Posted under Blog by VIZIYA's STO Team
August 12, 2019
Maintenance activities all come with a cost, whether they’re planned or not. Planned shutdowns differ from unplanned outages in several important respects. An unplanned outage lasts just long enough to return the asset to service and work focuses only on the asset that needs to be brought back online. Since unplanned outages disrupt production, they can be more costly in relative terms. A shutdown or turnaround event, on the other hand, lasts for as long as planned (sometimes longer) and looks at many different assets throughout the production stream.
For more on what makes STOs unique, please see “The Difference Between STOs and Routine Maintenance.”
A shutdown project provides benefits to the organization in many ways. Some of these benefits include but are not limited to increased reliability, compliance with statutory requirements, and the opportunity to implement upgrades.
These three items form the core of shutdown benefits for most organizations. They are generally considered the biggest benefits, but there are other advantages as well. For example, a shutdown can be planned to help optimize production. There are likely times when less production is demanded. A properly timed and planned shutdown that runs during one of these slow periods helps ensure that production does not exceed demand.
Another example is the boost to worker morale. Completing a successful planned outage means the production facility is not only more productive, it’s safer and more pleasant as well. That one flickering light that was driving the lathe operators crazy? Fixed! The intermittent dripping noise that no one could locate in the tool-and-die shop? That’s fixed too! This may not seem significant to production and reliability at first glance, but it’s important not to underestimate the importance of worker morale.
The benefits to morale will go well beyond the production staff. The maintenance team, from technicians to schedulers and planners, will likely experience less day-to-day stress. Knowing that critical assets have recently been thoroughly overhauled will provide them with greater confidence. It’s very probable that morale will increase at the management level as well. Knowing that assets are running optimally means everyone sleeps easier.
Morale is an undoubted benefit, but it may be hard to quantify. Let’s take look at some of the other benefits of planned shutdowns, ones where it’s a little easier to determine the return on investment.
The boost to production has a disproportionally positive impact on profitability, even if the gain itself is relatively modest. This is because the fixed costs of the asset were already accounted for as part of the production costs of the plant’s baseline volume. Even if the additional production is not needed to satisfy demand, higher production volumes can help lower operating costs because you can adjust shifts to match the new production numbers.
Assets that have received the appropriate care are more likely to run longer without significant failure. This improves both the total cost-benefit ratio of the asset itself and helps to reduce maintenance costs. It’s almost always cheaper to run an asset correctly, including required shutdowns, than it is to repair an asset that’s been run to failure.
Increased reliability also usually means decreased energy costs. A finely tuned machine, operating within design parameters, will typically use less energy than an asset that needs significant maintenance or even minor calibration. A thorough shutdown event will make sure everything is running at optimum. It’s easy enough to track simply by looking at utility costs, but you can go much deeper and examine power use logs to determine exactly how much was saved.
There’s also more than money at stake. These regulations are often put in place to preserve the safety of both workers and the general public. Making sure you’re in compliance with all applicable statutes will limit the facility’s exposure and liability.
There are definitely benefits to planned shutdowns, but the planning stage is of very high importance. VIZIYA is currently developing a solution to help you plan and manage your shutdown so you can realize those benefits without falling prey to the most common reason shutdowns fail to deliver on their promise: improper planning. Watch this space for more on shutdowns and how you can run them effectively.