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How Tablet-Toting Inspectors Conduct QA on Nuclear Power Plant Parts

Most energy company employees could tell you a thing or two about quality and safety. They know the stakes are high, they’re process-driven, and they’ve learned to embrace oversight, since it comes with the territory. One of our energy industry clients, for example, frequently plays host to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission auditors, who waltz in the door any time they please. Of course, this is nothing out of the ordinary for a company that builds nuclear power plants.

They run an impressive operation. Construction begins in their huge modular fabrication plant, and it ends at build sites, where lift systems developed by NASA stand fully assembled nuclear Nuclear_Power_Plant_Cattenompower plant modules upright. Some modules can weigh 1,000 tons – hence, the lift systems.

And like other energy companies, they have a quality assurance program that’s just as impressive as their operation. They employ dozens of highly trained inspectors who are constantly walking the manufacturing plant floor, looking over shoulders, and filling out inspection forms at every phase of the fabrication process. Some phases require only visual inspection or nondestructive tests, while others require an inspector to conduct a physical test, like liquid penetration.

One of seven different forms must be completed for each inspection, so many inspections equals many forms. It’s not uncommon for a hundred or more inspections to be conducted in a single day. Their typical run rate is nearly 3,000 inspections – thus, nearly 3,000 forms – per month.

This paperwork leaves quite a trail, too. Not only does it have to be maintained in an auditable repository, but whenever a module leaves the plant, paperwork goes with it. In fact, witness and hold points are built into the chain of custody to ensure nothing moves without documentation.

As their quality assurance and records management teams can attest, this paperwork can generate a whole lot of paper and a whole lot of work, particularly when physical paper is involved. And they would know, since physical paper was involved for a very long time. Today, it’s not.

The inspectors now carry tablets loaded with Formsoft and the seven different – now electronic – forms into the plant. They perform the visual inspection and/or related tests. They complete the form in real time. They sign it electronically and hit submit, and off it goes … first into a queue for supervisory approval, then directly into Documentum, their records management system.

At best, their old paper-based manual process could be completed in 72 hours, but in most cases, at least a week would pass between the time the inspection was conducted and the time the form became available in Documentum. Because many inspections occur at the end of the fabrication process, and because they can’t transport anything without paperwork, they used to risk delaying the entire construction project while paper forms were still being processed.

With the new Formsoft-based process, all forms make their way from the plant floor through supervisory approval and into the records management system almost instantaneously and with significantly less effort. No more pen to paper. No more hand-delivering hard-copy forms. No more scanning them. No more losing them. No more missed transportation deadlines.

While the e-forms mirror the old paper forms, there are now fewer form fields to complete. Many fields auto-populate with data pulled in real time from the company’s Documentum, JD Edwards and SharePoint systems. Other fields are selection-based inputs. These integrations not only drive efficiency and reduce errors, but also enable checks-and-balances. If data populates into a form field incorrectly, the inspector flags that data for correction in the source application.

Formsoft was rolled out to roughly 100 inspectors, supervisors and plant foremen. In the first six months following deployment, the inspectors used Formsoft to complete over 17,000 forms.

BIS has built a solid reputation as a full -service information technology provider and integrator of high quality document and data management systems. Since our founding in 1986, we have continually kept pace with the ever changing landscape. Our solutions portfolio is one of the most diverse and trusted in the industry. Headquartered in Edmond, Oklahoma, we offer the best technologies in the market today. The BIS team will design, develop and install a solution that best fits your business. Contact us today!

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