Sunday, May 22, 2005

Experience and Lessons Learned from SRS

From Anonymous:

I am a person who works at Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, SC in the Defense Programs. I visit LANL. LLNL and Sandia quite frequently and has learned the ways in which the lab works and how it is perceived to work. In general, LANL has hard working, sincere, intelligent employees but there are some who just have a “don’t care attitude” like every other place. The management at LANL does not seem to know how to manage, but they seem to be doing a good job of borrowing buzzwords and using them to show that they are managing. If a manager cannot motivate the employees to do whatever for the benefit of the lab and the nation, they are not managing. Let me tell you my experience at SRS. When DuPont was running prior to 1989, they were managing to an older set of requirements with about 10000 employees. When DOE imposed a new set of reqmts, they got out of the game. The Westinghouse (currently WGI) – Bechtel team came in, and they had to follow the new set of requirements. They hired a whole team of bean counters (thousands of them) and procedure writers and the population swelled to 26000 in 1992. Then came the axe and we started shrinking and we are down to 13000 people in 2006. We had over 200,000 procedures and finally in the last 5 years, we are bringing common sense into management. The number of procedures had come down by 50%, we attend only 2-4 hour training classes and spend only 10% of our time in training. I am afraid that in UC-Bechtel-WGI team, they will hire a ton of bean counters and make life worse at LANL before making it better. However, I feel that a Lockheed team will be more sophisticated, focused and use the Sandia experience to make life better at LANL. Also the Bechtel-WGI team just will follow what NNSA wants and get more money rather than trying to tell them the right approach. In contrast, I feel that the Paul Robinson team has more credibility and has made Sandia employees feel good about what they do and will do the same at LANL. You can check the morale at SRS with your friends but my opinion is that the moral is not at all good at SRS.

In closing, I feel that both the bidders will have a good technical proposal but I think the Lockheed team will be a better overall manager for LANL and can bring credibility and the science back to where it belongs.

Does is that what happened at Sandia when the then Martin Marietta took over from Bell Labs? LANL is already headed in the direction of endless procedures, worthless training and required readings that add nothing to the work environment. Then there are the meetings. The electrical safety meeting is yet another example of a meeting that served no real purpose but to "satisfy" some stupid mandate from DOE or NNSA based on an overreaction to something that happened somewhere else. How many groups send people to "trainings" for something that has nothing to do with their day-to-day job? What's lacking lately has been COMMON SENSE. The bean counters have already arrived and they have tried to re-form employees in like molds by these blanket rules and regulation. It's much too hard to treat employees as individuals so we can blanket trainings and meetings and such. If the hundreds of TEAM LEADERS had a clue as to what their jobs are, they could be guiding employees thru relevant trainings etc instead of just sitting on their asses and producing nothing. TLs "handle" fewer than 20 employees (on average) and they still can't treat people like people. As far as I can there is no use in even having TLs.
The poster is right. You will need twice as many people just to administer QC-1 Rev. 10 which is required in the new contract.

DX-1 tried to get a jump on the requirements in the winter of last year when Rev. 10 was approved even though they did not have to comply. Before they knew what happened they were innundated by people from MSM Division who knew nothing about the product telling us what to do. I assume that the group has not been able to continue work on compliance since last July because operations are still shut down.
Sure sounds like a good time to be leaving LANL.
"The number of procedures had come down by 50%, we attend only 2-4 hour training classes and spend only 10% of our time in training."

"**ONLY**" 10%?

Could the original author in this thread possibly elaborate on what Savannah River does that causes him/her to think 10% is something describable as "only 10%" rather than an extraordinarily, unacceptably large fraction of the workers' time? You mean you actually get WORTHWHILE training? I have a hard time believing it. Please elaborate.
Actually, the electrical training stemmed from several incidents at LANL over the past few months involving LOTO violations and an ESA student getting shocked.

Remember, SRS was a nuclear production facility. No wonder they were compliance driven with thousands of procedures. You can see the same type of environment at TA-55.

Last, I am a TL and by no means do I sit on my ass and do nothing. I have to wear many different hats including programmatic, safety, security, project management, program development, as well as act as a "line" manager (eventhough LANL doesn't recognize TLs as line management) and supervise employees, write performance appraisals, deal with personnel business, etc.
Ooops, the student getting shocked happened right after the electrical training but I know the LOTO issues were before.
The electrical safety all-hands meeting the first week of May was simply the result of normal DOE harrassment. Letter comes from Secy of Energy to local area office. Local area office sends memo to LANL director. Then-LANL director has a meeting in which he indicates he probably has never changed out a wall receptacle in his house. All this apparently because there are too many persons at DOE reading reports about electrical events that may or may not have been of any significance, and in any case don't have enough details to allow saying that the number of yearly important "events" is either up or down. Nothing will change if LM or NG get the contract unless the DOE is forced to be rational about safety. If there were significant safety problems at LANL, there would be more serious events than people breaking legs because they dropped a 50-lb piece of pipe where it should have been obvious it could knock the ladder out from under them. To those from the PRC and FSU who no doubt read all that appears on this blog, don't make the mistake of thinking there is no one left at LANL who is capable of making decisions if it becomes absolutely necessary to do so.
I too am very familiar with what happened with the transition at Savannah River. My observation, as an outside observer, was that after the contract change, everything that DOE had beaten Dupont up for not implementing, were the very things that Westinghouse was provided a much larger budget (and thousands more FTEs) to accomplish.

Among many differences between the SRS experience and what is likely to happen here, is that the Savannah River site was locatd in an area that could accomodate a 3-5X increase in staff without incredible changes in the local housing market. In contrast, Northern New Mexico that is within reasonable driving distance to the lab, has severely limited capacity for additional housing/people. Translation:within a year of the contract change we'll see a local housing market that makes Silicon Valley look cheap.
One can only hope that Los Alamos property values return to where they were before. If they go higher, all the better.
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