How To Prepare Your Plant For A Shutdown

Plant shutdowns are oftentimes a necessary aspect of operational maintenance, and typically happen at least once a year. Without maintenance shutdowns, a business may be derailed unexpectedly by faulty equipment. It’s an important part of a plant’s annual routine to ensure the efficient operation of equipment and machinery, such as the pneumatic conveying system.

Plant shutdowns are usually done during holidays when more workers are likely to be on vacation. Only the maintenance team, which can be outsourced, will work during this time. Maintenance shutdowns include getting damaged or deteriorated parts of machinery repaired or replaced. To do this efficiently, you must prepare and order the necessary replacement parts several weeks in advance. 

Read on to find out how to prepare for a plant shutdown with minimum stress and loss of time and revenue. 

What Does A Plant Shutdown Involve?

Shutting down plant operations to give way for routine maintenance should be carefully planned and coordinated. There are several things that should be considered, including:

  • Timing
  • Employee safety
  • Inventory of components
  • Inventory of replacement parts

If you’re the plant system engineer or the plant manager, it’s important to prepare for a plant shutdown at least a month, if not longer, before the scheduled shutdown date. Part of this preparation will involve briefing employees about the process, and you’ll need the help of your employees to log and report observations about the things that may need to be replaced or repaired.

A plant shutdown can also be gradually or partially completed. If it’s a partial shutdown, you could isolate certain parts of the plant for maintenance and renovations. You may need to secure permits and insurance if you plan to carry out a major renovation, so make sure to apply for these well in advance. 

Plant shutdowns can also be done as an emergency measure. An emergency shutdown rarely happens, but if it does, it could mean serious disruption in the productivity of the plant. Emergency shutdowns due to accidents or machine malfunctions can be prevented if routine maintenance shutdowns are done properly and at the right time.


How To Plan For A Plant Shutdown

A plant shutdown should be planned like a typical project. You must include specific key performance indicators, or KPIs, which include milestones and deadlines. You might also want to delegate tasks and responsibilities to individuals and teams. Preparations should also include a systematic plant shutdown checklist. Here’s an example of the kind of plan you might want to make: 




Checklist Examples

Before shutdown

  1. Employees must be properly briefed
  2. Inspections should be conducted on machinery
  3. An inventory of components should be checked
  4. Necessary replacement parts should be ordered
  5. Maintenance team should be delegated internally or outsourced
  6. Permits should be secured
  • Necessary repairs, whether minor or major, identified based on employee reports and inspections
  • Purchase orders sent and delivery dates confirmed
  • Maintenance crew designated and booked in

Maintenance checklist for a pneumatic conveying system

  • Pressure blowers and vacuum pumps
  • Rotary airlock valves
  • Transfer line (elbows, piping, diverters, etc.)
  • Filter receivers
  • Cyclone separators
  • Dust collectors and bin vents
  • Controls and electrical equipment
  • Silos and other storage vessels

During shutdown

  1. All necessary repairs, parts replacements, and improvements must be implemented
  2. Safety measures must be put in place and followed 
  3. The maintenance team must finish work on schedule or earlier so that plant productivity can resume as soon as possible
  • All maintenance work has been properly completely based on industry standards
  • High efficiency has been achieved

Safety checklist

  • First aid and emergency medical equipment
  • Standard safety gear and equipment, like goggles, hard hats, steel-tip boots, etc
  • Barricades and safety nets
  • Emergency showers and eyebaths
  • Traffic control
  • Noise control
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Lights
  • Accident and medical insurance

After shutdown

  1. Employees must be able to return to their normal work schedule
  2. The maintenance work must be evaluated by the management team
  3. New plans for the next routine shutdown and possible emergency shutdowns must be implemented
  • Normal plant operations restart
  • New plans for routine and emergency shutdowns are drafted

Restart of operations checklist

  • Evaluate the percentage of employees who returned back to work
  • Assign new workstations and tasks if necessary
  • Brief employees about the repairs and changes made in the plant during the shutdown

How Do You Manage A Shutdown?

Managing a shutdown is similar to managing any other project that a company may undertake. The main difference is the purpose. Since company shutdowns are usually for maintenance reasons, you may need to outsource the job to experienced contractors instead of simply designating the job to existing employees.

If it’s a regularly scheduled annual shutdown for maintenance purposes, you’ll need to order necessary replacement parts at least a month in advance. This is because some specialized components may not be readily in stock later down the line, and may also need to be fabricated based on orders received. Therefore, it may take weeks before your parts can be delivered.

Since regular shutdowns are typically scheduled during holidays when more employees are on vacation, some delays in trucking should also be expected. This means that you must also have a contingency plan in case of possible delays.

Here are a few more aspects you should carefully consider when drafting your shutdown plan:

  • Permits
  • Maintenance crew
  • Equipment and replacement parts
  • Safety facilities and protocols

Tips For Saving Time During A Shutdown

One of the main objectives of a shutdown is to get back to normal operations as soon as possible. This is because the time spent on shutdown can result in financial losses. 

Here are some tips on how you can save time during a shutdown:

  1. Prioritize time-critical activities
  2. Coordinate with contractors to prioritize access to equipment
  3. Hire a catering service for the workers onsite
  4. Provide a resource package for external contractors, like the map of the area and a list of hotels

If your plant is due for a maintenance shutdown, it’s important to plan it effectively and as far in advance as possible, so that safety is maintained, losses are minimized, and business can resume as soon as possible.

At Progressive Products, we won’t sell you anything you don’t need – contact us today to find the right solution for you.


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