Nuclear weapons facility upgrades resource management system

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The new resource management system at this Amarillo, Texas, facility could serve as a baseline for possible integration across the National Nuclear Security Administration.

A new resource management system to track the gamut of complex components that go into the assembly and disassembly of high-explosive and nuclear weapons is being used to replace some legacy systems that have been in use since the early 1980s.

The National Nuclear Security Administration announced Dec. 4 that the Babcock & Wilcox Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas, had successfully implemented an important Integrated Production Planning and Execution (IPRO) system ahead of schedule.

According to NNSA, work performed at the Pantex Plant includes support of nuclear weapons life-extension programs; nuclear weapons dismantlement; the development, testing and fabrication of high-explosive components; and interim storage and surveillance of plutonium pits.

The IPRO implementation was completed seven months ahead of schedule, using Oracle PeopleSoft-based software. By using PeopleSoft, NNSA's Kenny Steward said in a telephone interview, the Pantex Plant application serves as a baseline for possible integration across the NNSA enterprise, where 90 percent of the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools are based on PeopleSoft.

About IPRO

The business and mission critical activities supported by IPRO are:

  • Forecasting, planning and scheduling resource requirements.
  • Creation and management of inventory items, bill of materials/structures and routings.
  • Receipt, storage, distribution and final disposition of components.
  • Financial management of inventory.
  • Collection and reporting of specific assembly and disassembly information.
  • Production work in process management, reporting and tracking.
  • The identification, tracking and disposition of non-conforming materials.
  • Integrated authorization and control of movement for nuclear materials and explosives.

Steward, the facility's production control office manager, said the solution's flexibility was key in making the shift. In some ways, he said, the Pantex Plant is like typical manufacturing facilities, incorporating some of the same everyday production processes. But in other ways, Pantex applications must follow more complex, individualized processes to insure the safety and security of its obviously dangerous work. Since the PeopleSoft solution was highly customizable, it fit the bill.

According to NNSA, the tool is used to minimize on-hand inventory of components while insuring the right product with the right quality is delivered at the right time. Steward said the plant developed and deployed the IPRO system to modernize its aging legacy systems and reduce costs while improving operational visibility and inventory accuracy.

The new system, he said, employs mobile scanners that read bar codes on components, allowing the facility to more accurately track everything that goes into the nuclear weapons and high explosives. For instance, the ability to assign individual bar codes to each component in a given assembly takes away the possibility of misreads of component serial number errors.

The Pantex Plant completed the first 100 days of the implementation on Nov.1 and achieved full production rates, despite challenges that included an NNSA-directed operations suspension in preparation for the government shutdown in October.

Memos in August, September and October from Thomas Spatz, Pantex site representative, to Steven Stokes, acting technical director at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, also detailed some initial system glitches the plant had to work through. Those issues, said Steward, have been resolved and the plant's processes honed as a result.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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