During an unplanned outage every minute that you can save brings the plant online faster. I know that sounds obvious. Once when I was running a plant we were waiting on a job to finish to start the unit up. I went up to look at the job and much to my dismay there was a mechanic inside the boiler, sitting in there doing nothing. Naturally, everyone understands how important it is to get the unit up and online, making money. I was very confused why the mechanic was just sitting there. Being the inquiring person that I am, I yelled into the boiler “Are you ok?” The response was “Yes, I am ok.” Ok, the guys ok and yet still no action. I became more confused. After what seemed to be an eternity (most likely 5 – 10 seconds) I shouted “What are you waiting for?” The reply came back “John went to get me a screwdriver.” So there I am, tens of thousands of dollars an hour being wasted for lack of a $5 screwdriver. Needless to say I was non-plused. For the safety of everyone involved, I opted to leave the side of the boiler in the hands of the maintenance foreman whom assured me they would have the screwdriver there pronto.
While sitting in my office, as the boiler was coming up, I ruminated about what had went wrong. My team was Cracker Jack. That is not said lightly. How could they let a $5 screwdriver hold up the outage? I decided I would hold a meeting and ask the men to critique their performance on the outage.
At the meeting, the maintenance department had no constructive improvements on their performance during the outage. I was beside myself. Finally I let out what I’m sure was a loud burst titled “What about the $&!* SCREWDRIVER?!” The response I got back made me stop in my tracks. The reason why we had to wait on the screwdriver was because the “one” they had laid out for the job fell in the boiler. I then responded “We always drop stuff in the boiler, why didn’t you lay out two, three, a dozen?” The answer was that they didn’t want to cost the plant more money in materials. That’s when I realized they had no idea how much things cost and how much revenue we were missing for every hour the boiler was down.
Moral of the Story
Outages are different. Day to day operations of a plant is of one mind set. Outages are simply of a different mindset. If you try to do an outage in an operational mind set, it will take longer and cost more.
Rule of Thumb
Establish what a boiler down day is worth in your plant and then post it all over the plant. This was you went get caught saving pennies while burning tens of thousands of dollars.