research vessel for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The vessel, named the Sikuliaq (meaning “young sea ice” in the Inupiaq language), is now in the final testing phase and will be delivered to the university before the end of the year.

Today, MMC is part of the Fincantieri Marine Group (FMG), a shipbuilding group based in the Great Lakes comprised of three shipyards. In addition to MMC, FMG’s Bay Shipbuilding, located in Sturgeon Bay, traces its roots in shipbuilding back to 1918. MMC’s sister subsidiary, ACE Marine in Green Bay, is an all-aluminum shipbuilder focused on building the Response Boat-Medium for the U.S. Coast Guard.  FMG is a subsidiary of Fincantieri-Cantieri Navali Italiani SpA, one of Europe’s largest shipbuilders with a track record dating back over 200 years and a history of building more than 7,000 ships. The FMG shipyards are able to leverage and benefit from the support and resources of its parent company with its staff of experienced engineers and skilled workers to build safe, technologically sophisticated ships to customer specifications.

“There are two extremely gratifying days in shipbuilding – one is the day you first launch in the water, but the happiest day is when you first see that ship sail down the river,” Goddard says. “We’re in a very special business. Our ships will eventually sail into harm’s way, and we’re proud of the exceptional product we produce for our nation and warfighters.”