9 ways to best spend your year-end money

by | Sep 22, 2016 | Simulation & Training

It’s a great problem to have. Your boss lets you know there are funds available or have been freed up for use in the current year-end budget. The catch is, you must already have the quote and the project must be able to be completed in just a few short months.

Any training or operations department manager will tell you that there is a running list of wants that might seem small, but never get the chance to come to fruition due to budget shortfalls or just too few hours in the day. Maybe when your nuclear test operators go on vacation you get behind on testing or you could really use a few more training scenarios built out, but your trainers just don’t have the time given their heavy class schedule for operators. If you are a thermal power plant operator, maybe you’re in need of a mini-retune to capture certain plant changes from earlier in the year that have not yet been modeled on the simulator. Whatever the reason, some freed-up money at the end of the year can be put to good use!

All of the services below are low-cost or allow you to choose your hours and can be completed in just a few months.

1. Software Upgrade

Have you been putting off upgrading your simulation software because your engineers or operators don’t have enough time to update or test the simulator? You could supplement your staff by purchasing engineer’s hours to do the update for you and/or by purchasing licensed operator hours to perform the testing for you. This method takes the pain out of the process and enables your operators and instructors to experience the benefits of the software upgrade.

Not enough leftover funds to implement the software upgrade at the end of the year? Consider purchasing the upgrade with a separate project allocated in the following year for implementation.

2. Model Upgrade

In the Post-Fukushima world that we live in, many plants are looking at the robustness of their electrical systems modelling to be able to evaluate post-accident scenarios and give operators an appreciation for battery life and operating conditions. It’s possible that your battery and power supply models are over-simplified. View our blog post on “Can your simulator “cope” with the new FLEX equipment guidelines”.

For thermal power plants, perhaps you need to update an existing model to meet the current plant design. Another common model upgrade requested is to upgrade the balance of plant (BOP) model from a simplified, functional model to a more detailed, first principles level.

3. Part Task Models

Improving efficiency and minimizing downtime are key to a plant’s commercial and operational success. Oftentimes, a particular area of plant operations can be targeted for efficiency improvement due to a history of human performance-related issues or because a particular piece of equipment presents a significant portion of operational hazards. A part-task simulator focusing on that piece of equipment can be a very efficient way to dramatically improve operator behavioral training and increase delivery performance.

4. Graphics

A great use of year-end money is adding or improving the simulator graphics. Your simulator is likely setup to handle in-plant control panels, auxiliary or field operations via a listing of remote functions that the instructor selects from the instructor station. This can be a burdensome process when, for example, you need to strip several breakers on a motor control center or breaker box because you have to open, operate and close each individual remote function. However, new graphics panels for these in-plant panels can be used by the instructor or non-licensed operators to save steps and provide a more procedure oriented operations experience.

Additional simulator graphics may also be warranted for FLEX equipment such as local diesel generator control panels, instrument bus breaker panels, local battery chargers, and local instrument bus inverters.

5. AV System upgrade

An important aspect of simulation training is the post-training debriefing and review session where the crew self-critiques their performance. Take advantage of year-end money to modernize your AV system with high-definition audio and video coupled directly to your full-scope simulator. Your post-simulator training debriefs are paramount for improving operator performance, so make sure that you’re not working with archaic AV formats using an inefficient, time consuming ‘copy and carry’ method.

6. Fundamentals

Could your new operator and engineer candidates benefit from fundamentals training prior to simulator time?  A strong understanding of process and control fundamentals, as well as standard plant equipment such as tanks, pumps, and cooling towers, gives your staff a leg up for when they start training on the plant specific simulator.  Standardized simulations and tutorials are great for operations understanding and process operations such as startup, shutdown, normal operations and troubleshooting.

7. Glasstop Simulator

Is your full-scope simulator schedule maxed out with no time left to run just-in-time training for an infrequent operation, or to test plant changes or new HMI screens? Consider a glasstop simulator to run your existing plant load. Since most simulators are site licensed, so you can create as many duplicates as you need for a variety of testing and training applications. Use a single unit in standalone mode or build your way up to an entire room of glasstops representing the entire control room.

8. Additional Training Materials & Scenarios

Unfortunately the time to create new scenarios for simulation training is simply a luxury that many plants don’t have, especially in the thermal power plants that might not have a training department. However, capturing normal, abnormal and infrequent operations via automated plant procedures enables operators to train on diagnosing and troubleshooting failures as well as perform just-in-time training.

9. Simulator Health Check (Debit Program)

If there’s not one specific area of help that you think your simulator staff could benefit from, but rather a list of small items that your team just doesn’t have the time to get to, consider a pool of simulator health check hours through a debit program of customer directed T&M.

From cleaning up your simulator file structure (because wouldn’t it be nice and who has the time), to recommending upgrades based on your current models, to training new employees on using the simulator software for modeling or new instructors on the instructor station features, there’s an endless punch list of items on every manager’s list.


For this New Year’s resolution, how about increasing your simulation training value with updated models, graphics or scenarios? Or perhaps you want to concentrate on one part of your plant’s process for efficiency improvement? Or do you simply want a clean slate and finally get those nice-to-haves off your to-do list? Whatever your goal, there’s an effective way to utilize year-end money to work toward your objective.


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