How SAP and Questionmark software promote safety at one of Americas Nuclear Power Stations
With nuclear power in the news, I interviewed Kyle Pavel, an SAP Business Analyst at Nebraska Power Public District. NPPD uses SAP LSO and Questionmark Perception to enforce sound training programs at Cooper Nuclear Station.
Can you explain what NPPD does and what your job role is there?
NPPD is a Nebraska publicly owned utility company. I am an SAP Business Analyst, specifically for the Learning Solution (SAP LSO) system, which we migrated to 2 years ago. We previously used the SAP Training and Event Management (SAP TEM) system and we upgraded to LSO. We’re using LSO ECC 6 Enhancement Pack 4 at this moment.
Do you use SAP for all your operations?
Yes, we use SAP for all of our work management, our materials management, and our financials – basically all our business applications are within SAP.
Why do you need to test people?
We require qualifications for many types of positions and for entry to specific places in our plants. We need to test people to allow them to show their abilities, to be qualified to do their jobs and to demonstrate that they know how to act safely in our plant.
Are the testing needs driven by regulators or your own needs?
Both regulation and business requirements drive our testing needs. Here at our nuclear plant, we do have regulations that drive some qualifications. NPPD’s generation mix is composed of nuclear, hydro, coal-fired, natural gas, and wind plants, and the drivers are different based on the business location. But pretty much anywhere you go, you’ve got to have certain qualifications to be doing the work that you’re doing.
Are these one-time qualifications or do people need to re-test?
Some qualifications you never have to re-qualify for, but most of them you have to retake in a cycle of one or two years. We are able to set that up in LSO. In addition, there are limitations on the number of times that you can take an exam and fail, and we have to take that into account as well. We have the ability to monitor the number of times a person has taken an exam, and, if they haven’t passed, to see if they need tutoring or if this not an area in which they will achieve the level of knowledge.
Even though I’ve been here 25 years, every year I have to take certain exams to be qualified to go inside the protected area here at Cooper Nuclear Station. I have to review the training material and be tested on it, so that if anything has changed within the period, I have knowledge of it. If there are significant changes to the training, we push out new course material and an exam to all employees so that they are all aware of the changes immediately. We’ll require that they have to retake it within a more limited timeframe than a yearly basis.
Do you think testing people in nuclear plants keeps the plants safer?
Definitely! We have rules and regulations, and you have to know what those rules are, so that you can be safe. For instance, to access certain parts of the nuclear plant, such as Radiologically Controlled Areas, you have to have specific knowledge and the associated qualifications just to go into that area. You have to know expectations of how you should behave while you are in that area and the knowledge to do the maintenance work. You need to understand all the rules about contamination, materials, and lots more. There is a myriad of things people have to know and take exams on. They learn exactly what the expectations are within the plant, so that they work to a very high level of safety and knowledge.
How many people take tests?
We have approximately 2,200 people at NPPD facilities across the State of Nebraska who take training and exams. In the nuclear plant where I do most of my work, at peak times when we are gearing up for refuelling the plant, we have approximately 150 exams being taken each day; in more normal times we average 40-50 per day.
So can you look up on SAP and see what qualifications you have?
Yes, the SAP Learner Portal has a view where you can go online and see what you are qualified in. It’s a color-coded system so that it shows green if you have all the requirements met, red if your qualification is expired or you’ve never had it, or it’ll show yellow if it’s coming due. So basically an end user can go to any laptop or PC in the plant to see if they are qualified for a job. [Kyle later shared a screenshot to illustrate:]
And what happens when a year has gone by and someone needs to retake an exam?
An email starts coming to you 90 days ahead of when the next take of an exam is coming due. As it gets closer, you are able to see you’ve got so many days to review the course content and take the test, to be qualified. For every person on site here at Cooper Nuclear Station, you are to review your qualifications daily. We all understand that we need to review and see if we need a qualification and make sure our training is always up to date
Why is it helpful to use Questionmark software as well as SAP LSO?
The combined applications met our requirements.
What kinds of questions do you ask people?
Questions are developed based on objectives in the course materials. We use mostly multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions. Some of them are analytical. We also have questions which play media where people have to identify for instance the various sirens here on site, to know what the siren sounds mean. Kyle later shared a screenshot of an example question:
How is your use of LSO and Questionmark working out?
Our previous TEM system only provided for us to set up classes with one delivery method, classroom type. But with the move to LSO, we could define delivery methods for Web-based training and taking exams from a learner’s portal. This allows everyone and their manager to see up-to-date completion of training and qualifications.
Our previous exam system before Questionmark didn’t have a real-time interface to SAP. Every night we had to wait for a nightly download from the LMS to provide updates to the system, to provide accurate information on whether someone was qualified. So previously people had to wait this 24-hour period before their qualifications were updated. Now, as soon as a person completes an exam, it updates SAP, which is our system of record. People can see that they are qualified to go into a location or perform certain work in real time.
It sounds like there is quite a strong culture of knowledge and training at NPPD?
There is. Yes. This is important to run a nuclear plant. It’s an expectation and we all understand that expectation and we all abide by it.