Monthly Archives: November 2011

Your Not Dorothy and This Ain’t OZ

So why are you clicking your shoes together, saying “There no place like home, There no place like home”?

Although you are not in Kansas anymore once the outage starts that doesn’t mean you’re somewhere over the rainbow either.

Dorothy, kills two witches ,tames an unreasonable wizard, deals with flying monkeys and gets her friends a brain, heart and courage and after all that she misses the balloon ride home. Sounds like an outage to me.

Like Dorothy we all have the ability to get what we want, in this case better Outages, we just have to believe it before we click our heals together.

Outages are to power plants like OZ is to Kansas (and you thought the SAT’s were over). They are similar, but one has witches and flying monkeys trying to kill you, the other is trying to take away your dog. Like I said, similar but definitely different.

THE POINT: Outages cost money and they operate differently than day to day operations. In the above example Dorothy needs the help of Glenda The Good Witch. Glenda laughs at the Wicked Witch of the West and floats into Dorothy’s life just when she needs her.

I’m your Glenda The Good Witch (to get the full humor of this please see the most recent description of myself in Outages 101). I have been up and down the yellow brick road a whole bunch of times and have dealt with more than my share of witches, flying monkeys and disagreeable wizards. I have also handed out many Diplomas’, Testimonials and Medals to more than my fair share of Scarecrows, Tin men and Cowardly Lions.

Although I’d like to think of myself as the “The Great and Powerful Oz”, I’m really just a man behind a curtain who knows what levers to pull and wheels to turn and when to do either or both.

Outages can come in on time and budget, but just like Dorothy, to make that happen you first have to believe.

THE STORY: Once in a land far, far away, perhaps somewhere over the rainbow, a Tim Burton rainbow, I was an Engineering Manager. My Company was with was just completing an acquisition of a plant from Westinghouse and I was the Engineering Due Diligence Manager.

Westinghouse’s Plant Manager, let’s call him the Wicked Witch of the East, and I got into it more than a few times. One of the last tiffs we got into was when he wouldn’t let me in his office, so I told him when we took over his office was going to be mine…..and it was. Not really dropping a house on him, but close enough.

Buying a plant (I’ve been through several) is difficult even when everything goes just right and it never goes just right.  He was just doing his job protecting his company and I was doing mine protecting my company.

After we took over Operations I, like Dorothy, wanted nothing more than to go home. We had a victory dinner with everyone involved and at that dinner the President of the company, let’s call him, The Great and Powerful Oz, told me that my new assignment was to increase the plants availability from the 8 year average of 80% to 92%, I had a budget of 15 million and 18 months to do it in, talk about getting a broom from a witch, yeesh!

So off I went through the Haunted Forest, the plant, on my way to the witch’s castle, the outage.

As a power plant engineer I had a basic logic tree, in my head, when fixing something in a plant that is broken. It worked once; we either, wore something out, changed its use or fixed it wrong. This simple thought process worked for me.  I had fixed a great deal of broken things in many a plant with this little gem.  However I was not in Kansas anymore. To put a point on it, almost every component I looked at was not designed to work in this application. The boiler flue gas velocity was too high because the tubes spacing was too tight, the conveyors were never going to work at the angles they were built to, each ash conveyor shook the control room every time they cycled. Like I said I was not in Kansas anymore.

From April till about August we modeled a whole bunch of changes on every piece of equipment that we could safely test our ideas on.  By the end of August we had a list of modification we would accomplish during the outage in October.

The outage in October (the witch’s castle) would take each of the plants six boilers down with staggered starts so we would never have more than two boilers down at one time.  The entire outage window would be 4 weeks and we would burn up more than 117,000 man-hours in a month.  To say this would be difficult would be an understatement of gigantic proportions.

“The Tin Man”, “The Scarecrow” and I planned an entire outage: contractors, design equipment, order products pieces and parts. We planned an 117,000 man-hour outage in just 4 weeks. My boss at the time “Mr. Red Pencil” from your outages iPod, would definitely be The Cowardly Lion although shaky at the start he would eventually become “KING OF THE FOREST”.

Two week before the outage, the plant was picketed for and virtually shut down for two days, more flying monkeys.

Until the night before the outage I didn’t know if the Union contractors we had selected were going to show more flying monkeys.

The night before the first boiler was coming down the unions let us know that they would be showing up to the outage….phew that’s good now the scaffolds can get built and even some of the boiler work can go on, as well…peachy.

