Prepare for and Execute Your Outage Effectively Using These 4 Pillars


The loss of availability or capacity due to outage extensions or later reworks cuts into your annual return swiftly and dramatically. Organizations need a clearly defined outage management process built on the following four pillars: Identify, Plan, Execute, Review.

To properly manage your upcoming outage – and lay the groundwork for improving the next one – you need to identify activities that require attention and the metrics for assessing (after the outage) how effectively you addressed them. As you identify each outage task, it’s important to define the task’s scope. Otherwise, workers are left to guess at the scope, which leads to inefficiencies, delays and cost overruns. Answering a few key questions will clarify the scope:

  • Does the work request adequately define the expected results?
  • Does it clearly specify the start and end points of the task?
  • Does it require testing or meeting of acceptance criteria?
  • Will the task impact health, safety or environment?
  • Who will have the final say on priority of the work?

Successful outage planning requires that important events occur far in advance. Your list of identified work should be locked down six months prior to the outage start date. Otherwise, you’ll face a flood of add-on work items that will result in reactive response, excessive costs and schedule overruns. Here are some tricks of the trade used by experienced planners to manage outages more efficiently:

  • Sort work lists by work crews; this will make them easier to manage than working from the entire backlog.
  • Develop spreadsheets of piping systems to keep track of when blinds (block-offs) are installed and removed; this will save you major headaches during startup.
  • Have scaffolding installed prior to the outage start date to avoid delays waiting for installation.
  • Alert schedulers to jobs that are situated in crane lift areas; this will avoid delays by allowing them to address safety concerns in advance.
  • The earlier your contractors get involved, the better.

It’s critical that you communicate work expectations to supervisors and workers – and also that you monitor their progress. Daily schedule updates are essential: without them, you jeopardize on-time completion of the outage. In these fiscally cautious times, plant operators can find it challenging to secure sufficient budget and adequate technical resources to properly oversee an outage. Staff reductions may have left you with fewer people to send to the repair shop floor to oversee component repair services. You may not have sufficient time to make sure your field services provider lives up to expectations. One strategy is to hire an owner’s engineer (OE) who has the technical expertise to represent the plant’s best interests with the field services organization and OEMs.

Putting the processes and metrics in place to conduct an in-depth review of your completed outage – while it may seem like adding a needless extra layer of complexity and expense – will allow you to identify major work well in advance of your next outage and plan it for maximal ease of execution. That next outage will cost you less and require less downtime, because you’ll encounter fewer disruptions from late add-on work. More to the point, you’ll set the stage for continually refining your outage model, progressively reducing costs and making the next outage a better experience for all who are involved.

Excerpts from this article were taken from

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