A Bureaucratic Basis for Maintenance Management
In 1653, “An Act for Constituting Commissioners for Ordering And Managing the Affairs of the Admiralty And Navy” established the responsibilities of the Admiralty and Commissioners of the Navy. The Commissioners were to make policy for building, fitting out, “repairing and preserving,” and “sale and disposal of old and unserviceable ships and vessels.” Another duty was to conduct a survey (i.e. an inventory) of the nation’s ships and naval stores, an element carried over from Monson’s Tracts in 1624.
The act did not mention a monarch. It required the Commissioners to accept other direction from Parliament or from the Council of State. Published on July 28, 1653, it was an act of the Rump Parliament, issued just after Cromwell had dissolved the prior session of Parliament by force, and shortly before his installation as Lord Protector. Given the political turmoil, a clear chain of command for spending authority for asset health would have been sorely needed. Some key elements of naval maintenance management survived from the 16th century, though the English Civil War and Interregnum, and into the Restoration: the use of a commission or board that operated by majority vote and was required to conduct surveys of ships and ashore facilities.
1717 “The Oeconomy of His Majesty’s Navy-Office”
The book The Oeconomy of His Majesty’s Navy-Office, was a management manual containing policies related to the administration of the Royal Navy. The contents had been adopted as an official act on July 4, 1660. The preface is signed by Samuel Peyps, who acted as Clerk of the Acts from late July 1660. The book described that while serving as Lord High Admiral, James, the Duke of York, had set regulations for the Navy by adopting the Earl of Northumberland’s rules from 1638. Pepys wrote that naval regulations began during the rule of Oliver Cromwell (1653-1658):
“At that Time it was that the firſt conſiderable Regulations we have an Account of were made for keeping up of the Naval Power.” (p viii)
The English Navy’s management system had its roots in the 1630s, survived the English civil war, Restoration, and several Dutch wars. As king, James put his orders in writing in 1661. These orders were reprinted in this book. The preface also described that more regulations were put in writing in 1686.
This began the continuous, central bureaucratic administration of all aspects of a large organization – including maintenance of the physical assets – separate from individual personality or crisis response.
The Oeconomy of His Majesty’s Navy-Office contained reprint copies of edicts and official memos from senior figures in the navy department. It set a strategic requirement that every ship should be ready for 6-months’ service in home waters. The responsibilities of the principal officers of the Navy were set down in writing.
The introduction was a list of complaints about prior management. The complaints are very similar to the problems Pepys described in his 1690 memoir: deferred maintenance, low operational availability, and wasted financial resources. The complaints accused shipwrights of overcharging for repairs, exceeding their repair estimates, and wasting money by unnecessary decorative woodwork: the lean waste of overprocessing. The Oeconomy of His Majesty’s Navy-Office referred to Pepys’ investigation about the decay of ships, and discussed some of the actions that had been taken to alleviate the problem. This provided a rational basis for some of the requirements that followed.
The book contained many details of how to manage supplies efficiently. Purchasing was important. Bi-weekly meetings with vendors and performance evaluations of vendors were required. Buying out of season kept prices low. Invoices were to be processed weekly, and the controller was to act as an auditor. An annual budget was required. The regulations demanded conservative management of expenses. The expectation of detailed expense records was explicitly extended to repairs.
The Surveyor was to make an annual assessment of the physical assets,
“[assess]…the true state of all hulls, masts, yards of all His Majesty’s Ships and Vessels…with an estimate of the value of the repair or carpentry work, that so upon Consideration taken thereof by the Body of the Office, the Lord High Admiral may be moved therein, such care taken in it for the ransacking, grounding, graving, docking, mooring, and repairing…most convenient for His Majesty’s benefit….”
An archaic definition of “ransacking” is to examine thoroughly. Graving was the process of cleaning the hull. The Surveyor was to list the Navy’s assets, their condition, and how they might be improved or disposed of. This was sometimes a technical assessment, so the Shipwrights were required to:
“assist the Surveyor…in his yearly Survey of all the Hulls of [His Majesty’s] Ships, Specifying under their hands the Defects of each ship, together with what they conceive may be requir’d for their Repair, and putting each ship into a Servicable [sic] condition for Two, Three, Four, or Five years, more or less, as the Admiralty and Navy Office shall determine…”
This requirement set some technical content to the annual survey. The Surveyor was an executive, but shipwrights were technical experts whose assessment was required to index the physical state of the assets. The navy management was also starting to quantify the remaining economic life of the vessel based on the physical condition assessment.
The Surveyor was also responsible for the repair backlog of the shore facilities:
“To Present Yearly surveys to the Board of Estimate of Repairs…of storehouses, yards, docks, wharfs, gates…what they conceive fitting to be new built, repair’d and enlarged, and what in the charge each particular expense will arise unto…”
These annual surveys were an administrative failure-finding task, an audit of strategic assets. The surveys were also used to develop budgets.
The annual audits and estimates, along with the requirement to be ready for 6 months of service, constituted the Royal Navy’s asset management plan. The 6-month requirement was the standard of service, and the investment identified in the survey was the life-cycle plan.