Saturday the first boiler came down, it was a little rocky but it was down and we were started, nothing to do now but make the girls feel pretty or shoot-em.

We planned for the bulk of the manpower to start on Monday morning so that we would minimize overtime.  Monday morning we had better than 150 contractors starting, a big day and this would really be the start of the outage, setting the tone for the rest of the work….I didn’t see the sign “WATCH OUT FOR FLYING MONKEYS….THEY ARE BAD!!!”

Monday morning from about 6 to 10, I welcomed all the different contractors to the site, walked each through their jobs, just to confirm we were all on the same page.  Just before lunch, I went by the first contractor to start to make sure they were set up and going.  Their stuff was there and their guys were just standing there.  OH NO! HELL NO!  This is not going to be the way we start.  My eyes bugged out my safeties started to lift when they said they are still waiting on a permit.

“OH YEAH!!! WELL I’LL FIX THAT RIGHT NOW!!!!” off I went with their Forman to the permit room.  I was thinking all the way to the permit room this is the last time I’m using these guys, I was so pissed that these guys were starting these shenanigans on the first day.  Steam was coming out of my ears and I’m sure I was denting the grating as I walked.

When the permit room came into view, I saw about 10 contractor Forman standing in front of the doors of the permit room. I was confused was everybody slacking off was it some organized thing…no, we had union and non union guys working the same job…maybe they are pissed at each other..hmm maybe. When I got up to them I asked the first one “What’s going on” he replied with the same thing the other Forman had told me. “They’re not giving us any permits”. “Did you ask?” “Why are you out here?” The questions just flew out of my mouth as I walked through them into the permit room.

When I got into the permit room I was greeted by the supervisor in charge of writing permits, he was to be the head flying monkey.  I said “the contractors say that we are not issuing permits” he said “they are right”.  I then asked “why?” He then said “the contractors are not going to be issued permits until their areas were deemed safe”.  I said “how are their areas not safe?” The head flying monkey then started to spout, chapter and verse about safety this, safety that, about mid diatribe I left and went right to the plant manager. I burst in his office and started screaming, in retrospect not the right move, I must have looked like a flying monkey myself. When I had let out all my steam, his response, when he could get a word in was “Safety First”. I had nowhere to turn can’t shoot-em, time to make the girl feel pretty.

I went up and addressed the head flying monkey, “what’s it going to take to get these permits issued?” He said “you simply have to comply with our standards and policies”.  I said “what are we not complying with right now that precludes us from getting a permit?”  He turned around and pointed to the SOPs that were behind him and said “maybe you should read these and then you would know”. I implored, cajoled, persuaded him to the best of my abilities.

That Monday we managed to get one contractor a permit.  The following day, after the right atmosphere was set and the proper coffee and doughnuts were applied, it took us four hours to get all the contractors permits. Eventually, like all flying monkeys, he went away.

This outage in particular has many MANY stories to tell.  The story that’s germane to this conversation is when all was said and done we spent a little north of 13 million dollars on all of our modifications and outages.  And after 18 months the plant had an availability of 91.67%, not 92% I grant you, the President never let me forget it was not 92% either. Finally like Dorothy I was able to go home.

“It’s not a F**k’in Ice Cream Parlor”….

What he meant to say was… “Safety First”

These where the words of one of my earliest mentors in the power plant outage realm; His nickname was “Whacky Mac” and he was the premier boiler expert in an elite division of a prominent utility. He had a grip that would bring a large man to their knees, a finger stained yellow from cigarettes, a brogue that was barely understandable and a management style, not meant for the faint of heart.

It was January 1991 and there were no:

  • Scaffold green tags
  • Five point safety harness
  • Guards on grinders
  • Permit required confined spaces
  • Rigging inspection program
  • Women in the workplace (well, there were 4 out of 1100)
  • Forklift operator training

There was:

  • Smoking in the building, trailers and on the job
  • Drinking at lunch just don’t be drunk
  • Use of the most unbelievable strings of explicative’s to simply to start a conversation and then they would be interwoven throughout the dialog as if to equally glue and grease the words in between.

                Note: When my first son was born I decided I would not swear anymore, for the next three weeks I had the worst performance in the field, finally one day I snapped, I screamed at three mechanics ”pick up the F**king wrench, put it on the F**king bolt, and turn the Mother F**ker”. All three in unison said, “Why didn’t you just say that, you’ve been so weird lately”, so much for my not swearing.

