Surface Warfare Magazine
Sharing stories and news from Sailors across the U.S. Navy’s Surface Forces
The Future of 3-M Inspections

Inspection. Just the mere mention of this painful yet necessary event conjures up images of people coming aboard and pointing out every little mistake or misinterpreted directive as a critical flaw that will result in a sinking ship. This may be an overstatement, but 3-M Inspections can certainly provoke this feeling. It is time to address the pain and burden of the 3-M Inspection and set it back on a corrected course for all involved.

3-M InspectionSo, why do we need 3-M Inspections in the first place? It really comes down to two critical elements: ensuring the ship is maintained per technical standards (i.e. Planned Maintenance System (PMS)) and that the Current Ship’s Maintenance Project (CSMP) accurately reflects the material condition of the ship. Sounds simple enough, but the reality is PMS is complicated. This is especially true when faced with an administrative process leading to the performance of a Maintenance Requirement Card (MRC) being 80 steps (we counted). This makes for a pretty long inspection process.

There are a number of factors that contribute to 3-M Inspections being so onerous. For instance, due to low visibility ashore, all of the ship accomplishment records can only be accessed aboard ship. Also, maintenance procedures have been made overly complicated and lengthy over time. For example, some of the safety precautions are nonsensical and repetitive. To complicate these issues, 3-M and inspection requirements are not contained in one manual but spread out in a number of instructions.

The 3-M Inspection process has its own set of problems as well. This process has driven the creation and management of records that have little to no value to the ship and exist primarily to aid the inspection teams. This adds complexity to shipboard tasks and the managing of PMS documents.

Another issue with the 3-M Inspection process is that it doesn’t provide all the information needed to improve maintenance effectiveness and sometimes, is not in alignment with other inspections/assessments. All too often, 3-M Inspection results are at odds with the results provided by the Inspection and Survey (INSURV) and Total Ship Readiness Assessment (TSRA). Since both of these events primarily use PMS to assess the ship’s material condition, it would stand to reason that if INSURV notes the ship is doing a poor job in conducting PMS but the ship passes the 3-M Inspection with flying colors, something is amiss.

Fixing the 3-M Inspection process begins with challenging every inspection attribute to determine whether or not it contributes to the two critical elements of 3-M noted earlier. If an attribute doesn’t do this, it needs to be eliminated. Instructions that are relative to 3-M will be consolidated into two documents: the 3-M Manual (for PMS Program Policy, Management and Data Requirements) and the Joint Fleet Maintenance Manual (for Shipboard Execution and Inspection).


 Personal Readiness


 Combat Readiness


 Material Readiness


 Heritage & Recognition




Next, is alleviating the administrative burden and improving record accessibility which will be accomplished by the Future of PMS (FoPMS), a 6 year project that is modernizing the entire PMS system. This future PMS system will transition the building of PMS schedules from the ship to a shore infrastructure resulting in a centralized database ashore. It will eliminate approximately 80% of the inspection that looks solely at PMS administration. Also, the gathering of performance metrics could be accomplished long before the inspectors come to the ship. With inspection teams doing a majority of their planning and preparation ashore, once aboard they only need to conduct spot checks to make sure that PMS recorded as accomplished was actually conducted and that the CSMP reflects the ship’s condition.

Since we can’t wait until the Future of PMS is delivered to clean up our inspection process, we have established a working group to look at what we can do now to better focus our attention towards the two critical elements. We have also begun the process of analyzing inspection attributes and consolidating directives. As all Type Commanders (Surface, Submarine, Air, Expeditionary, Cyber and Installations) are participating in this consolidation process, we anticipate agreement and concurrence to the many required changes.

Inspections are necessary and not going away. An attempt was made in 1998 to dismiss them and we continue to suffer the consequences. However, it is obvious the current inspection process is not hitting the mark. Thus, it is vital to seize the opportunity FoPMS will bring to make sure we realign all aspects of PMS making a stronger and more streamlined solution. This will make our lives easier and renew focus on what is truly important…executing maintenance. Surface Warfare Magazine

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