Industrial maintenance - what is a maintenance shutdown and what makes planning it challenging?

During industrial maintenance shutdowns, the plant must be run down for maintenance and upkeep because the equipment cannot be serviced while process is running. During maintenance shutdown as much as possible preventive maintenance, maintenance and required repairs are done. This way production can be done without unplanned shutdowns afterwards.  

A maintenance shutdown is a challenging event, so careful planning is essential. A lot of work is done during the event in a limited time by several different parties. Planning takes a lot of time, so that the event would efficient, on time and safe. The plans are drawn up together with production and maintenance teams, because repair and maintenance work often includes e.g. lock-out-tag-out procedures, process isolations and cleanings.

Events are often planned using maintenance systems, from which maintenance work orders are further transferred to either spreadsheet or project programs. Often, maintenance work and production work (cleaning, securing and separation of the process) are separated into their own work units, because there is no all-inclusive planning system available.

First, the shutdown schedule and task lists are created determined by available time or critical tasks. Compromises often have to be made when creating work lists in terms of time. Planning is usually challenging because the work involves preparatory tasks (e.g. safety), and work is done by several different people and many subcontractors. The challenge is also that the situation often can change before the shutdown, which may require changes to the plan.

After scheduling, required resources performing tasks are defined, so that the work can be completed in the desired schedule. In resource planning the workers and various larger machines required for the work are defined such as cranes, etc. The employees are usually both our own personnel and subcontractors. Resource planning also takes into account the utilities required by the work, such as compressed air, water and electricity.

At the end of planning, all task lists, schedules and instructions are distributed to the participating parties either as printouts or as electronic documents. Today lists are still paper printouts, which brings its own challenges to managing maintenance shutdown.

One of the most significant challenges in planning is that it is not possible to compile a comprehensive list of the entirety. One challenge is also that the plans are not given to the personnel until just before event. In this case, the opportunity for employees to influence the plans remains little and and preparation time for work short. All kind of safety related actions bring more work for people creating task lists

Below is a summary of the most significant points which make maintenance shutdown planning challenging. Good planning is the key for cost-effective maintenance shutdown.

·       Tight schedule

·       Lot of tasks and lot of parties working together

·       Working safely requires careful planning and safety operations at field

·       Lot of plans and instructions on papers and spreadsheets

·       Lack of good management tools

We have developed Tool4pro web application to solve these problems