12:49 PM

Engineers go mobile, bring benefits to Vit Plant


A recent deployment of hybrid tablets is allowing hundreds of Bechtel National, Inc. field engineers to save time, increase efficiency and improve quality at the Hanford Vit Plant.

Jared Thomas has been hard to find at his desk lately. And that’s a good thing.

As a Bechtel National, Inc. field engineer at the Hanford Vit Plant, Jared spends more time working in the facilities under construction thanks to recent deployment of hybrid tablets.

The tablets allow hundreds of Vit Plant engineers, like Jared, to perform their work from any safe, Wi-Fi-enabled location at the 65-acre construction site. The flexibility is saving time, increasing efficiency and improving quality at the massive construction project.

“Anything I was doing on my desk workstation I can now do in the field,” Jared said. “As a field engineer, spending more time with my crew allows me to be more efficient in doing my work, more proactive in identifying issues and more accessible to answer questions.”

Vit Plant management has been searching to equip employees with a single remote-computing device that is powerful enough to fully integrate critical project software and secure enough to operate within stringent Department of Energy (DOE) and Bechtel security protocols.

With hybrid tablet in hand, Jared submits and signs inspection records, generates field changes and documents corrective actions on the spot. He saves printing costs by pulling up the latest documents, drawings and 3D models electronically. Instant access to the Vit Plant network ensures quality by allowing him to always pull up the most current revisions.

He also is connected instantly via webcam and instant messaging. By firing up the front- or rear-facing camera, Jared can have real-time discussions about issue resolution with project employees in Richland, Washington; Reston, Virginia; or San Francisco.

The Vit Plant will be the world’s largest radioactive nuclear waste vitrification facility and is being designed and constructed by Bechtel for the DOE’s Office of River Protection. When complete, it will vitrify most of the 56 million gallons of the country’s most complex nuclear waste currently stored in tanks on the Hanford site.

“I am encouraged to see cutting-edge technology be applied to the construction of the Vit Plant,” said Bill Hamel, Office of River Protection Assistant Manager for the Vit Plant.

The portable device can function as a laptop through use of a detachable keyboard or as a standalone tablet with full touch interface. It also can perform as a desktop workstation through wireless docking that connects a keyboard and dual monitor setup.

The technology also has prompted field engineers to further innovate. Emergent capabilities involving electronic forms, automated reporting and use of 360-degree video are enhancing quality and task efficiency.

“The time and budget resources applied to automation will promote efficient execution of the Vit Plant mission, which will bring us closer to treating Hanford’s tank waste as soon as possible,” said Mike Costas, Bechtel’s Manager of Quality and Functions at the Vit Plant. “Clearly, innovation within Vit Plant construction is on course.”