Quality management has taken a central place in the structuring of companies in all sectors of activity. To consolidate this quality approach, more and more quality departments are nowadays equipped with digital solutions. Companies in the energy sector are no exception to the rule, whether they operate in the manufacture, operation or maintenance of means of energy production. Compliance is essential for nuclear facilities for obvious safety reasons, but all other forms of energy production have an interest in working towards continuous improvement by integrating all stakeholders in this process.
This type of tool enables them to carry out data entry, research and exploitation activities, which were previously tedious in paper format or in scattered computer tools, while bringing new advantages such as sharing, traceability and security of information.
What is found in a quality application
The main quality management systems (QMS) are organized around two main concepts: non-quality events and actions implemented to solve problems.
Quality events can be of various kinds. They are often non-conformities (sometimes also called deviations), i.e. incidents or non-compliance with procedures that formalize how activities should be carried out. This type of event is generally declared directly following the finding of the non-conformity and documented with the elements that allow its characterization (date of occurrence, location, procedure followed, description of the situation …). If the declaration is made after a delay, it may also be interesting to quantify it in order to reduce it.
For the activities more oriented towards the maintenance of the means of energy production, there are also quality events of the “control” type. These are planned at regular intervals and are used to trace the results (compliant or non-compliant) of inspection operations carried out on production sites and equipment. Finally, “evaluation” type events can be opened to assess the work of service provider companies commissioned for certain missions. The quality of the work provided is then rated according to an evaluation grid, and this information can be reused for future subcontracting requirements.
All of these events may lead to corrective or preventive actions (CAPA) aimed at resolving the discrepancies observed. More or less advanced action management modes can be set up. The simplest are content to define the nature of the actions to be carried out, a carrier, a deadline and objectives, and to ensure the traceability of their implementation and the verification of their effectiveness. The most complex are based on analysis and problem-solving methods (8D for example) to investigate and trace the root causes of quality events. In this case, the tool provides a guide to help you carry out the different steps of the method correctly.
Open events and enter data
Depending on the context, data entry of events and actions can be done in different ways in the QMS. The most natural way is to enter this data directly into the tool from a computer. However, this mode of data entry is not always possible since some control operations must be carried out on-site, sometimes in areas not covered by network access. In this case, the data entry is preferentially oriented towards media allowing a so-called ” off-line ” mode. These can be Excel masks generated by the tool, to be filled in via a PC on-site and then imported when the inspection is returning, or mobile applications that can be used on a tablet or smartphone, whose content is synchronized when returning to an area with the network coverage.
Carry out event follow-ups
and actions declared in the tool
Once the events and actions have been declared, the QMS has functionalities to follow up on them. Customizable preference dashboards allow you to quickly obtain a summary of the current events or actions you are the holder of.
For each event or action, a workflow is generally in place and serves as a guide for a user to carry out the expected processing actions in the right order. At the same time, this functionality ensures the traceability of the workflow steps, which makes it possible to justify the completion of the actions to the authority in charge of controlling them.
Search for information in the tool
The digitization of quality activities offers a huge advantage in terms of research compared to previous media, paper or classic office automation tools. Indeed, the application can be equipped with modules for searching for events or actions based on any information concerning them. These searches can be carried out through ergonomic interfaces for the user, who simply have to answer a series of questions to obtain in real-time the list of results corresponding to his search. It is then possible to access the search results to consult their details, or even to export them to Excel format for transmission or post-processing.
Use the data contained in the tool
Finally, the digitized solution allows for a much simpler use of the data. Indicators are systematically expected by the quality departments, in order to provide activity reporting to managers (number of quality events declared per month, criticality or typology of events…) or to ensure an operational follow-up of the activity (number of actions in progress, average processing time…).
The QMS offers several possibilities for producing these indicators. For example, they can be built and visualized directly within the application if it has a dedicated module. The overview and decision making are facilitated by these intuitive graphical representations (histograms, pie charts, curves). External solutions can also be used, whether for data extraction in configurable Excel masks or for making data available for Business Intelligence tools dedicated to the production of indicators (QlikView, Power BI, etc.).
Although QMS are not specific to the energy sector, it is distinguished by the diversity of non-qualities that can occur, the importance of information traceability, and the high mobility of those involved in the business.
The company BASSETTI with its Directorate of Technical Expertise is committed to implement methods, tools and IT processes to structure, archive and disseminate this knowledge with high added value within the company.
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