 The Point:  Safety is more than following a procedure or complying with OSHA.  It is a way of conducting yourself and those put in your care. In my experience, safety is about paying attention and keeping your head in the game. The CFRs (Code of Federal Regulations) in OSHA are the result of people losing their lives in common circumstances.  OSHA’s regulations heighten the awareness when personnel find themselves in similar circumstances. They are not impedances to getting work done nor are they road blocks thrown up by someone asserting their authority.

My favorite question to ask any of the many “OSHA Thumpers” that I have had the pleasure of dealing with is “Show me where it says that” amazingly about 75% of the “Thumpers” become immediately indignant and usually expound on a version of “Safety First”.  This often confuses me, do they really expect me to run away once they wheel that talk out?  Most of these confrontations do not end well. If you use the cry of “OSHA says so” without doing the homework then you are doing a disservice to the people you are trying to protect.

The other 25% generally lead to a mutual understanding and discussion of how to perform the task at hand as safe as possible. It creates a heightened awareness around a set of circumstances that has resulted in death in the past; you know the way it should.

Our industry is dangerous, deadly and should not be taken lightly; even the simplest things can seriously change one’s life.

I don’t know where he got this but I was always told by Socrates (see The magic finger) the following is a list of the most dangerous days of the year to work, If you have to work on these days make sure you have a heightened awareness:

  • Day after Thanksgiving
  • New Years Eve day
  • Super Bowl Sunday
  • Mothers Day
  • 4th of July

The Story:  It was New Year Eve Day 1990 and because I was the newest and youngest Forman in the gang I was working.  It was a small crew we were behind on schedule so we were working and there was one other major outage in the system also with a small crew.

Both job sites were performing a major boiler outage. Our site was removing and replacing the side walls of a CE tangentially fired unit both, superheat and reheat furnaces, which powered a GE 465 Mega Watt steam turbine. The other job site was performing a similar project.

Both jobs had scaffolded the entire furnace (for those of you who are unfamiliar with a main production boiler imagine an upside milk carton about 140’ high, 40’ deep and 60’ wide).  Just before lunch the scaffold at the other job site collapsed.

There were people trapped underneath the tangled mass of scaffold tubes and planks, hanging from tubes and chains in the boiler. The fire department was mobilized to the site and fistfights broke out between our crew and the firemen all in an effort to get to those trapped inside. No one died, thankfully, a few people sustained serious injuries; it was terribly traumatic for all involved.

Immediately afterward, while the other jobsite dealt with all of the issues arising from the incident, we stopped all work off of our furnace scaffolds and essentially rebuilt them. You cannot imagine the amount of scrutiny that was exercised on every detail of our scaffolds for a solid week we did nothing but add steel to the base of the scaffold.  Each different “suit” had a different idea of what should be done and we, like monkeys in a cage, just kept putting stuff in and taking stuff out.  Finally after about a week, tempers nerves and patience all met, in one fell swoop.  With a booming “It’s not a F**king Ice Cream Parlor” the fixes where apparently over. We demobilized out from underneath the dance floor and continued the outage without incident

In the aftermath, OSHA investigated for months, there was, and still is I’m sure, much litigation.  None of the finger pointing or fault finding can erase what happened.  OSHA in 1996 revised its scaffolding standards and although I do not have any direct confirmation, I’m sure that this incident played a major part in that revision.

I have participated in more than my fair share of OSHA investigations. I would describe none of them as fun and would not wish them on anyone because that means you are already too late and something has already happened.

The only way to be safe, in my book, is to pay attention, keep your head in the game and challenge each other. By discussing everything in detail prior to the job keeps the work moving and everyone safe.

It Is What It Is, Failure However is Not an Option

Henry Ford worked as a chief engineer for the Edison illuminating company.

Did you know that Henry Ford’s first company went bankrupt? He resigned from the second company which would become Cadillac; His third company couldn’t pay their bills to the Dodge Brothers so they had to start a forth company, The Ford Motor Company which is the company that exists today.

We all know the story of Edison’s 10,000 failures before he invented the light bulb. Where would we all be if he had given up!

THE POINT:

Once the outage starts there is no giving up. It is what it is, forget what you wanted it to be. Keep your eye on the goal and remember that a plane is off course 90% of the time and yet it seems to make it.

