By Kanupriya Bhatli
The nuclear industry is experiencing enormous opportunities in the UK with new nuclear power stations being planned and continued decommissioning of older plants. Since the 1960’s, regulatory compliance, computerization and supply chain management have undergone radical changes. These changes have given rise to many challenges that need to be overcome to bring about harmony between actual infrastructure and the laws mandated by regulatory authorities.
One of the biggest challenges the nuclear industry faces today is its need to improve documentation. The nuclear industry, like many others, still relies on paper as the medium of recording critical information about nuclear plants and projects undertaken. Information about a plant may include the configuration details, operation, standard operating procedures for response to emergencies, and maintenance records. Whilst dealing with this complex information, the nuclear industry is striving to achieve the standards of documentation to deal with health, safety and environmental issues. The only way to achieve a standard of documentation is by making available the right information, to the right people, at the right time, ensuring the right decisions are made.
Documentation Challenges in the Nuclear Industry
• Duplication of documents;
• Improving visibility of information;
• Ensuring the security of critical information;
• Reducing the overhead costs of printing, re- producing and distributing paper documents;
• Document traceability years after the completion of a project;
• Increased chaos and inconsistencies due to a mix of home-grown solutions;
• Lack of integration between various departmental solutions within the same organization;
• Poor efficiency and accuracy of procedures; and
• Stricter regulatory requirements and slow approval process.
Using a document management system to deal with documentation needs is the route few companies in the nuclear industry have taken. The trend to delay implementing a documentation standard is changing and with growing regulatory requirements, increasing numbers of companies are beginning to use technological solutions to manage their documents more efficiently. When choosing an electronic document management system, one must ensure that it not only manages documents of all types but that it also makes it easier for the user to understand the relationship between various documents. With users from numerous departments and teams, a document management system must offer a user-friendly interface that easily presents information based on user’s roles and requirements.
Poor knowledge about why and how to use a document control system might fail the purpose of deploying one. Before choosing a system for your organization, you must determine the areas/departments that will benefit from the use of this technology.
In the nuclear industry, document management may be required in the following areas:
The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) has defined a set of integrated training processes that need to be followed for operation and support of existing and new nuclear facilities. INPO’s method of proposed training needs are analyzed, a training program is then developed, implemented and evaluated to ensure professional development.
Effective compliance is the core of all activities in a highly regulated industry such as the nuclear industry. The life cycle of a nuclear facility relies on strict governance that ensures the compliance and licensing commitments are being met. Lack of compliance can heavily burden the company with penalty costs, regulatory oversight and customer concerns. In the process of managing compliance, companies may have to ensure information regarding human, material and data resources is stored and managed efficiently. Increased visibility of critical information may increase safety, reduce risks and guarantee compliance throughout the organization. Moreover, a tighter control of processes and complete audit cycle will reduce the risk of findings that lead to negative inspection outcomes during a regulatory audit.
Managing a nuclear project requires a great deal of security, control and effective document management. The project may use various designs, images, project management software and process mapping tools that would need to be incorporated in one single system to facilitate ease of use by key personnel. Managing documents throughout a project’s life cycle is also termed as information management. Information may vary with the age and type of project being managed. For relatively newer projects, information may be produced as often as every day, whereas older projects require archiving of information and periodic retrieval of older documents.
The requirement and implementation of performance improvement initiatives across the nuclear industry has resulted in better safety and productivity. The performance improvement model, as per INPO, incorporates three critical branches: performance monitoring; implementing solutions; and analyzing, identifying and planning solutions. These objectives can be met through benchmarking, self-assessment, observations, action planning, effectiveness review, reporting, management review and task assignment. With changing technology and the adoption of electronic workflow and document management methods, the challenge in many organizations is that each of these systems work in silos and do not integrate with each other.
Throughout the nuclear project/facility lifecycle, information is created by knowledgeable workers, lessons are learned, and best practices are created. For the survival and growth of the nuclear industry it is critical to store and pass on the information in various stages of a project’s lifecycle. With the vast knowledge and human experience in the nuclear industry environment, there is a need for a method that will easily organize and capture the information.
Is an Electronic Document Management System the Solution to These Challenges?
With the use of an electronic document management system, the pressures of maintaining volumes of records and managing information can be overcome. There are many different schools of thought when it comes to deploying an electronic system for document control, with each one having its own ideologies.
Even though a paper-based system is antiquated and cumbersome to manage, it has certain value in some organizations where either the number of documents to be handled is small or the team does not wish to move to an electronic method of documentation (which is unlikely in a growing and forward-thinking organization). The electronic document control system will provide long-term savings on cost and time. These savings can be achieved by:
• Faster and better flow of information;
• Quick approval process;
• Greater visibility of information throughout the team;
• Automatic revision control so that the team sees and reviews only the LIVE version;
• Controlled access to documents to only key personnel;
• Competitive advantage with efficient processes; and
• Faster return on investment.
With the electronic documentation system, there is the assurance that none of the processes go unnoticed and/or unsigned as everyone is given access to review and propose changes to critical documents.
The growth of the nuclear sector will also grow the need to manage information efficiently. Since most of the information in the nuclear industry is stored in documents and stacked on shelves, stakeholders always face issues such as slow response time or delayed document retrieval, which may directly affect the success of time critical projects. It is evident the electronic document control system offers far more benefits than the old style paper-based system. Before making a decision on the direction your company wants to take, however, it is critical to identify and set documentation goals for the organization and assess all the alternatives available so that you find the perfect match for your needs.
About the Author:
Kanupriya is a copywriter for Proquis. Proquis offers web-based compliance management and process mapping & analysis software. Proquis software provides enterprise-wide automation of processes, complete audit trail and an efficient document change management. Visit http://www.proquis.com to request a live demonstration of Proquis software.