In the last article, Part 1, the need for a robust Configuration Management System (CMS) was established. It is true for all nuclear plants and particular important for the new plants being proposed. The new plants as programmed for design and construction with compressed schedules and consortia development teams are at particular risk to cost and schedule without an adequate CMS.
Why CM is a Critical Success Factor
To make the case that CM is a critical success factor for the new builds, a fairly simple consortia model for the design and construction phases of a new build can be used. In this example there would be an NSSS vendor, an EPC and an owner. Each of these project members has similar yet different processes and tools for design work, approvals and supporting organizations. While reliant upon one another, there is a strong tendency to operate in isolation or independent due to different scopes of work, organization cultures, contractual obligations and impacts on each organization for failures. It is not difficult to contemplate how a single response to a regulatory or design issue could ripple across all members’ spheres of responsibly like the action of paper boats floating in a tub of water when the side of the tub is thumped. The boats closest to the tub wall begin to move first while others are delayed. Eventually the wave rebounds off the wall and the surface of the water becomes turbulent with each paper boat rocking and moving not in unison, but haphazardly. Contemplate a consortia more complicated with EPC partners, specialty vendors and multiple owners and it is not difficult to reach significantly more complex circumstances. Try writing the differential equation to model that activity.
In building a new nuclear plant in less than sixty months there is not time for haphazard motion. The CMS is a key piece of project infrastructure to integrate and unify project motion and activity. To assure design changes, licensing issues, component changes flow all the way through to those developing operating procedures and operational engineering programs with impact to schedule and plant cost, a well conceived CM Policy is the logical starting point. To assure the configuration management system is up to the task it is incumbent upon the owner or the license holder, to develop the configuration management policy description. The ideal place to begin would be in contract negotiations by including basic CM requirements that the owner feels is important to clarify up front. If that ship has sailed, for success CM must be addresses early in detailed scoping discussions well in advance of delivery of components or construction. If this responsibility is abdicated to the EPC or other member of the project consortia it is highly unlikely the long term operational benefits of a well developed CM Policy and system will be achieved. Plant operators will be left with electronic versions of drawings on a stick.
CM and the Owner
While the creation of the CM Policy burden is ultimately the owner’s responsibility, it should not be done in a vacuum. All project members will add value to the development of the CM Policy and its enhancement and modification. While the owner can begin with the end in mind the other team members will be focused on the design and construction functions which improves the robust qualities of a well developed CM Policy and CMS. The Policy however must embody several key principles for success.
Key CM Policy Principles
Much is made of the technological side of configuration management, however the literature is lacking in fundamental principles that must be considered in creating the CM Policy that is the basis for any CMS. A foundational concept for the development of the CM Policy is the principle of a single source for information. This not only includes design, but critical communications, procurements, licensing and bases information. This single source of information is not only for key players, but is for all project team members. Whether a design engineer working with the NSSS vendor to modify an aspect of the core basket or the ISI engineer with the operating company charged with developing the In Service Inspection program for the core basket, both need access to this critical information. To have an effective CM System approved changes in the design must flow rapidly to all players including the end-users.
The owner/operator as mentioned must have ultimate responsibility for the creation of the CM Policy. This is a principle because when one examines who on the development team has the longest view of the asset or plant it is the owner. Only from this long-term perspective can an effect CM Policy leading to a CM System be guided for optimized benefit through forty-plus years of operation. While some within the project team will be driven by schedule (which may include owners) the benefits that can be obtained throughout the plant’s lifecycle from a well developed CMS that is flexible to changes in technology, regulation/licensing requirements and changes in processes will save many hours during the plant’s life. One should not short change this opportunity for expediency.
A third principle to be considered in development of the CM Policy is the role CM must play in communications. Just as in the example given in the single source of information description above, a properly created CM program will improve communication flow. While slipping into CM System design in considering tools and mechanisms to move and make information available, the policy must consider the who, what where, when, why and how the CM program might achieve this important communication function. For those engaged in the construction efforts of decades long past or even on major capital improvement projects with many diverse players, how important is it for the field superintendent to have the correct installation detail when he is planning work? Or when is that detail to be released for use? Methods include processes that can be more easily executed with better communications including design change approval, design process tracking and flow through picking up of key changes affecting ITAAC, operator training and engineering programs. Considering the principal of CM as a means to manage and facilitate communications will yield improved flow of critical information helping to make compressed scheduling possible.
Those who have a global view of configuration management will better understand the importance of this next principle. In its broadest CM affects every aspect of the plant/project lifecycle. From concept to final design, to as-built, as-tested to as-operated and decommissioning it is difficult to find an aspect that is not touched by CM. Even a case could be made for financing and rate case. Based on this a fundamental role of a CM Policy must be to integrate these often seemingly disparate aspects of the project. This is critical during the periods of high activity. An argument could be made it is less important in plant operations. A response to this argument would be how often the operating company is faced with nothing in process whether it is a temporary modification, test or maintenance line-up, or planned changes to design driven by a capital program, operability or maintainability issue.
