Much of the process industry operates on a seven day per week, twenty-four hour per day schedule, and has one thing in common. The common element being key pieces of equipment cannot be worked on or internally inspected unless they are taken out of service in order to perform the required work. As a result, plants often execute what are referred to as shutdowns, outages, or turnarounds. For the sake of this article, let’s simply use the word “outages” to identify these significant events.
The reason I say these events are significant is due to the fact that the production process are taken off-line to facilitate the work, which can add up to hundreds of millions of dollars, especially if executed in conjunction with a capital project. This requires a large investment of company funds and the application of a large number of resources, often working seven days per week on a twenty-four hour per day basis. Additionally, there is usually a planned interruption of the plant’s material input and output. This interruption is planned well in advance, but the expectation of both suppliers and customers is that the plant will come back on line when scheduled. Any delays in the schedule can cause serious problems on both ends of the supply chain.