Shutdowns: planning for the planned and unplanned

Every day that your operation stalls is a day that you're leaving potential profits on the table.


Every day that your operation stalls is a day that you're leaving potential profits on the table. Courtesy: Smartware GroupFor most organizations, the No. 1 goal in the grand scheme of things is to maintain business continuity. Every day that your operation stalls is a day that you're leaving potential profits on the table. It's clearly vital to keep business humming along as efficiently as possible at all times.

This is why the threats of shutdowns and outages continue to be so worrisome for business leaders. The C-Suite works tirelessly to devise business plans that will ensure steadily flowing profits, but those plans are contingent upon staying in operation without any unforeseen delays. When those delays do happen, they can be devastating to production, deliveries, costs and more.

It's important to manage these incidents to whatever extent is possible. Even a short window of downtime for such an operation can have massive ripple effects on an industry at large. So what can be done about shutdowns and outages?

It helps first to understand the issue.

The nature of the shutdown issue

The basic problem is that when one element of your process shuts down, it tends to have a ripple effect on everything else you do. Joel Levitt, director of international projects at Life Cycle Engineering, emphasized this in his book, "Managing Maintenance Shutdowns and Outages." Levitt explained that a shutdown can have a major deleterious effect on your workflow.

"Project work in general and shutdowns in particular are in conflict with just about everything else going on at any time," Levitt wrote. "If the advantages were not so great, shutdowns would never occur. Projects involving shutdowns of major equipment are expensive in ... costs (money for labor and parts) and lost production."

Methodologies applied to unplanned events can involve reviewing work order backlogs, pulling in preventive maintenance activities, ascertaining labor and material availability and so forth. The costs of the shutdown—i.e., the materials and labor needed to repair what's not working-play only a partial role in the impact of these types of shutdowns. Much more significant are the opportunity costs you incur by not staying up and running.

The "forced vs. planned" distinction

Of course, there are different types of shutdowns to consider—some are more justified than others. At a typical manufacturing facility, you can divide such incidents into planned shutdowns and forced ones.

Delays are planned for any number of reasons including routine maintenance tasks and "pilot runs" to experiment with your process. In these situations, you can prepare well for the planned delay and survive unscathed. Unplanned delays, however, can be a major roadblock to productivity. If and when they happen, you may have to make the best use of the time.

Mastering project-management techniques

When shutdowns do happen, they can be disastrous for business. The good news is you can manage crises effectively if you know a few basics of project management.

For example, if you have a set of procedures in place to respond to shutdowns and outages, it's easier to spring into action and respond quickly. It's good to make sure everyone knows in advance which individual tasks will be assigned to them, and where those tasks may be found—such as through email notifications, a dashboard view, or within the preventive maintenance (PM) function of your modern computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). An inspection should include the litany of steps needed to perform the procedure properly. These PM tasks can be fairly comprehensive, involving images or specs, labor assignments, associated parts and assets, estimated costs and hours and more.

It's best to have a contingency plan in place as well. While you certainly want to take into account fire or weather-related emergencies, you also want to review the handling of internal service failures, such as chemical spills. Ensure that these plans are uploaded to your CMMS' document management for quick reference or are already configured as a task for fast work order generation.

Finally, measurement is a necessary road to improvement. David Berger of Plant Services magazine writes that typical performance metrics cover the following:

  • Project management (lower shutdown costs as compared with previous years)
  • Customer satisfaction (higher quality of output after related problems are identified and eliminated)
  • Operational capability (increased equipment reliability through failure analysis)
  • Risk management (decreased lost-time injuries).

- This article originally appeared on Smartware Group's blog. Smartware Group is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Erin Dunne, production coordinator, CFE Media,

Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
November 2018
2018 Product of the Year finalists, mild steel welding: finding the right filler, and new technique joins aluminum to steel.
October 2018
Tools vs. sensors, functional safety, compressor rental, an operational network of maintenance and safety
September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
October 2018
2018 Product of the Year; Subsurface data methodologies; Digital twins; Well lifecycle data
August 2018
SCADA standardization, capital expenditures, data-driven drilling and execution
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
Summer 2018
Microgrids and universities, Steam traps and energy efficiency, Finding help with energy projects
October 2018
Complex upgrades for system integrators; Process control safety and compliance
November 2018
Analytics quantify processes, Fieldbus networking and IIoT, Choosing the right accelerometer

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
This digital report explains how everything from conveyors and robots to automatic picking systems and digital orders have evolved to keep pace with the speed of change in the supply chain.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Design of Safe and Reliable Hydraulic Systems for Subsea Applications
This eGuide explains how the operation of hydraulic systems for subsea applications requires the user to consider additional aspects because of the unique conditions that apply to the setting
click me