Computer-guided work a new driver for compliance & cost reductions in nuclear

November 1, 2022, 2:26PMSponsored ContentNextAxiom Technology, Inc.

Computer-Guided Work

When it comes to computer-guided navigation, we look to our GPS app for seamless guidance. It provides granular, step-by-step directions while it tracks our position and progress towards our destination. It superimposes relevant information such as the location of restaurants and the lowest price gas stations on route. One of these days, it will even read us the menu of a selected restaurant on our path while placing an order as we drive towards it.

Can computers guide us during the performance of our daily work in a similar fashion? Can they provide us with relevant information and access to otherwise siloed data and functions in the context of the task at hand?

They can do all of that and much more. Consider the following nuclear outage scenario: In the middle of a refueling outage, John is inspecting a snubber as he is performing a procedure that is being guided by a computer program on a tablet. On step 26, he chooses the radio button signifying an UNSAT inspection. He adds some comments, takes a photo of the snubber, annotates the problem area and attaches it to the step. The moment he marks step 26 as complete, a seamless and real-time cascade of notifications, automations, events and actions follow.

Barbara, the outage manager in the OCC, is notified since she had subscribed to all UNSAT inspection events at the beginning of the outage. With a simple click on the notification in her Work Monitoring Dashboard, the Computer-Guided Procedure that John is performing opens on step 26, and Barbara examines the attached photos.

In addition to the notification, when John completed step 26, a snubber evaluation and repair work order managed by a Computer- Guided Workflow was automatically generated and the first step of the workflow was assigned to Clint, John’s supervisor. Clint launches the workflow from his Computer- Guided Work Portal to assess the impact of the associated work order on the outage schedule. He launches a Computer-Guided Form, attached to the first workflow step, that checks multiple backend systems. The dynamic information in the form indicates that one of the required parts is not in inventory as it was allocated to another procedure; however, it also indicates that the allocated part was released by the computer-guidance system because the associated steps using the part were N/A’ed for that procedure. Clint, on-the-fly, inserts a new workflow step after step 1 to arrange for the transfer of the part to the location of the new snubber work order and assigns that step to James. James is notified that he has urgent work waiting for him in his work portal. Barbara is also notified of the additional work.

Computer guidance is applicable beyond maintenance and operations; every employee in the workforce can benefit from computer- guided work with seamless access to relevant information when performing any business process.

Improved Safety & Compliance

Most of us are old enough to remember using a paper map to navigate in an unfamiliar city. Looking back, it was time-consuming and often daunting. In the same way a GPS app eliminates the cognitive burden of following a printed map, step-by-step computer guidance of work reduces the cognitive load on the workforce and thereby improves both safety and work productivity.

Because all aspects of work are now guided by a computer program, the software automates and enforces context-sensitive rules, increasing compliance and improving safety while slashing the cost of assurance. But perhaps the biggest consequence of a software program shadowing all aspects of processes= and work performance at a step-wise level, is the capture and generation of new “performance data”.

Granular Performance Data Guiding Process Transformation

Because work is digitally guided at a granular step-level, the software automatically captures and records detailed information about the state of performance. Information such as the specific performer, data captured by the performer, step cycle times, notification events, delays, holds, the amount of rework in a process workflow and total labor is immediately made available to the entire enterprise.

In a continuous improvement cycle, the captured data can be automatically trended and visualized. The deviations in performance can be easily identified and analyzed. This provides systematic visibility into process inefficiencies guiding an iterative, digital transformation from paper-centric to computer- guided and operationally integrated processes.

Applying computer guidance to work changes the economics of work by contextualizing data, where contextualized data becomes information and information becomes actionable.

Step-level Automation and Integration in a Seamless Digital Environment

When computer-guidance is natively coupled with the seamless flow of information, it creates unparalleled efficiencies. Flowing relevant and context-sensitive information from systems of record into a step during performance, can help the performer make better decisions to both improve safety and create efficiencies. Also, the ability to dispatch actions on backend business applications, at a step-level, can improve process efficiency and reduce cycle times through automation.

Nuclear Industry at the Helm of Technology for Integrated Operations

Perhaps the idea, motivation, and the technology for dynamic work execution through Computer-Guided Work would not have existed if it were not for the research performed by scientists at Idaho National Laboratory, in collaboration with the commercial nuclear industry, around Computer-based Procedures (CBP). Computer-Guided Work technology is a generalization of CBP at the business process level, combined with innovations in seamless information flow. This combination results in the most cost-effective way to achieve integrated operations.

Today, because of the need for cost reductions without compromising safety, the nuclear industry is paving the way for the adoption of Computer-Guided Work. It is an innovation that not only reduces operational costs and enforces corporate governance, but also holds the key to digital transformation — a transformation from paper-centric processes to computer-guided and integrated operations across all industries.

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