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Shutdowns and turnarounds are often major tasks during a plant’s life cycle. This is because such tasks improve the life expectancy of the plant, helps in maintaining inventory levels and reduces the magnitude in an event of a loss in revenue. However, since shutdowns are labour intensive and costly operations, it is imperative that managers and those in the management team understand how shutdowns can be better managed to meet expectations. In this post, we’ll cover 4 key tips in managing plant shutdowns.
Major maintenance shutdowns can be stressful for both maintenance and operations personnel, but with careful planning and attention to details, they can also be very rewarding. Major shutdowns in process industries typically happen infrequently (every year or two) and take several days to complete. In general, these shutdowns should have two objectives. Firstly, it aims to repair problems identified during previous major shutdowns. Secondly, it also seeks to inspect parts of the plant not accessible during operation in order to identify problems that will be repaired during future planned shutdowns.
However, since plant shutdowns are often complex processes, here are 4 tips that managers can take note of for smoother shutdown processes.
- Using the Right Shutdown planning tools
- Changing Roles During Showdowns
- Have Prompt Shutdown Progress Meetings
- Proper Shutdown Documentation
Using the Right Shutdown Planning Tools
The quality of planning a shutdown process varies enormously. Planning is more than simply scheduling – a task is allocated to a specific time period, job procedure, the labour requirements, any parts or special resource requirements (such as cranes, tools etc.). Furthermore, the planning process also includes comparing actual labour hours or costs incurred with those that were initially estimated for the jobs, either on an aggregate basis, or on a job-by-job basis.
There is often a discussion about the best tools to use for shutdown management. For large jobs, a good critical-path application should always be used. For small, independent jobs, critical-path software or a spreadsheet may be employed. This is often a question of personal preference. Detailed planning of shutdown work should be combined with some scheduling so key tradespeople and contractors who will be assigned to critical shutdown work can be included in the planning process.
Changing Roles During Shutdowns
During a major plant outage, the roles that individuals take on will often change. For example, maintenance supervisors may switch areas to allow a special focus on critical work. Engineers could be assigned the role of “owner’s representative” to manage contract work.
Planners may be assigned the responsibility of keeping work schedules and critical paths marked up to show actual progress, to assist with jobs they have planned, to flag problems and to monitor shutdown activity in detail. During shutdowns, they may also act as assistants to the maintenance supervisors or plan unexpected work.
Operators and their supervisors should provide support to the maintenance team by ensuring equipment is empty, clean and isolated when required, as well as thoroughly tested prior to start-up.
Generally, the best roles for maintenance superintendents or managers are to stay clear of all meetings except those related to the shutdown and to assist in the removal of any obstacles that arise and expediting additional help when needed.
It may be useful to make a list of jobs that have the potential to become problems, including those on or near the critical path, those with new contractors and those where the scope of work is uncertain. List these jobs in order of shortest distance and walk by a couple of times each day, talking to the supervisors and tradespeople to assess the job status. These jobs can change during the shutdown and provide some confidence that the work is progressing as it should.
Shutdown Progress Meetings
During the shutdown, progress meetings should be brief and frequent. Twice a day for 24-hour work schedules is suggested. Attendees should include the people with the overall responsibility for work in each area and for critical jobs.
The agenda should be limited to asking each person if he or she is aware of any issues or problems in their area of responsibility that may affect the shutdown scope or schedule. It will be also to identify actions to address these issues and to name the person responsible for those actions. At the beginning of the next meeting, a review of the issues from the previous meeting should be done to ensure they have been adequately addressed.
The documentation for a major shutdown can be extensive. It may include the list of shutdown work, critical-path schedules, the process inventory plan, permits and other safety documentation. The shutdown budget, all isolation and vessel-entry procedures, complete with detailed schedules and resource plans, as well as a list of the people responsible for all aspects of the shutdown should be documented.
Major shutdowns provide an opportunity for the people in the maintenance department to demonstrate how well they can perform under pressure. A well-planned and well-executed shutdown can be an exciting and satisfying experience. A strong operations/maintenance partnership will be key. Finally, the document needs to include all operations and maintenance activities in an integrated shutdown schedule. The document is dynamic and should be reviewed at the end of each plant turnaround to ensure that it is consistent with the needs of the facility
To find out more about plant shutdowns, check out similar blogs below.
Advanced Shutdown Turnaround & Start-up Framework is a 3-day training course held in Kuala Lumpur.
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