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Some manufacturing plants take advantage of the ten-day period across Christmas and New Year’s holidays to halt production and engage in some plant improvement activities.  Not every business can do this, especially if the product is cyclic in demand with heavy winter and spring quotas, or if the product is one without the luxury of a little shelf life or inventory.

However, given that most folks will try to take time off to spend with family, and that many supporting or downstream businesses will have reduced schedules for the same reasons, halting production and doing extra maintenance, repair, cleaning and installation projects might make sense.

For the Engineering and Maintenance teams, this outage is a golden opportunity to access the equipment and the facility.  Plan today to take advantage of this precious shut down period.

Outage work is all about ACCESS.  What equipment or facility places are normally inaccessible due to operations?  Consider all the spaces above and below, and hidden behind.  What about equipment that operates at very high or low temperatures, like ovens and freezers?  How about items that must always stay running, like water and compressed air supplies?

Quite simply, if you can do it during operations, don’t prioritize it for this outage.

So, what should you prioritize?
  1. Audits and inspections. Right along with this unimpeded access, consider conducting audits like leakage testing in the compressed air system, or inspecting a drain system.  Brush up on your confined space entry programs if needed.  Remember it will generally be much QUIETER than a regular production day!
  2. Cleaning.  What a great time to get at all those nooks and crannies, or really pull something totally apart!  Silos, primary gearboxes, compressors, exhaust stacks and bag houses all come to mind.  Just know ahead of time WHO will clean what, from the standpoint of training, tools, PPE, expertise, availability and cost.  Also have a plan to empty vessels like tanks and silos BEFORE shut down!
  3. Maintenance.  Not the everyday stuff, but the Preventative and Corrective Maintenance work orders that had been delayed to allow production.  Some items like large bearing or motor replacement may have already been set to be done during an outage period.
  4. Large Installations or Repairs.  This might be the right time to execute some major capital!
What to do with the labor force?

Work closely with HR and Operations to know what the plan is, including vacation and temporary furlough.  If the workforce is unionized, the plan must comply with the labor agreement.  If operators are to remain on site, they might engage in training, inventory, basic maintenance, 6S projects and housekeeping tasks. If most everyone is off site, you can usually count on some operators that would prefer to work, so plan work they can perform or assist. Need cost-effective help to repaint floor lanes or update signs?

Do you have all the parts, tools and equipment?

Once the work list is sketched out, verify that all parts and materials are on site and kitted for each project on the list.  Also, verify specialty tools and equipment, especially if they must be rented, like a dry ice blaster or personnel lift.

Are the contractors scheduled and ready?

Hopefully you ordered them weeks or even months ago, but now’s a good time to double check that they have crews planned and are prepared for each project.

What’s the schedule?

Detailed planning (to the day, or hour if needed) of the work is very beneficial, even just as a way to share expectations of what will be completed and communication. It’s also critical to lay out work by area (physical location) to avoid interferences both in the space and for equipment.  A careful review might reveal the need to order additional equipment, or change the start days of some work - the last thing you want is an idle contractor or mechanics, or worse yet, delayed start up in the New Year.

Re-commissioning Concerns

Ideally, any equipment that was worked on gets tested during the outage so it’s ready for start-up.  However, not everything gets returned to original settings or the place it was left ten days earlier.  A close partnership with the operations or start-up team is critical here; create a plan together on how and when to restart anything that was altered, and identify any risks, with some options to mitigate.

Special consideration...

If the facility is a GMP environment that produces food, follow the process for returning all equipment to acceptable sanitary condition.  Extra steps like additional sanitation and a pre-operational inspection are wise to ensure all foreign material is gone and no tools are left behind.  There’s nothing quite so painful as scrapping the first batches at start-up!

The holiday outage can be a great opportunity to catch up and even get ahead on maintenance and repair, as well as improvement projects, but only if you take some time to plan now.  Have a great shutdown!

Not sure if you’re ready? Contact Burly Projects, LLC today to assist with outage work planning and/or execution!