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5 Steps to an Efficient Plant Shutdown

plant shutdown

A plant shutdown plays a vital role in plant upkeep, asset compliance, and ongoing safety. The phrase lends itself to shudders, but its end goal remains advantageous for the plant: increased efficiency. 

Plant shutdowns, or turnarounds, offer businesses a favorable stretch to inspect equipment, repair faulty processes, and replace worn equipment and materials that have outstayed their operational lifespan. An efficient plant shutdown can result in a slew of benefits—if done properly. This includes decreased downtime, less overtime stress, and improved operation overall. But the steps that outline the shutdown from inception to completion prove key. 

Step 1: Audit and Decision-making

Think of the audit and decision-making phase as the groundwork for the plant shutdown. This step serves as the base for the turnaround going forward. It involves strategizing about each operational area and what best suits both your operations and budget. Decisions will be parceled into a handful of key categories: assess, repair, replace, postpone, or leave be. 

Developing a strategy leads to decision-making, which needs to be underpinned by rationale. This rationale should be matched up to target objectives, along with relevant key performance indicators (KPIs) that analyze cost, timetable, task and project completion, man hours, overtime,  and safety. 

Step 2: Plant Preparation

Once the first step is finished, the plant will swing into step number two: plant preparation and planning. This phase encompasses the main bulk of strategy to bring the plant shutdown to completion. Job tasks will need to be developed and divvied out, and this phase also involves resource pooling that includes tools needed, material, equipment, and manpower. 

This phase tackles planning with a multi-sectional range: plans include tasks, resources, logistics, quality assurance, quality control, and risk assessment and management. This second phase will receive a final bookend by a trio of documents: a schedule, cost breakdown, and work agenda. 

Step 3: Organizing A Timetable

The preparation phase’s end results should propel your scheduling. This being said, a plant shutdown should be as brief as possible. Keeping the work agenda trimmed ensures that the work scope stays reasonable and still works within the time allotted for the shutdown. 

But even a fine-tuned work agenda can’t account for everything. It’s almost guaranteed that some measure of unintended work will happen or be necessary. Your schedule and budget should reflect that. It’s good to build in a roughly 10% buffer, both in time and budget, for this kind of work. That way, your plant shutdown ups its chances of being a success. 

Step 4: Performing the Shutdown

This phase marks the start of the plant shutdown itself. Inspect equipment thoroughly, implementing fixes as necessary. Make sure to brush up on manufacturer’s notices that hit on important appliance benchmarks as well as operational lifespans. As you repair and replace equipment, tally any budget, schedule, or decision changes, and weigh those against KPIs. Toward the end, finalize the punch list and carry out final inspections before resuming regular operation. 

Step 5: Final Assessment

Once the plant shutdown ends, a final wrap-up assessment should follow. This assessment will review the entire process, from the preliminary projected scope to final shutdown procedures. The docket will need to include a variety of criteria: relevant KPIs, hazard review, schedule, final cost, punch lists, shutdown times, tasks completed, and lessons lent to improvement. All of these will help with shutdowns on down the line. As a rule, a shutdown strategy should aim to be reproducible and reliable. 

The Next Step

A plant shutdown may seem too steep as a singular undertaking, but it can be divided into smaller, more palatable parts. If you’re still unsure how to streamline your shutdowns, let the experts at Southern Field-EEC partner up with you to produce solutions. Southern Field-EEC boasts a wide breadth of maintenance expertise for industries and sectors that run the gamut: steel, cement, power generation, pulp and paper, and more. Request a quote, shore up support for your next shutdown, and learn more about our work on our blog.