A Preventive Maintenance Requirement
In the 17th century, ships were assembled by butting planks against one another or overlapping them. Small gaps were filled by caulking. Oakum, a mix of hemp fiber and pine tar, was pounded into the gap. As the ship twisted in the ocean, the caulk would fall out, so some leakage of seawater and rainwater was normal. The leakage accumulated in the low points of the ship, promoting wood rot and noxious odors from the putrefaction of other organic material. The 1717 regulations required each ship’s Boatswain “to see the Ship suck’d dry by the pump” twice a week. This reduced the decay from standing water and made sure the pump worked. The requirement was one of the first Royal Navy regulations in writing at the national level for a time-based preventive maintenance requirement.
(The first letter in the word “sucked” is a medial “s.” See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_s)
Work Orders were Required
The regulations had checks and balances to ensure spending didn’t get out of hand. The Boatswain and Carpenter had to notify the Purser if they wanted to modify or build a cabin, bulkhead, or storeroom. The notification was required to be in writing and include a bill of materials. Approval required the signature of the Captain, the Master, and the requesting officer. The combination of a written scope, a material list, and an approval step make this regulation the first to require a work order.
The Maintenance Management System
The 1717 regulations in The Oeconomy of His Majesty’s Navy-Office included requirements for annual budgets, an asset management plan, and a time-based preventive maintenance action. A basic work order was defined, with minimum contents defined by a central standardizing authority.
1731 & 1774 Regulations
The 1731 Regulations and Instructions Relating to His Majesty’s Service at Sea followed the 1717 The Oeconomy of His Majesty’s Navy-Office. The 1731 regulations used an imperative verb tense, a more modern formal tone, and modernized layout. This was clearly an administrative manual instead of a series of letters. An 1898 history of the Royal Navy noted that the 1731 regulations had “since been revised at intervals, but it remains in substance very much what it was in 1731, and most of the important alterations that have been made in it are merely such as have been necessary to bring it into conformity with modern ideas and modern conditions.” (Markham et al, p. 15. This 1898 history was co-authored by two Americans: Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt. Mahan was one of the most important naval thinkers of his era; Roosevelt would be the President of the United States within a few years and expand the US Navy just before World War I.)
The 1731 regulations make it clear that officers were responsible for having an auditable record of all expenses incurred by the government. The root of this record-keeping problem was having to supply a crew with food, clothing, and drink in a cash economy with handwritten records. Many regulations were dedicated to victualling, recording how much food was used, recording receipts for food deliveries, and matching invoices to the receipts. In the 1680s, Pepys had emphasized the need for detailed expense reports. The 1731 regulations put record-keeping at the center of the commanding officer’s responsibilities. This obsession also extended to record-keeping for repairs.
The regulations defined the Carpenter as one of the ship’s officers and explicitly made prevention the first of his duties:
The Carpenter is to take upon himſelf the Care and Preſervation of the Ship’s Hull, Maſts, of the Ship’s Yards, Bulkheads, and Cabbins, &c . and to receive into his Charge the Sea Stores committed to him by Indenture from the Surveyor of the Navy.
The Carpenter made an assessment of repair needs when the ship returned to port. The report was to be delivered both to the captain of the ship and to the dockyard.
The Captain had specific responsibilities for maintenance management. In general, hull cleaning and repair in a foreign port was prohibited. (p. 35) Refitting and repair were to be done with the ship’s crew or a Royal Dockyard. Commercial facilities were used as a last resort and required explicit record-keeping, down to the man, of what work was done, and what their wages were.
The regulations used the word “preservation” to describe the junior lieutenant’s responsibility for small arms, the purser’s responsibility for provisions. The regulations required the boatswain to inspect sails daily.
In 1774 the British naval regulations were re-issued without any major changes to maintenance management. The role of Carpenter was unchanged. The updated regulations added a mandatory report for leakage of beer, an obvious problem where mainteners are involved.
England and Wales, Henry Scobell, John Field, and England and Wales. Parliament. An Act for Constituting Commissioners for Ordering And Managing the Affairs of the Admiralty And Navy. London: Printed by John Field, Printer to the Parliament of England, 1653. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mou.010006057045
1717: “The oeconomy of His Majesty’s Navy-Office : containing the several duties of the commissioners and principal officers thereof : being the first rules establish’d for them by His Royal Highness the Duke of York, then Lord High Admiral of England and Ireland, under King Charles II, and continu’d in force to this day; with several letters relating to the same from His said Royal Highness, to the Navy Board, by an officer of the Navy.”
1731 regulations: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/nyp.33433009332283
Roosevelt & Mahan:
Markham, C. R. (Clements Robert), et al.. The Royal Navy: a History From the Earliest Times to the Present vol. III. London: Sampson Low, Marston & co., ltd, 1897 https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015005316107
(This 1898 history was co-authored by two Americans: Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt. Mahan remains one of the most important naval thinkers of modern times; Roosevelt would be the President of the United States within a few years and expand the US Navy significantly just before World War I.)
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