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Managing a Successful Temporary Plant Shutdown and Return to Service

The temporary shutdown of a manufacturing plant for improvements in equipment and processes must be made with the utmost planning and coordination to achieve the desired aims in the most timely, safest, and cost-efficient manner.

Q2 / Spring 2013
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Phase #4: Execution
As the name implies, this is when the actual shutdown activities occur. All tasks are completed and new and old equipment is in place. The duration is dependent upon the scope of work and the timeline that was negotiated with the facility’s management.

In addition to all the teams actually working on the shutdown, execution potentially impacts all employees. For their own safety and the success of the project, they need to be aware of what is happening — sometimes on a day-to-day basis. The prime contractor is responsible for taking whatever precautions are necessary to provide a disciplined and safe workplace.

As a word of advice here, when shutdowns involve clean rooms or hazardous environments, it may be necessary to develop site maps and signage, updated daily, to inform employees and others of areas that are off-limits. As an extra precaution, consider using security personnel to monitor critical access points.

Phase #5 Return to Service

This is the phase when the team should be able to celebrate a series of small successes as the systems are started up and, we hope, are running smoothly. Actual facility performance is tested and qualified in order to prove that systems are installed, operating, and functioning as designed. Additionally, if environmental monitoring is required, these samples are collected and tested. Once favorable test results are received, the facility is released for use.

This phase is the “moment of truth.” You will discover how critical it was to execute each of the previous phases completely and accurately. Experience proves that if activities achieve 99 percent satisfactory completion, it is sometimes equivalent to 0 percent. Make sure all issues are completely resolved and brought to closure. No errors are insignificant, or go without consequences.

Some Overall Advice

The importance of communication applies to every phase of a shutdown. Therefore, every individual and organization needs to accept responsibility to stay informed. The prime contractor leads the effort to create an environment that encourages collaboration and open communication.

Moreover, developing a sense of teamwork and respect for one another will help everyone survive the long hours and pressure of this demanding undertaking. These shutdowns require great effort and sacrifice from all involved. If the morale of the team is high and there is a sense of camaraderie among the participants, things are more likely to get worked out and completed in an efficient manner.
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