5 Mistakes to Avoid in Preparing for Your Next Outage

There are only two seasons when managing a manufacturing facility— outage season and planning-your-outage season. Planning your outage sets the stage for a safe and efficient outage and establishes an optimized production environment.  

Whether your planned outage is six months or six days away, we can help make sure your equipment gets the expert attention it needs while the outage stays on schedule and within budget. Our experts shared a few of the most common mistakes to avoid when preparing for your next outage. 

Mistake #1: Not Planning Your Outage Far Enough In Advance

Planning your outage at least a year in advance is crucial for two very important reasons: 

  • It allows time to find high-quality contractors who can get the job done in the allotted time.  
  • It ensures your team has time to identify issues, create a budget, and make a plan that minimizes unnecessary costs and downtime. 

Having the right partners for your outage is central to its success. At Southern Field, we work hand in hand with our clients to know their plant, equipment, industry, and outage plan.  We can also provide audits and recommendations to help plan outages efficiently. To find out more about our annual outage services, reach out to a local sales rep here. 

In essence, start early and never stop planning. We recommend regular check-ins with your in-house maintenance team to learn about recurring issues. Use this and other information to create a running list of all non-critical discoverables that can be addressed year-round. And our customers tell us that we add the most value when we engage early in the outage planning process. 

Mistake #2: Only Focusing On the Upcoming Outage

While you should focus most of your attention and resources on your upcoming outage, this time provides a valuable opportunity to create a maintenance roadmap for the next several years. 

Your in-house or contracted maintenance experts will help you identify both critical issues to address at the upcoming outage and non-critical problems that you can handle at a later date. However, categorizing each task must be done correctly, or you risk facing unplanned downtime if a necessary equipment upgrade is overlooked or underestimated. 

All of the data you gather during the outage planning process can be used to schedule maintenance for the upcoming year and even the following outages. This will help you stay on budget for the year while still planning the necessary repairs and replacements to maximize production and operational efficiency. 

Mistake #3: Taking On Too Much In-House

Your maintenance team is foundational to daily operations. They are your plant’s heroes, from minimizing downtime to ensuring your equipment is working correctly. 

But when it comes to your outage, specialized contractors are often better suited to deliver the needed labor hours, expertise, and resources. Outsourcing your outage maintenance protects your in-house team from intense work outside their primary focus. It also ensures your plant will have additional skills and expertise on-site to service your equipment within your budget and time frame. 

Mistake #4: Not Taking Advantage of Equipment Retrofits and Upgrades

We know how important it is for your plant to stick to a budget, especially during outage season. Often, older or outdated equipment doesn’t need to be completely replaced to increase its efficiency. Retrofits and upgrades can make a significant difference and are cost-friendly solutions.

A few years ago, we inspected a paper plant for issues surrounding excessive heat loss. Instead of replacing their entire boiler system, we were able to identify six specific problematic areas between the recovery boiler, electrostatic precipitator inlets, outlet plenums, and ductwork that needed immediate action. The plant saved between $300,000 and $450,000 during its outage by avoiding a complete rebuild.

Our maintenance specialists can do equipment assessments on-site to discover the root cause of known issues and provide cost-effective solutions, including potential upgrades or designing retrofits that will give your equipment a longer useful life. Contact us to learn more! 

Mistake #5: Not Paying Attention to Proactive Maintenance Opportunities

After 25 years of experience with plant maintenance and outage planning, we can quickly identify those who prioritize proactive maintenance throughout the year and those who let it slide down the priority list. In most cases, it directly correlates with how smoothly the outage goes and how many unexpected issues arise.

Proactive and regular maintenance is the foundation for plant success, and outage season is proof. As mentioned, your in-house maintenance team is a powerful resource in planning your outage. They can address issues to ensure the months leading up to the outage aren’t hindering operations and support areas that the outage will address. 

Learn more about our preventative maintenance services here, or reach out to us to find out more about how we can support your plant for your next yearly outage!