A component that every Foreign Material Management program should have is a system of tracking. The scope and size of the system is determined primarily on the scale of the project and the risk posed by the possibility of a foreign material breach. In the nuclear world, both equipment and personnel are tracked through a variety of methods. Until recently, most power plans used paper log sheets to check personnel and equipment into and out of zones classified as FME zones. Newer systems use databasing software and RFID or bar-coding equipment to automate the tracking process.
Regardless of the type of tracking that is being done, (electronic or paper), an efficient tracking system should have certain features.
Features of a good paper or electronic tracking system
The ability to prioritize risk and manage resources
A, B, C classification determines how closely an item should be monitored. Items with A risk classification get monitored while C items are watched less closely.
Each logged item should have record of who has the item, who is responsible for the item, who was responsible for the job, who was responsible for the logging process. This information can be used in the event of a loss of FME control to evaluate why the situation occurred and learn from it. It is important to not use this aspect of tracking to place blame so as to facilitate learning from future mistakes and not encourage employees to hide mistakes
Individuality of items
Each item logged into or out of an area should be uniquely marked with an individual identifier. When a loss of FME controls occurs it is important to be able to distinguish exactly what item was lost. If five hammers are in use in five different areas and one hammer is reported missing it will be difficult to determine which hammer is actually missing if the hammers are not uniquely identified.
Upon entry to an area there should be some record of the condition of an item, whether it is new, used, damaged, or worn. This will determine how closely the item should be tracked.
For an electronic system:
Automated reminders should be customizable to generate alerts when item maintenance is needed or when items have remained in an area past their expected exit time. Reminders should be available through e-mail, text message, or warning alarms.
Items and personnel that have been determined to be restricted from an area should generate warnings when they cross an entry point.
An electronic log should have the ability to report on the fly in a dynamic, user-friendly manner.
When implementing an electronic log system, the more compatible it is with existing computer systems the better. Integration capability with employee databases, security systems, and financial software is ideal.