Embracing the New Normal: Shutdown and Ramp-Up Management

Apr 22, 2020 1:20:57 PM


As part of our series on Embracing the New Normal, we’ve been exploring how asset-intensive industries are changing their operating practices.  In this article, we look at the implications for sites shutdown schedules and production plans. 

The emergence of COVID-19 has affected sites in numerous ways.  One of the most common occurrences is sites having to adjust their business plans, such as reducing their production output and workforce, or deferring shutdowns due to an inability to bring together the necessary people and resources.   

For businesses in asset-intensive industries, their main priority – other than looking after their workforce’s health and safety – is to maintain their business continuity as much as possible.  They need to minimize further delays to their production plans, but balance this with the need to also minimize cost, as well as control the risk of further delays or shutdown deferrals. 

At some point, we all expect things to return to normal.  But in Bluefield’s experience, sites who will attempt to re-start their operations or adjust their shutdown plans face a number of risks, including: 

  • Delays in producing updated plans and schedules due a to lack of skilled personnel to plan and manage the projects and shutdowns (or an inability to bring them to site); 
  • Accessing the necessary parts, labour and other resources in competition with other sites who are also attempting to reschedule their shutdowns; and 
  • Less-than-adequate scoping of jobs due to incomplete knowledge about the changing health of assets that run past the original shutdown date. 

Many of the Bluefield team have spent years working in a variety of heavy industries, so we’ve learned a lot about the practical challenges in managing these large and complex projects.  These lessons cover not only shutdowns and capital projects, but fleet relocation and commissioning, construction, and organizational change projects.  We’ve also learned not to underestimate the importance of effectively managing studies, preparing business cases, and project scheduling.   

To that end, we’ve continually improved our shutdown and project management services over the years to ensure they are supported and enhanced by a number of toolkits and other capabilities.  These include: 

  • Risk assessments and potential problem analysis templates to help sites understand the risks associated with deferring shutdowns; 
  • Plant condition assessment tools to help sites truly understand the health of their assets and build effective scopes of work; 
  • Assisting sites build business cases and budget applications; 
  • An in-house Project Excellence toolkit, based on our project management framework, to help sites identify gaps and opportunities to improve their project management capabilities;  
  • Our project management training programs, which we can deliver online and support remotely with coaching and mentoring services; and 
  • Operational Readiness support to bridge the gap between projects and operations and extract maximum value from day 1 of production 

Often, these services require extended on-site support.  We’ve previously written on how COVID-19 is changing the nature of on-site roles.  

To learn more about our approach to shutdown and ramp-up management in these changing conditions, and to contact us, click here.