Enhancing Preservation of Nuclear Deterrence System Designs

“The repository will help improve collaboration across programs and with partners. Having accurate and timely data available is essential as programs are leveraging lessons learned and documenting system designs,” Amber said.

Optimizing configuration management practices of deterrence systems will provide enduring information and help build the digital thread. “We can store a requirements document as a digital artifact in the central repository, along with the system design and how it was eventually built. It will provide the full story of that system, adding to the digital thread,” Amber said.

Knowledge preservation

Another benefit of configuration management is that it helps preserve knowledge in a complex and quickly evolving environment as new systems are developed or existing systems in the stockpile are updated.

“We used to have engineers who would spend their entire 30-year career on one program. You could go to them and ask why a certain decision was made. They could refer to their desktop, notebook or binder and say, ‘Here’s why we did what we did,’” Amber said.

Now, it’s rare for an engineer to stay on one program for their entire career. As the workforce changes, Amber’s team is working toward a standardized approach to configuration management to maximize knowledge preservation from previous programs while participating in the transition into the digital engineering ecosystem for future systems.

“I want our successors to see when and why decisions were made. We’re accelerating our ability to move forward because we have a more consolidated approach and framework for managing technical information as nuclear deterrence systems evolve,” Amber said. “Things change over time and understanding why that happened is important.”

Embracing change in modern engineering

Sandians, such as Kajal Patel and her colleagues, are embracing the rigor Amber’s team is applying to configuration management.

“The group has done an excellent job in executing the configuration management work for the W87-1 program in a collaborative and efficient manner, which significantly contributed to meeting program goals,” Kajal said.

The team is also working on stockpile projects to apply additional rigor and consistency. “Amber’s team has done an excellent job helping surveillance testers incorporate a configuration management structure that is consistent with those used by the modernization programs. They’ve worked diligently to understand our unique needs and have been very responsive when questions arise,” said Andrew Garner, a manager in stockpile surveillance.

The configuration management activities align with one of the Labs’ main goals for fiscal year 2024, which is to “lead in modern engineering.”

Amber says establishing common configuration management tools and maturing processes is helping demonstrate product readiness and ensure additional progression in advancing the digital engineering ecosystem.

Kenny Vigil is with the Media Relations team at Sandia National Laboratories. The article was originally posted to the website of the Sandia National Laboratories.