Bluefield Round Table – Preventing Shutdown Disasters

Shutdowns are one of the biggest sources of pain and stress for companies in heavy industry.  Schedule or budget overruns, safety incidents, or reliability problems on start-up are frequent problems, and commercial remedies may take months to follow-up once the shutdown is finished. 

Many of Bluefield’s team members were experienced shutdown managers or project engineers before coming to work for us, and shutdowns are still a major focus for us today.  We asked a number of our team the following question: 

In your experience, what is the most common thing that sites overlook when planning and preparing for a shutdown, and what impact does it have on the outcome? 

David Axsentieff 

In my experience, there is often a lot of effort put into the planning and optimisation of the work scope, but there is generally less effort put into the Post shut reviewThe learning's and outcomes of the shut need to make their way back and be converted to strategy changes and Master Data updates - to ensure that the planning leg work doesn't have to be done all over again next shut. 

Adam Hawkins 

In a nutshell (Parts) 

  1. parts not made available for shut commencement date; 
  1. parts not staged with shut pad; 
  1. incorrect parts arriving (e.g. BUCKET BUSHES always seems to crop up!!!!!); 
  1. the above issues can be as a result of poorly prepared FLOC's, BOM'S, Tasklists etc...poor planning and execution also go hand-in-hand. 

Whilst the question is broad, the issues will vary from machine type to machine type and of course...plant to plant. 

Other softer issues I have observed are; 

  • Correct Site Inductions completed for commencement of shutdown where Contracted labour is used; 
  • Incorrect staging (or no availability) of support equipment, i.e. EWP's, Cranes AND LIFTING SLINGS!!!!! 

I was fortunate enough to be involved with a 996 shut with Bluefield in 2017 (by memory)In all the years of my shut experience, this by far and away was the surest, most succinct, accurate and smoothly run shut I have ever experienced. We even finished the shut 4 days early with Nil breakdowns after the 996 was commissioned and sent back to workFYI, it was a superstructure changeout....for those in the know, you'll appreciate the enormity of this task. 

Scott Studdert 

My last shut was my worstErrors here started with a change of schedule from the OEM changing their schedule without communicating at day 6 when they started their scopeA lack of accurate communication slowed the management of the shut and how we progressed the plan.  

Regarding excavators I always focus on parts, right parts organised in a simple nature is key.  

Planning is critical, you need an experienced planner who knows how it comes apart and goes back together and allow the time to develop and communicate that planPlan the details then protect the plan. 

Jeff Horn 

  1. Predominantly the shutdown is performed outside of normal production areas however access to the shutdown pad sometimes can only be accessed through the production haul roads or work areasTo reduce inefficient work time due to various reasons i.e. Traveling to and from the work site, Blast delays, Appointment of drivers within the site (Escorts), Shift Handovers etc. A work area should be designed with private access that minimises delays 
  1. Weather conditionsSometimes hard to predict the weather patterns, but advanced studies can assist with start and completion times or assist during the Risk Assessment process to identify contingencies if faced 
  1. Site access systemsCommonly random D&A Testing can delay the progression of shutdown tasks if the client is not efficient in the testing process. 

Mark O’Neill 

In addition to those above, and aimed more at fixed plant: 

  • not checking that all the parts have arrived in advance of the shutdown and are correct. 
  • not completing adequate contingency planning: what can go wrongWhat can I do to stop it going wrongWhat can I do if it still goes wrongAnd have I got everything in place to react if it does? 

Mark has previously written about spare parts preservation, read it here. 

Stefan Van Der Linde 

I was involved at a site where shutdowns were planned and executed by a central maintenance department I had an "interesting" learning. We had 2 shutdowns on draglines and 1 shutdown on the shovel all conducted by the central department but by different PM's and they couldn't have been more different.  

The single major difference between the success of the later and the failures of the first two were communication and accountabilityThe first two shutdowns had VERY little communication between the stakeholders leading up to very close to the execution start dateThis proved almost catastrophic as site and central were not aligned on accountabilities and what needed to occur.  

Items that were almost missed were things like: Pad setup, when the machine would walk off the production bench to the pad, how was it going to get there, what is the access path to the machine from the site entry (or back access gates) etc. The 2nd shutdown there was countless meetings and comms pieces which meant the ship was steered correctly from the very early days and issues raised could be corrected well ahead of time. 

Stefan has previously written about the importance of project readiness to minimising waste.  Read the article here.