If the contractor is falling behind either “make them feel pretty” or shoot um. Always Make the Girl Feel Pretty

If you don’t have the material, then go get it. Outages 101, Don’t be penny wise and dollar foolish

If the engineers are taking too long, figure it out. Engineers, Engineers Everywhere and Not a Scope to Execute

If your information is scattered and it will take a lot of time to get it all together, then take the time. Your Outages iPod

If you have to take your “magic finger” out for walk, then take that walk. The Magic Finger

If you have to hang from a cable and get soaking wet to stick your finger, magic that it is, in the hole, then get wet. the Only Way to Find a Leak, Stick the Magic Finger in the Hole

Always remember you are the captain of this ship. Every Ship Needs a Captain

I know this all sounds like a self-improvement speech but the point is the meter is running and your plants economic livelihood is on the line. The plant profits provide jobs and security for many people and their families. Look at what a job and security did for Henry Ford.

THE STORY: 

The story last week was the start of what would become one of the most challenging outages that I ever ran.

The sandblasters were my fault; we got through that problem we only lost 12 hours so we started the demo on Monday night instead of Monday day… OK we will try and make it up

Tuesday Morning. Everything was looking good, everybody was in the groove and I thought that it looked like we had a chance to make the 12 hours over the next 4 or 5 days. I would be very, very wrong.

About 11 am the lights went out. I’m not being metaphorical, they really went out. The whole plant was black no lights with 150 people in all sorts of places in and around the boiler. First order of business gets everyone safe and find out what happened.

We evacuated the plant, we had to get flashlights and climb through the boiler to get everyone out. Mission accomplished. Everyone got out and nobody was hurt.

When I got to the control room we had determined that the whole grid was down. To make matters worse, the Island mode on our switchyard didn’t work,so we were down as well.

There we sat, black plant with 150 contractors burning money with no idea what to do. We could not get an answer from the grid, so we didn’t know if we were going to be down for two hours or two days. Around two in the afternoon I sent the day shift home and told the contractors that I would make a decision about the night shift by 5pm.

With still no answer from the grid, I got everyone in the plant together and asked what can we do about this. From the back of the group Joe  piped up “why don’t we go after all the valves on the black plant list”. We had by this time successfully implemented Zone Maintenance™ and we had a running list of Black plant items. The planner (a different one than Outages 101) said he would be right back. In a few hours we had a plan

Purchasing got every gas or diesel welding machine they could get their hands on, we bought every portable light that Home Depot had and set up all the jobs in a completely black plant. We got valve packing rushed in and went after everything we could.

By Wednesday,around noon, I felt pretty good we had turned lemons into lemon aide. However, we were still down and it was about 10⁰F outside and now we have been down for 24 hours and we had an air cooled condenser that we were freezing up.

We went after the ACC with torches opened up all the drains and drained each cell as best we could.

Then we realized all sorts of lines were freezing though out the plant. We ran around with welders & torches and whatever we could to drain lines. It was like shoveling sand against the tide, but what else were we going to do?

The grid came back up around midday on Thursday. We started to get the plant back up as best as we could depending on what lines were frozen and what we could get running. By Friday end of day shift we had the boilers up and we were starting to get one of the turbines going. We were starting the outage back up with full crews that started since Thursday night shift.

As I was walking to the 6pm meeting, I passed by the Ops manager who was playing with the steam dump valve from the steam header to the condenser. When I asked him what was going on, He said, He was trying to calibrate the dump valve. He didn’t think that is was working correctly. I said just leave it until we get the turbine up and all the cells of the ACC hot and running and then we take a look at it. I turned and walked away figuring that he would listen….He did not.

During the 6pm meeting (about 15 minutes after my conversation with the Ops manager) we blew the rupture disc on the turbine. Steam shot straight up out of the turbine. We evacuated the plant again (this time with lights) and got the steam to stop shooting out of the top of the turbine. After a few shifts we changed the ruptured disc and there were no more major problems. We eventually finished the outage.

Gee, Jay how did it all turn out? Well I’m glad you asked.

We finished the outage only 30 hours over the planned schedule. We overcame a 12 hour delay from the sandblast, a 54 hour delay from the grid going down and a 8 hour delay for the rupture disc. The total was a 74 hour delay that we made up 44 hours of, in the middle of all the mess.

We didn’t even go over budget, we spent more than we should, but we were able to manage just a $60,000 overage from traditional spending.

