Automating Maintenance Part of Seabrook”s Pursuit of Excellence: An MRO Software Case Study

To say that the Seabrook nuclear power station has had a tumultuous history
is an understatement. The Boston Globe called it the place where nuclear
power was stopped in its tracks. A half finished containment dome-construction
was halted in 1984 by protests and costs overruns-for the second of two 1,160-MW
reactors planned for the site serves as a monument to the social and economic
problems the nuclear power industry could not overcome. However, a lot has changed
for and at Seabrook since the 1980s.

Today, the plant, which is one hour’s drive north of Boston and two miles inland
of the New Hampshire coast, provides electricity for one million New England
homes from its first and only unit. While memories of the protests and safety
concerns surrounding the station still linger in the minds of local residents,
many have been erased-or at least eased-by a long running program that commits
the staff of Seabrook to strive for excellence. Called “Values For Excellence,”
the program included an initiative to automate and thereby improve the maintenance
elements of the plant’s work, safety, and materials management efforts and purchasing
activities.

Maintenance, Manual

Following startup in 1990, Seabrook’s maintenance program used manual processes
to catalog and store the station’s hundreds of thousands of labor records, job
plans, work orders, equipment lists, and inventory items. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission requires all nuclear plants to meticulously maintain detailed records
of all their activities and equipment, right down to the history of all materials
used on site.

Although many of the manual processes had been refined over the past decade,
the explosion of information that needed to be stored called for a new approach,
according to Greg Kann, Seabrook’s electronic work control project manager.
He says that Seabrook wanted to do additional analysis and reporting, but couldn’t
because the manual processes were far too slow and cumbersome. “One of our primary
tactics had been to continuously improve the maintenance processes to world-class
levels. But eventually we realized that that wouldn’t work, and that we needed
to automate them,” explains Kann.

User Acceptance Was Key

Kann knew that to be successful, he needed to put in a system that was going
to be flexible and act as a foundation for future enhancements. “I did not want
to install an automated system and try to re-engineer the maintenance program
at the same time,” he recalls. “We had been making process improvements all
along, so a key objective of the new system was that it would not require re-engineering
of existing processes. User acceptance of new systems is hard enough to achieve,
and introducing new processes at the same time would have met great resistance,”
says Kann.

Another selection criterion for the system was that it be intuitive and use
Windows-like navigation techniques, to minimize training time. In addition to
meeting technical requirements, the automated system would also have to be accessible
to 500 more people who could use it with minimal support.

Many Were Called, One Was Chosen

When Kann went shopping for a solution, he was pleased to find that several
commercial products could do what was required. In the end, however, ease of
use and the ability to be modified easily became the two most important selection
criteria. As the 1990s drew to a close, Kann settled on Maximo 4.1 from MRO
Software, Bedford, Mass. “Maximo is very intuitive and has built-in help features
which address the user acceptance problem. What’s more, the system accommodates
changes easily, has terrific reporting and analysis tools, and provides a strong
foundation for future enhancements,” Kann says.

A Smooth Implementation

Implementation of Maximo began in January 2001 and was completed by last Thanksgiving.
Kann personally installed its work order, equipment, job plan, inventory, preventive
maintenance, and labor modules. He attributes the success of the overall project
to plenty of upfront planning and user training. Populating the system’s data
base seemed daunting at first, because the work records and other documents
that had to be digitized and stored were voluminous, extremely detailed, and
go back 15 years. Because the plan was to give access to Maximo to all personnel
at Seabrook, the implementation had to be methodical and almost flawless so
that it wouldn’t disrupt operation of the existing maintenance system, causing
the new system to make a bad first impression on users.

Looking back now, Kann calls the implementation “a tremendous success. We expect
the help desk to be overwhelmed with calls the first week after going live,
but that didn’t happen. All the hard work that went into planning and training
really paid off, and users had and continue to have nothing but praise for the
new system.

Early Results

Now that the system has been running for over three months, it is really beginning
to shine. The population effort loaded the following into Maximo:

• More than 500,00 work order records, each with more than 150 elements,
for a total of 75-million pieces of data.

• A total of 14,280 preventive maintenance tasks, each with an associated
job plan.

• Some 1,615 labor records and 104,512 location and equipment records,
each with an average of 40 specifications.

Says Kann, “We’re starting to see tangible improvements in our safety, performance,
and maintenance processes. Users are particularly amazed at the software’s reporting
capabilities, which allow them to access key performance indicator reports much
more quickly. In addition, its more accurate scheduling functions have already
served to reduce maintenance backlogs.” All work orders are created and stored
electronically. What’s more, Seabrook can use a job plan library, which allows
users to easily import saved plans into new work orders.

We’re being sold? No Biggie

As part of New Hampshire’s deregulation program, the consortium of utilities
that owns Seabrook will sell the plant, most likely this year. With the pending
sale, you might think that plans for enhancing the maintenance system would
be on hold-but that’s not the case, according to Kann. “We still plan to install
Maximo’s purchasing and inventory modules, and use the software’s linked document
feature to hook the system up to a new electronic document management system
currently in development.”

As for the effect of the sale on staff working on the system, Kann has this
to say. “We think having a world-class maintenance program will make Seabrook
even more attractive to potential buyers. It’s just another example of the “Values
For Excellence” philosophy that suffuses all our operations here at Seabrook.”

by Jon Arnold

Reprinted from EnergyIT, March/April 2002, copyright by The
McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., with all rights reserved.
This
reprint implies no endorsement, either tacit or expressed, of any company, product,
service or investment opportunity.