The importance of integrated logistics

26 October 2022

Growing global uncertainties have increased reliance on supportability engineering and the reassurances it can provide in managing and minimising project risk

Business continuity and contingency planning have always played an integral part in the success of any organisation, but with the events of the past couple of years presenting unforeseen (and unprecedented) challenges to those across the nuclear sector, preparation has never been more important.

With the ongoing turmoil relating to labour shortages, supply chain disruption, and inflation, reliance on supportability engineering or Integrated Logistic Support (ILS) and the reassurances it can provide has increased.

ILS is essentially about ensuring an organisation and all those across the supply chain have the right knowledge and support to be able to deliver a project cost-effectively. And having processes and procedures that minimise risk, avert over-budgeting, meet stringent safety standards, and mitigate project delay are not only hugely valuable, but absolutely project critical.

As a discipline, the proven effectiveness of ILS attracted the attention of many sectors – including nuclear – as a means of managing costs, ensuring efficient supply chains, and reducing maintenance costs.

From the complete development of new power stations to the installation of simulators and upgrading safety pumps, ILS covers every element in the engineering procurement process – from initial concept design and development through to successful contract and physical production, testing, and delivery – plus ongoing maintenance and any servicing requirements.

Essentially, ILS encompasses all areas of through-life management, including:

  • Technical Documentation – covering system descriptions, operating information, diagnostic support data, and software information
  • Reliability & Maintainability (R&M) – the analysis associated with identifying when a component, sub- system, or system may fail, and what to do about it if it does
  • Training Needs Analysis – used to determine all team training requirements and the most effective means of meeting these
  • Supply Support Planning – ensures that equipment has a defined supply support structure in place, including spares pipeline, stocking rate, and lead times
  • Project Management – ranging from the mentoring and training of existing teams, to specialist personnel outsourcing and full external ILS management
  • Safety & Environmental Protection – identifies, tracks, and resolves safety and environmental hazards and quantifies and manages risk associated with these
  • Human Factors Integration – effectively integrates equipment, systems, and personnel

Through strategic planning and the focused application of ILS, it’s possible to ensure that the designed system is usable, sustainable, and that it fully meets the required capability during its intended lifespan – in the most cost-effective and operationally effective manner. And, much like the way Building Information Modelling has been integrated into both the development of new-build nuclear projects and the decommissioning of nuclear facilities, ILS brings together all parties – from OEMs and engineers to operators, logistics, and commercial teams, ensuring they work seamlessly to execute any ILS plan.

The International Atomic Energy Agency states that: “the most successful projects are those that have been carefully planned; have rigorous processes that ensure that the plant design, materials, and personnel are ready before starting construction; that implement these policies, procedures, and safety culture at the site; that ensure coordination between organizations such as the regulator, the licensee, the vendors and subcontractors; and that utilise the most effective construction methods that are available.”

On the other hand, the risks associated with not properly integrating or entirely overlooking ILS processes can have a significant impact on organisations, contractors, and of course, those the industry serves. And these risks can include:

  • Inaccurate understanding of equipment failure rates – leading to inadequate spare parts holding and subsequent higher risks of increased downtime, lack of productivity, and project delays
  • Incorrect calculation of the necessary trained manpower and resources required to successfully deliver (and maintain) a project – leading to potentially lower-quality project outcomes, higher costs, and longer timescales
  • Lack of management around the supportability of equipment throughout its required lifetime – leading to equipment becoming unfit for purpose and/or dangerous
  • Inconsistent and/or inaccurate documentation – leading to significant risks to safety, as well as inefficiencies and errors

With some of the most common challenges in projects across the nuclear sector relating to their high upfront costs, length of build time, and lack of waste storage strategies, the role of ILS is to not only identify potential project risks, but to also outline and provide solutions to mitigate the impact and likelihood of these. Providing assurances to the industry that all and any equipment will not incur additional and unplanned costs throughout its intended lifespan, that it will be delivered within specific timescales, and that the sector and all of its stakeholders benefit from projects that are absolutely fit for purpose.

Author/image: Trevor Hirst, Operations Director at Quorum consultancy

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