Fusion for Energy (F4E) is responsible for providing Europe’s contribution to ITER, the world’s largest scientific partnership that aims to demonstrate fusion as a viable and sustainable source of energy. It had the necessity of integrating different project management applications and providing consistent, standardised reporting.
ITER brings together seven parties that represent half of the world’s population – the EU, Russia, Japan, China, India, South Korea and the United States. The ultimate goal of ITER is to construct and operate a fusion experiment with 8x the volume of the current largest fusion device. These experiments hope to demonstrate a viable design for a future prototype commercial fusion power plant.
Currently the project is still in its construction phase, which is scheduled to last more than 10 years. Europe’s multi-billion euro contribution, as managed by F4E, has multiple interfaces with the central ITER Organization and agencies in the other parties. As a European Agency, F4E also has to interact with the European Commission.
“This is an incredibly complex undertaking with lots of information being generated by different applications. We use SAP for accounting and to track contracts; Primavera for planning; and custom databases and applications,” explains Richard Roper, Project Controls Manager, F4E. “The problem was none of these programmes could talk to each other, making reporting very time consuming and error-prone.” Tessella had already been involved with ITER, helping to build similar systems so the company seemed like an ideal fit to integrate F4E’s application platforms.
“Tessella brought experience of developing project management reporting systems at UKAEA and the ITER Organization to F4E,” adds Roper. “This allowed us to set a standardised system of codes and processes that could be supported by an integrated system.”
Solution and Benefits
The codes were designed to minimise replication of information between systems, meaning there would be only one authoring system for each piece of data. The integrated reporting system would then combine all the data from each system, primarily using the standardised WBS to link them. Tessella also performed a study of cost tools, and provided a recommendation on which Fusion for Energy should deploy.
After the consultancy phase, Tessella worked with the IT department to deploy updates to its data warehouse and wrote and deployed ETL scripts to populate it. This provided a central repository of information that could be queried to generate the reports Fusion for Energy needed.
“We had two Tessella people here full-time for nine months working to integrate the systems. Adding to the complexity is the difficulty of extracting some of the data from a system located in Brussels,” says Roper. “Tessella also helped us upgrade to Primavera 8 during the same period. The team’s collaborative approach made the whole experience seamless.”
Tessella also deployed and configured the cost management tool and took responsibility for the related month end process. This allowed performance to be monitored against both the project baseline and an annual reference plan.
With the data in place, Tessella used its extensive experience of data visualisation to put in place a number of interactive reports that showed, at a glance, the status of the project. More detailed reports were also constructed, allowing experts to explore the available data more closely.
“We are now starting to exploit the system to be able to answer quickly and accurately questions put to us by external partners and auditors and have a new set of monthly reports built on the system that allow F4E senior management to visualise the status of the project and identify areas that need their attention,” continues Roper. “It is a real time, single pane of glass that gives everyone access to all critical data, making us more productive while increasing the accuracy of the data.”
A further benefit is the fact that employees no longer need to dig into native applications for data because it is available in the reports. This means F4E needs far fewer licences for each application, which has in turn reduced costs.
“We are saving money but by far the biggest advantage is the time it now takes to generate the information. It used to take us days to compile reports but now they are available at the touch of a button,” comments Roper. “That makes everyone’s life easier and helps us to work together more effectively.”
The plan now is to extend the functionality of the system and expand it to include other areas of the business. The ultimate goal is for the central database warehouse to become the centralised repository for all information on any subject, not just project management. This might include HR, procurement and the tender process.
“Tessella played a critical role in integrating our disparate data sets and making critical information available quickly. The team was flexible, responsive and had a great understanding of the technology involved,” concludes Roper. “We were also able to redeploy one of the Tessella consultants on an ad hoc basis as a statistician to other parts of the business. That way Tessella added value above and beyond the agreed contract.”
Tessella continues to work for F4E in a number of guises, recently winning the contract to support the future development of COBRA within the IT department. As such, the company and its consultants will help F4E evolve and rise to the challenge of making nuclear fusion a reality.