A well thought-out CM Policy would build on the natural aspects of CM to be an integrating mechanism of diverse functions, responsibilities and processes that are all ultimately linked to the safe and efficient operations of a plant design that was certified, licensed, properly constructed, tested and maintained. Barriers or firewalls if any should only be in place to provide security and effectiveness of other principles mentioned. A well designed CMS will be the tie that binds the disparate interests of the project and operating organizations.
CM Policy Facets
The final CM Policy may address a number of project specific needs, but needs to address some common facets to assure its effectiveness in establishing the CM program and strategic vision that is the policy description. The first facet to be addressed must be organization.
The amount of time given to most project organizations doesn’t consider configuration management in the functional organization. In one regard this is due to configuration management like safety could be said to be everybody’s responsibility. In addition, CM while it can be facilitated with a support organization, it is much like QA with ultimate responsibility falling to project executives for success. The role and responsibilities of each part of the project organization should be examined for their particular function and authority with regard to CM. Each segment of the project must be assessed for how their functions require CM to be performed, how those functions impact CM and how the principles covered above would enhance those functions if implemented in a well designed CMS. This mapping of CM to functions is critical in implementation and needs to be outlined in the policy description.
New build projects entail many processes supported by procedures. With CM being an integrating function many of these procedures and processes will interact and have impact on managing configuration. The CM Policy description needs to identify these key processes and describe any additional processes that must be addressed in the development of the CM program. The obvious processes include design control and approvals, DCN/FCN, ITAAC, procurement and component/system turnover.
The third significant facet the CM Policy is to address is the tools and platforms to be used to achieve CM System objectives. While this can be detailed software and IT component descriptions (which would be possible only after researching the marketplace) if the CM Policy is developed early in the project’s lifecycle, this can and should be more general in nature pointing to desired outcomes in the use of technologies, tools and IT solutions. This would include the desire for flexibility in using a variety of CAD packages, but still be able to share information across a number of platforms and users. This is where decision makers weigh the benefits having the electronic version of “drawings-on-a-stick” or a system that provides information in formats that can readily used improving the effectiveness of other users.
Other policy tools and technology considerations here include what information formats are required along with type of information required as part of component and system turnover to the owner/operator. The degree of automation should also be considered in this area as an ultimate vision of the CM System. It is probable a solution/tool is not available directly and is not worth developing initially for the project. That should not prohibit the Policy from providing the vision and direction necessary to aid staff in future adaptations and guiding the evolution of the CMS. The Policy is a strategic document not a tactical one.
While there are IT solutions currently available, each project will need to assess the needs and benefits of implementation and maintaining the infrastructure to support the CMS. Left unto their own devices the EPC’s and NSSS vendors will opt to use the tools they already have in their quiver. Cost and learning curves are most often given as a reason to stay with these tools. The owner/operators are making substantial investments in these new plants and as customer should be in a position to insist on advanced tools and solutions if that advances the project and improves effectiveness. For example the use of 3D CAD technologies, the use of digital modeling and simulations for key fabrication and construction activities help to reduce project risk and provide valuable baseline information. One recommendation is to consider open systems and platforms that can flexibly use information flow from vendors, engineers and others that are not in the inner circle of project team members. This will likewise serve for improved future servicing and migration as technologies advance.
One final note on the CM Policy components is the inclusion of an assessment provision. How well is the CM program working? How well is information flowing? What is the effectiveness of the tools, methods, and processes in catching and eliminating problems? How robust is it? These and other questions need to be regularly assessed to ascertain if the program is living up to expectations and meeting the strategic and tactical objectives established in the policy description. The assessment function and corrective actions must have executive support to be effective. If the CM program every becomes a “nice-to-have” but not essential piece of the project with management abdicating their responsibility failure is assured and configuration issues will ensue. The impact then is on schedule, cost and quality on the project and increased lifecycle costs.
The creation of a CM Policy is critical to the success of any new build project. The longer the delay in developing such a policy and implementing it will create difficulty for the project and increase project effort. In developing the policy leadership must recognize it is a strategic vision that is foundational for the entire plant lifecycle and the foundational principles are important in all phases of the plant from conception to decommissioning. Establishing a fundamentally sound CM Policy right at the inception of a new build project is a key step in protecting project schedule and budget. Some would argue it affects project quality as well.
Look for additional articles on this website addressing this important issue or contact the author for more information. Contact: Chris Staubus, BCP’s General Manager at cls(at)bcpengineers.com or 727-736-3151.