Planning and Scheduling
Planning and scheduling are different but united aspects of managing a power station that produces energy. Planning chiefly deals with selecting the appropriate strategies and processes to achieve the objectives of the plant. Scheduling converts the plan for capacity, time, service, cost, and quality into an operational timetable. Together with the plan and budget, the schedule becomes a significant tool for power stations.
Electricity was generated by a nuclear reactor for the first time in 1948 at the X-10 Graphite Reactor in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which was the first nuclear power station to power a light bulb. In 1954, the world’s first nuclear power station to generate electricity for a power grid, the Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant, started operations in the Soviet Union. The world’s first full-scale power station, Calder Hall in England, opened in 1956.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Nuclear power comes from nuclear fission.
Nuclear power plants heat water to produce steam. The steam is used to spin large turbines that generate electricity. Nuclear power plants use the heat produced during nuclear fission to heat water.
In nuclear fission, atoms are split apart to form smaller atoms, releasing energy. Fission takes place inside the reactor of a nuclear power plant. At the center of the reactor is the core, which contains uranium fuel.
The uranium fuel is formed into ceramic pellets.
Each ceramic pellet produces about the same amount of energy as 150 gallons of oil. These energy-rich pellets are stacked end-to-end in 12-foot metal fuel rods. A bundle of fuel rods, some with hundreds of rods, is called a fuel assembly. A reactor core contains many fuel assemblies.
The heat produced during nuclear fission in the reactor core is used to boil water into steam, which turns the blades of a steam turbine. As the turbine blades turn, they drive generators that make electricity.
Nuclear plants cool the steam back into water in a separate structure at the power plant called a cooling tower, or they use water from ponds, rivers, or the ocean. The cooled water is then reused to produce steam.” (Nuclear Explained, 2020, April 16.)
Scheduling at 100% Capacity, measuring daily to capacity and Schedule Adherence, effectively engaging with the craft by supervision, and identifying / removing barriers causing Lost Time enabled this client to successfully solve problems they had been struggling with for years.
This nuclear power plant is located in the Midwest of the U.S. and is owned by a larger energy corporation. The reactor is a boiling water reactor design and is one of the largest BWRs in the United States. The client was concerned about the site getting enough of the planned work completed to maintain quality and safety.
During the Discovery phase, we found ineffective scheduling of work as the Maintenance Departments (Electrical, Mechanical, I&C, and FIN) were not fully loaded (craft loaded at 50% daily). As a result of this lowered expectation, Pacing and idle time was observed throughout the Maintenance Departments. There was no sense of urgency as the craft habitually waited for work to come to them as there were no Backup Assignments. Managers and supervisors exhibited a Passive Management Style with overall Proactive Engagement with the craft (coaching, training, setting expectations, effective following up, etc.) at only 11%. They spent 33% of their time Idle, 34% of their time doing Administrative tasks, 17% solving Problems (firefighting), and 5% performing Employee Work.
Conservations with the Supervisors, managers, and craft revealed that there were problems with many of the planned work packages, both content and the way it was scheduled, but no Feedback Loop was in place to communicate these problems to the Planning and Scheduling Department. The craft continued to live and work with these problems as there was no robust Barrier Identification and Resolution Process.
A diagnostic assessment on their view of supervisory skills was administered to the supervisors and managers. The results revealed that the management team scored “unsatisfactory” in 40% of the basic skills including: planning, work assignment, assigning and following up, reporting, and change potential. This meant that there would be much work to do training and coaching these frontline leaders to execute their Roles & Responsibilities more effectively. Obviously, there was a gap in the capacity of the plant to get work done as the craft was only loaded to 50%. This led to sub-optimal management of the resources, both manpower and materials. Exacerbating this lost capacity was the lack of engagement throughout the day by the frontline leadership with the craft to verify and correct actual performance versus planned performance. Late starts, early quits, and long lunches and breaks were rampant in the plant. Expectations for performance were set very low in the Planning and Scheduling Department.
Instead of taking the lead in planning and scheduling the required work to keep the plant operating optimally, this department planned the very minimum and took a subservient role and allowed the Maintenance Department to decide what would be done. They were not adhering to their Roles and Responsibilities. They were not loading the craft to their capacity and creating a schedule that would ensure all maintenance work (Preventative, Corrective and Elective) were being planned and scheduled.
Their operating system needed an upgrade to increase throughput, recover lost profit through low productivity, and maintain a quality and safe product. In order to meet the deliverables, the current culture (behaviors) needed to be upgraded and changed.
Keys to Success
- Improve Schedule Adherence by following up on assigned work
- Daily measure to Capacity and Daily Schedule Adherence and hold accountable
- Establish a sustainable and repeatable systematic process and environment conducive to attaining performance improvements (Continuous Improvement)
- Train the Supervisors and Managers through workshops and one-on-one coaching on the floor
- Improve Planning to schedule the craft at 100% Capacity that would meet and exceed the site’s goals
Workshops were created and customized for the training and development of the supervisors and managers. Specific assignments were given at each workshop with on-the-floor training to reinforce the targeted behavior. Frontline leaders were challenged to be more engaged with their craft. Utilizing real-time data these leaders began making decisions while the work was in process to improve performance.
Observations were performed with the client to determine accurate work-to-time estimates. It was observed that current estimates were inflated by 45%. To say it another way, the craft was performing 55% under capacity due to lowered expectations, under scheduling, and barriers causing Lost Time. Expectations were reset and the Planning and Scheduling Department was requested to load the craft at 100%. Daily expectations were set with the craft by the frontline leaders. A sustainable systematic process was installed that prompted the behaviors of the management team to identify and reduce or eliminate the barriers causing Lost Time.
Planning and Scheduling properly loaded the schedule by increasing the Load % from 50% to 100%. A feedback loop was created whereby the craft could communicate with Planning and Scheduling any work package issues. The leadership team, within Planning and Scheduling, was developed which improved the entire plant as they took the lead in areas they needed to be at the forefront.
Communication improved at all levels. The management team communicated more effectively within departments and between departments. Senior Leadership’s expectations were communicated with specific deliverables for follow-up, all focused on driving process improvements to the floor.