The best of all is, the grid got dropped because of a sudden ice storm. We had insurance, so eventually we got a check from the insurance company the made the outage a profitable event.

Always Make the Girl Feel Pretty

I’m not a sexist, I’m just making a point and sometimes it
helps to get your attention. I’m not often accused of being professional; in
the traditional sense. I do however believe in being polite.

This example is purely allegorical:

If you find yourself on a date what good would come from not
making the girl feel pretty? Either end the date or make her feel pretty, no
point in doing anything else.

In other words if you are going to be partnered up with
somebody or some company, make them feel pretty or end the date.

Outages are like going to the prom, it’s been a while but
what I remember about the prom is there’s lots of planning, lots of
coordination, things to buy, things to rent and things to order. All of this before
you even receive your boutonnière from your sweetie. Sounds like an outage to
me.

How easy it to change your date during the prom, or an
outage?….. Not very. (I have actually have done both neither was pretty, I
can assure you)

THE POINT:

Once the outage has started you have only two choices:
make the contractor successful or shoot them. There is no option to harass,
complain, or moan about the contractor.

So whatever needs to be done to make “your date” feel pretty
should be your only focus. Anything else is a waste of time, energy and effort.
Remember, every minute of none production costs you BIG!

I’m not saying that you should accept poor performance but
you should realize that you only have two options: fix’um or change’um, with each
having their own price to pay.

The fix’um process generally costs nothing or at worst some
coffee and doughnuts. It’s a calm demeanor, a good morning handshake or a “How’s
everything today,” again be polite.

The change’um process is fraught with back charges, sabotage,
bad blood and at least a two shift delay. Although I’ve done this before, it
should only be done after much consideration.

Once the decision has been made to “End the date” DO NOT
LOOK BACK!!!! Look what happened to Lot’s wife when she did…no good can come of
it.

THE STORY: 

I was planning an outage, getting everyone ready to come to the dance, when I got to
my sandblaster. I paused. The company I had been using was barley cutting it
(let’s call them company X) and they had just lost their Forman to another company
(let’s call this company, company Y). I had another company (Company Z) calling
me, asking to give them a chance to do our sandblast.

The sandblast was a critical path activity in our outage so
I had to pick right.

I researched Company Y & Z, in the end Company Z seemed
like they could do the job and was significantly cheaper than Company Y. I had
made my decision. Now there was nothing to do now but make my girl feel pretty.

We had pre outage meetings; we got to know the Foreman that
was going to run the job. We laid out their material lay down spots, sparing no
detail including where to park their trucks. We even got a list of the people
that were coming to the job and their sizes for their very own outage tee
shirts. (Always make the girl feel pretty)

When the outage started, everything was going according to
plan, just like the prom. Contractors, like the limos, showed up on time and
delivered their charges. The band began to play, and it was time for the
sandblast solo.

Company Z started the sandblasting on Saturday night at 2am
they were supposed to be done around 2pm Sunday afternoon. They seemed to be
off to a great start, all the guns were going and I was patting myself on the
back for what a great decision I had made.

Someone commented on one of the blogs and credited it to
Reagan “Trust, but verify”. In line with this, nothing makes me more nervous
during an outage then when I feel like I’m a genius. As soon as I feel that I
know I’m generally missing something.

So in mid pat, I went in to see how the blasters were doing.
After a few hours, around 5am, it was not good. There was no way they were
going to finish by 2pm at their current pace. I huddled up with the Forman and
asked what we could do to get back on track. He said they were just getting
into it and would be much faster now that everything was rolling. He asked for
a few more hours to show me it was all good.

This is the point of this whole article right here don’t
miss it

I had planned, they had promised, none of this mattered at
5am on a Sunday. I had no other sandblasters in my pocket to change them out
with….so MAKE THE GIRL FEEL PRETTY.

I told the Forman, knock it out make me proud, I’m sure your
right and I will be very happy in just a few hours. Off he went floating on air,
determined to make me happy.

Well at 8am, I went back in and although it was better, it
still wasn’t good. I called the owner of the company and expressed my dismay, all
the while letting him know how much I appreciated his team’s efforts. He sent
more men to the plant…supposedly better men, bigger, stronger; it was all going
to be OK.

At 11am I started calling company Y and company X. Each one
of them sent a crew into the plant by 6pm. When they arrived, I had the
wonderfully fun job of telling company Z they were out.

