UPF workers’ two cents lead to savings

Posted: May 7, 2014 - 5:34pm | Y-12 Report | Volume 10, Issue 2 | 2014

UPF’s process engineers, risk coordinators and everyone in between work together to ferret out inefficiencies and trim costs.

When it comes to planning a multibillion-dollar construction project like the Uranium Processing Facility, there can be a tendency to focus only on big-time–savings opportunities. But throughout the multiyear design and construction project, smaller savings add up, and the people working on UPF are dedicated to trimming costs wherever they can.

Recently, UPF Engineering personnel have been reviewing designs with an eye toward refinement. “We’re looking at the design and the complexities within it to see where we could streamline and improve while still meeting all performance and mission requirements,” said a UPF project engineer.

In the course of their reviews, Engineering staff discovered they could combine two gloveboxes. Similarly, Engineering worked with safety experts to change the machining area from a glovebox environment to one that uses hoods. In each case, the design changes improved operability and reduced material costs. However, sometimes what looks good on paper or in a computer model can pose challenges in construction. To ensure that UPF can be constructed as designed, project team members conduct regular constructability reviews.

“Construction looks at the engineering drawings and asks, ‘Can we safely build it the way they designed it? Is there a more efficient way to build it?’” said the UPF Construction manager. He noted that everybody, whether in maintenance, security, safety or elsewhere, contributes to the review process. “This review ensures everyone has bought in on the front end, avoiding decisions that might be costly later on.”

In a recent example, Construction reviewed designs for inner and outer walls and offered some suggestions. “There was a complete evolution of design for our wall construction,” said UPF’s lead civil field engineer. “In the final analysis, we proposed using precast, tilt-up outer walls that could be fabricated off-site and installed after the inner wall and building shell were complete. That approach mitigates schedule impacts and reduces both costs and worker exposure to construction hazards.”

The project’s productivity savings are not limited to big process-driven efforts. Individual employees often find better ways of doing things. Rick Brooksbank, the UPF productivity and process improvement lead, and the project team members collaborate on meeting goals and generating ideas. “I’m embedded with the UPF team,” he said. “It allows me to get the pulse of the project and see where the savings are.” Brooksbank collects employee ideas — anything from more efficient training courses to use of electronic signatures — and transforms them into verifiable productivity savings.

The efforts are paying off. “We have passed all productivity goals for the project the past few years. We’re 48 percent above our two-year goal,” Brooksbank said. “We’ve done so with help from all UPF organizations. Everybody plays.” Taken individually, these smaller savings may seem minuscule for such a large project. But they are part of an organized effort to find and eliminate inefficiencies in the facility’s design and construction plans. And they add up — so far, the project has found more than $200 million in savings.