Lean Shutdown Management

Shutdown, outage, turnaround, or whatever you call it can vary dramatically in effort, duration, and cost, for example:

  • Months off line and millions of dollars in contract labor for a turnaround in an oil refinery
  • Days or weeks for a chemical plant shutdown
  • Hours for a recurring changeovers in many process industries

burton-pit-crew-051409NASCAR is a good example of what can be accomplished through planning, scheduling and execution.  Major contributors to pit stop or shutdown performance include communication between production and maintenance and continuously working on improving the basics of planning and scheduling, execution and root cause problem solving.  In the 1950s, a good pit stop lasted 4 minutes.  If nothing had been done to improve these events in the years since (because everyone thought a four minute pit stop was good), we would still be watching them.  Interestingly, a NASCAR driver is in constant contact with the pit crew.  The driver doesn’t suddenly show up in the pit and complain about a problem with a right front tire, only to have the crew answer: “Let us go to the store and check on a spare tire.”  Unfortunately, this happens daily in most plants.  In NASCAR competition, there’s a strong motivation to win races; in our plants and facilities, there might be completely different factors driving motivation.

In addition to driving Planning and Scheduling to precision and excellence, NASCAR pit crews are continuously working on improving the basics.  This includes, among other things:

  • Analyzing problems and successes
  • Training 20 hours per week for 20 seconds of work on Sundays
  • Doing work right before doing it fast

Regardless of the length of a plant shutdown, the same principles apply in making these events more effective or leaner.

  • First and foremost, problem-free operation should be possible between scheduled shutdowns.  Mean time between production losses including quality, time, and production rate should be as long as possible.
  • Shutdowns should be performed with the right quality on all jobs, as quickly as possible.

The combination of how many shutdowns you have and how long they are affects both your production volume and your ability to deliver product on time.  It is a given that the shutdown must be scheduled (when and who executes what) and that all the jobs must be planned (what, how, all tools, spare parts and materials, lockout/tagout, etc.) before the shutdown begins.  In addition, all shutdowns should have a set time for freezing the schedule.  After the freezing point, no new jobs will be accepted without harsh criticism, and a corrective action plan.  Consider post freeze work requests to be an outage planning and reliability engineering process defect, and act accordingly.


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