Plant shutdowns have proven to be necessary for routine operational maintenance, so they generally happen one time a year. Not making the time for these shutdowns can lead to derailed production due to faulty equipment. It is important that plants of all sorts make maintenance shutdowns a part of their annual routine to ensure their equipment and machinery is operating efficiently and not in need of repairs. Typically, plant shutdowns are done during holidays as more employees are off and on vacation, so production is halted anyway. Only your maintenance team will work during the shutdown, whether this is an in-house crew or one you outsourced. Maintenance shutdowns are used to repair or replace parts of your machinery that are damaged or deteriorated. In order to make the most of the time allotted for the shutdown, you should prepare and order any parts you will need several weeks or months in advance, especially as we consider nationwide part shortage issues. Below we will discuss how to prepare for a plant shutdown to help you ensure it is done efficiently and effectively.
What Happens During A Plant Shutdown?
Choosing to shutdown plant operations will provide you with the time needed to conduct routine maintenance. These shutdown periods need to be carefully planned and well-coordinated.
There are several factors to consider, such as:
- Employee Safety
- Replacement Parts Inventory
- Inventory of Components
Plant managers or the plant system engineer should spend at least a month preparing the plant for the impending shutdown. Part of this preparation will involve informing your employees about what they should expect during the process, and you will need them to log and report things they have noticed that might need repaired or replaced. Your plant may be shutdown entirely, gradually, or partially. If you choose a partial shutdown, you can isolate certain parts of the plant for renovations or maintenance repairs. You might need to get permits and insurance if you are planning a major overhaul, so be sure to apply for these several months in advance. In some instances, plant shutdowns are done as an emergency measure. Emergency shutdowns are rare but when they do occur, it can cause a serious disruption in your production. You can prevent emergency shutdowns as the result of accidents or machinery malfunctions by conducting routine maintenance shutdowns annually.
Planning Each Phase Of A Plant Shutdown
Like any other project, your plant shutdown needs to be well-planned. You will need to include specific key performance indicators, or KPIs, that include deadlines and milestones. You might consider delegating tasks and responsibilities to teams or individuals within your groups. Preparations will need to include a systematic plant shutdown checklist. Below we’ve included an example of how you can plan each phase of the shutdown process.
Phase | Objectives | KPIs | Checklist Examples
- Properly brief your employees.
- Conduct machinery inspections.
- An inventory of components will need to be checked.
- Order any necessary replacement parts.
- Delegate a maintenance team, whether it be internally or outsourced.
- Secure any permits and insurance.
- Identify necessary repairs, major and minor, based upon employee reports and inspections.
- Send in purchase orders and confirm delivery dates.
- Designate or book your maintenance crew.
Annual maintenance checklist for a pneumatic conveying system
- Vacuum pumps and pressure blowers
- Transfer line (elbows, diverters, piping, etc.)
- Rotary airlock valves
- Filter receivers
- Dust collectors and bin vents
- Cyclone separators
- Controls and electrical equipment
- Silos & other storage areas
- Implement all necessary repairs, replacement parts, and improvements.
- Put safety measures in place and ensure that they are followed.
- The maintenance team will need to work diligently to finish their work on time or ahead of schedule so that plant productivity can resume as scheduled.
- Ensure that all maintenance work has been properly completed and meets or exceeds industry standards.
- Verify that optimal efficiency is achieved.
- Standard safety gear and equipment, such as hard hats, goggles, steel-toed boots, etc.
- First aid and emergency medical equipment
- Safety nets and barricades
- Emergency eye baths and showers
- Noise control
- Traffic control
- Fire extinguisher
- Secure accident and medical insurance
- Employees need to be able to return to their normal work schedule on time.
- All maintenance work will need to be evaluated by the management team.
- Begin implementing new plans for the next shutdown and any possible emergency shutdowns that could occur between now and then.
- Resume normal plant operations.
- Draft new plans for routine and emergency shutdowns.
- Restart operations checklist.
- Assess the number of employees that returned to work after shutdown.
- Assign new tasks and workstations if need be.
- Brief your employees about the repairs and changes that were completed during the shutdown.
Managing A Shutdown
Like any other project your company takes on, managing a shutdown looks similar. The only clear difference is the purpose. Company shutdowns are typically done to complete necessary maintenance tasks, so you might need to outsource the job to experienced contractors instead of leaving it to your employees. If this is your annual scheduled shutdown for routine maintenance purposes, you will need to order necessary replacement parts at least a month in advance, if not more, due to current part shortages. Some specialized components might not be readily available closer to your shutdown and might need to be fabricated as the order is received, so it can take weeks before your parts are delivered. Regular shutdowns are usually scheduled during holidays when many employees are off work, and this can lead to delays with getting trucks in. You might need to have a contingency plan in place should any delays occur.
A few more things to consider as you formulate your shutdown plan:
- Maintenance Crew
- Equipment and Replacement Parts
- Safety Protocols and Facilities
How to Save Time During Your Shutdown
Getting back to normal operations as soon as the shutdown is finished is one of the main goals. Why? Because the downtime that is spent on the shutdown can lead to an unexpected loss in revenue.
Here are a few tips on how to save time while shutdown:
- Prioritize time-critical activities.
- Coordinate with contractors to gain priority access to needed equipment.
- Hire a catering service for your employees or a food delivery service to bring in meals.
- If using external contractors, consider providing a resource package that might include local favorites, a list of things to do, and places to stay.
If it is time for a routine maintenance shutdown, it is important that you create an effective plan as far in advance as you can. This helps to ensure that safety measures are in place, losses are minimal, and production can resume as early as possible.
Palmer Can Help You During Your Plant Shutdowns and Outages
By leaning on our decades of experience, Palmer has become highly skilled at completing projects during plant shut-downs and outages. Whether you are shutting down a single machine, a production line, or your entire site, Palmer understands the unique challenges and time pressures inherent to outage work.
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Contact us (731-584-4681) to start a no-obligation discussion about your project.
About Palmer Tool
Palmer Tool completes critical jobs on-time and on-budget. Since 1966, Palmer has taken on jobs that other shops and contractors either didn’t want, or just couldn’t do. We can fabricate parts in our shops, visit you at your plant, or meet you at on-location (ie. logging, mining, construction, etc.). From the toughest repairs to the most complex new assembly, we’ve seen and done it all. Over the past 50+ years, Palmer has maintained our reputation as a trusted expert welder and fabricator of non-ferrous alloys in demanding applications (high pressure + high temperature chemical plants). Our hard-facing applications, and robust designs, have successfully extended the service life of countless industrial “extreme service” components, saving our clients’ money! Palmer Tool and Contractors provide on-call emergency services 24/7, because we understand that in manufacturing “the clock never stops”.