Shut Down Risk Management

The highest pressure situation your maintenance department might ever encounter is a planned
downtime. A large amount of work is scheduled into a small amount of time but the deadline for resuming
production is just around the corner. There can be great gains to be made by increasing reliability or  installing new equipment. However, there are risks. New problems can arise, and costs can mount. How
do you make shutdowns a safer bet?

In project management context, the word risk is simply used as shorthand for “deviation from the project plan.” Encountering at least some risk is unavoidable. The impact of that risk depends on how a shutdown has been planned. Uncertainty about the magnitude of repairs needed, over-aggressive estimates, lack of experience, and a number of other issues can contribute to delays, cost overruns, and lost productivity. Some of these factors can be eliminated, but most risks can only be managed.
Seeing Risk
The critical task here is to accurately project the magnitude of the risks involved in a shutdown and respond accordingly.

Measuring Risk
Not all problems are created equal. Solving some might be fairly easy, others might bankrupt a company. Determining which need your most urgent attention is the comparison of three values: tolerance level, cost, probability.

Tolerance is evaluating the capability of your company to respond to risk without unacceptable consequences.

The additional cost of risk can be estimated by comparing the worst possible scenario against the planned outlay. If things begin to go wrong, what will it take to get things back under control?

Likelihood of an event is most accurately predicted based on prior data. Records from previous shutdowns and experienced employees can help guide this kind of analysis. But since shutdowns tend to be rare, not every kind of risk will have hard data associated with it. The key here will be to make the best possible estimate based on experience.

All things considered, the best way to minimize costly overruns and unexpected delays is to strategically plan for the inherent risk that comes with major projects.

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