Ingalls Is Largest Manufacturing Employer In Mississippi

PASCAGOULA, MS (AP) — Huntington Ingalls Industries has given its first tour of its Shipyard of the Future, showing off the company's emphasis on efficiency in the four years since it was spun off from Northrop Grumman, and touting forays into new technology.

         Huntington Ingalls is a shipbuilding company known globally for its abilities in heavy manufacturing, such as complex military warships at both Ingalls in Pascagoula and the Newport News, VA, yard, which excels in nuclear operations.

         This year, it bought a company that's building and testing undersea drones out of Panama City Beach, Florida, and now owns an undersea-pipeline design company in Houston, Texas, working with the oil and gas industry.

         Though these new diversities are only about 5 percent of the company's operations, officials said they are an indication Huntington Ingalls is looking to the future and finding new opportunities for its ample stable of engineers, more than 1,400 of whom have advanced degrees.

         CEO Mike Petters said Wednesday the needs of the Navy are greater than its budget these days so the emphasis for Huntington Ingalls is on more-efficient shipbuilding to keep costs down.

         Brian Cuccias, president of Ingalls, said hundreds of efficiency measures are being instituted throughout the yard.

         And the effort is showing benefits as officials track costs and budgets. The success is measured in more-competitive bidding on multimillion-dollar warships.

         The Shipyard of the Future initiative means a new dry dock, better-trained employees, easier access to work space and more covered areas to keep workers out of the elements, officials said.

         The yard already has 40 percent more covered area than it did 25 years ago, and the initiative will add even more. The program is funded in part with $20 million from Mississippi bonds and $40 million from Huntington.

         The corporate investment is really bigger, Cuccias said.

         Cuccias has been in the top seat at Ingalls for a little more a year, hailing primarily from the Gulf Coast throughout his career. He attended the old Notre Dame High School in Biloxi and shoveled shrimp on the Point before beginning his career at Litton Data Systems in Pascagoula in 1979 — a financial analyst on Navy programs.

         The efficiency changes for Ingalls include movable metal stairs replacing wooden ladders, portable three-tiered racks to lay out supplies so employees no longer dig through baskets for the parts they need and bar codes on pipes.

         The moves are paying off. It is building nine ships simultaneously, a feat in its own right.

         Cuccias said it has a payroll of $15 million weekly, workers from 46 Mississippi counties and 32 counties in Alabama and can handle four classes of ships, more than anywhere in America.

         It employs 11,500 and plans to hire 3,000 more this year.

         – by AP/ Reporter Karen Nelson with The Sun Herald

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