Incorrect BOM Data Transfer Causes Machine Failure in a Hypothetical Nuclear Facility


A nuclear power plant is currently in the process of upgrading a critical component within its reactor control system. This upgrade involves replacing a specific valve in the reactor cooling system with a newer model specially designed to handle higher pressures. Unfortunately, there was a hiccup in the data transfer process, leading to inaccuracies in the bill of materials (BOM) as it moved from the design to production and purchasing departments. 

Nuclear PPFig.1 - Solenoid valve 



How a Bill of Materials item error led to a system failure

The design team submitted a request for a valve replacement, detailing the need for a valve that can handle pressures up to 2000 PSI, along with specific dimensions and material requirements. 

Therefore, a new BOM was created. It included the correct valve part number, pressure rating, and material specification. 

Unfortunately, an incorrect BOM data transfer happened. Due to a software bug or more likely, a human error, the BOM sent to the production and purchasing departments lists a valve with a lower pressure rating of 1500 PSI, which has similar but not identical dimensions and material specifications. 

This led to the purchasing department ordering the lower-rated valve based on the incorrect BOM. 

The production team proceeded to install the (incorrect) lower-rated valve in the reactor cooling system, unknowingly overlooking that it was not the specified part. 


Impact of the Error 

1.) Mechanical Failure 

  • Under Pressure Conditions: The reactor cooling system operates at pressures close to the 2000 PSI rating of the correct valve. The installed 1500 PSI valve is subjected to pressures beyond its design limits. 

  • Valve Failure: Over time, the stress on the incorrectly installed valve leads to mechanical failure. This could result in a coolant leak, which, in a worst-case scenario, could escalate to a coolant loss accident. 

 2.) Safety Risk 

  • Radiation Release: A coolant leak might lead to overheating of the reactor core, potentially causing fuel damage and the release of radioactive materials. 

  • Evacuation and Containment: Such an event would necessitate immediate evacuation of personnel and potentially the public, along with extensive containment and mitigation efforts. 

3.) Operational and Financial Impact 

  • Downtime: The plant would need to be shut down for an extended period to replace the faulty valve and inspect for any additional damage. 

  • Cost: The cost of repairs, safety measures, regulatory fines, and potential legal actions could run into millions of dollars. 

  • Regulatory Consequences: The incident could lead to increased regulatory scrutiny and potential sanctions against the operating company. 

 It's important to have tools to improve the efficiency of the BOM data transfer 

In critical environments, having the right tool to enhance the efficiency of BOM data transfers is absolutely essential.


How could we have avoided this? 

1.) Data Integrity and Validation 

  • Automated Data Validation: Implement powerGate's feature for real-time data validation during BOM transfers between Autodesk Vault and the ERP system. This ensures that BOM data is accurate and consistent, reducing the risk of errors due to manual data entry.

  • Immediate Feedback Mechanism: Use powerGate's immediate feedback capability to notify users instantly about any discrepancies or issues during BOM transfers, allowing for prompt correction and minimizing delays in the procurement process. 

2.) Redundancy and Error Detection 

  • Multilevel BOM Transfer: Utilize powerGate's multilevel BOM transfer for efficient handling of complex BOM structures, ensuring accurate transfer of all levels and flagging discrepancies for verification.

  • Enhanced Error-Handling with powerJobs: Use powerJobs to automate the detection and handling of errors during data transfers. powerJobs can be configured to run scripts that check for discrepancies, create missing items, and validate data, ensuring that any issues are promptly addressed without manual intervention. 

3.) Training and Communication  

  • Employee Training on New Tools: Regularly train employees on the usage of powerGate and powerJobs, emphasizing their roles in maintaining data accuracy and process efficiency. This training should cover the specific functionalities that help prevent and resolve BOM-related issues. 

  • Clear Communication Channels: Establish communication protocols that utilize powerGate's live connection feature, facilitating real-time collaboration between design, procurement, and production teams. This ensures that any discrepancies are addressed immediately, maintaining a seamless workflow. 

4.) Documentation and Traceability  

  • Comprehensive Documentation: Maintain detailed documentation of all design specifications, BOMs, procurement orders, and assembly records within Autodesk Vault, using powerGate to synchronize these documents with the ERP system. This ensures that all records are up-to-date and accessible. 

  • Traceability Systems: Implement traceability systems that leverage powerGate's capability to compare and manage BOMs across systems. Additionally, use powerJobs to automate the generation of documentation such as PDFs and DXFs, and publish these documents to the ERP system. This ensures a comprehensive and accessible record of all components used throughout the production process. 

By explicitly incorporating features from both powerGate and powerJobs, we can significantly enhance the accuracy and reliability of BOM data transfers, reduce the likelihood of errors, and streamline the overall workflow from design to production. These tools provide robust solutions for managing data quality and ensuring efficient, error-free operations in the nuclear power plant scenario.


Interested in learning more on automating your Vault processes or connecting Vault with your ERP system? Speak to our industry experts now.