There was crying, hand holding, pleading, just like Prom,
but they had to go. I gave them my version of the “It’s not you, it’s me”
speech and off they went

When it was all said and done we finished the sandblast @
2am Sunday night, just 12 hours late which was a miracle. It wound up costing me
about $70,000 to get the sandblasting complete; my original budget was $30,000.
This is the cost of picking the wrong date. When I switched my junior prom date,
halfway through, the drama was much more, but the end was much better and the
only cost was shattering people perceptions.

Your Outages iPod

I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I’ve done that sort of thing in my life, but I’ve always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don’t know why. Because they’re harder. They’re much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you’ve completely failed. 
Steve Jobs 


A pretty good quote from …..well lets agree, a very creditable source. How does all this equate to Zone Outage Control, iPod’s and your next outage, well I’m glad you asked…

THE POINT:

The simpler a task is, the easier it is to complete. The simpler something is to use, the more it gets used. Every minute during an outage counts, and from a dollar and cents perspective, counts big.

Having all the information at your fingertips, like having all of your albums on your iPod, in the palm of your hand, makes things much easier.

Each outage has at least a thousand questions. These can range from “what is the height of the wear rail in regards to the centerline of the drive shaft” to “what’s the metallurgy of the main steam stop seal ring? ” These questions often make more than a few people scratch their heads. And while you can rummage through whatever prints the facility has, there is always a nagging concern in the back of your head, asking the question, “is this the right print?”

Imagine if you had one book that was structured like an iPod. Every print that is cataloged and organized, as if it was a song to its author.

Each outage has a Gantt chart that contains hundreds of tasks, most of which can not be understood, and are mostly inaccurate.

Imagine if each crew got a list of task’s that needed to be completed each shift in order to stay on or beat schedule. Imagine if all that information was in the same book, our iPod, wouldn’t that be simpler?

Each outage has the ultimate bottom line question that everyone wants to know. “What’s it all going to cost” or “are we under budget.” Tracking costs during an outage generally takes a great deal of effort and can often yield the same results that you would get from a 100 monkeys with typewriters.

Imagine if you could tell, within 5%, of what you had spent to date, and what it was going to cost to finish, just 4 hours after the end of the shift with just a clerk working on it for a couple of hours. That’s much easier don’t you think?

At the end of the day, a simple easy to understand outage is easier to execute and that translates to better quality, less money and less time.

Zone Outage Control will reduce cost and schedule at your plant by 10% a year for at least three years. How much is that worth to you?

THE STORY:

One of my job titles was “engineer” and although I have a degree, and that degree says engineering on I, I don’t really think of myself as one. I can fix anything (though I may break it worse in the first or second attempt.) In regards to outage reports I tended to be …..”hmmmmm what’s the word I’m looking for” “Lazy”….No that’s too strong, “lackadaisical” ….maybe. Basically I was generally confused about the amount of effort we put into outage reports juxtaposed by the usefulness of them.

I never saw us using these tomes of information, and besides everything was words without pictures, and we would always get the tube numbering wrong or something similar. (One outage I was following the written report. We needed to cut out a tube that was severely corroded. I went up with the mechanic and we cut out the tube on the sheet. When we go it out it looked completely fine……I looked at the boiler for a few minute and we went to the mirror image of where the tube was, and sure enough we found the bad tube.) So the books never got used, even though there was a lot of effort into writing them.

I had a boss at this time; let’s call him “Mr. Red Pencil or MRP for short”. Good guy but he had a passion for writing and correctness. I am, however, severely dyslexic and not quite a linear thinker. One of MRP’s jobs was to receive from me long lengthy written reports. This was an exercise, on my behalf, to find unique ways of spelling particular words, and rambling dissertations of what actually happened during the outage. I felt sorry for him so I went out and bought him a bunch of red pencils because he was going to need them. Eventually he left the department. I’m sure it had nothing to do with me, but as I write this and remember our many rewrites of outage reports, I’m less sure.

When “Mr. Red Pencil” left the department, I got a promotion and one of the first things I did was stop writing outage reports. Instead, I collected all the scraps of paper that got scribbled on during the outage. Coffee stains, dirt, grease were all tell tale signs that this paper has seen some action somewhere. I gathered all of these notes, drawings, sketches that were written up. I put a binder clip on everything from pieces of wood to tabs of cardboard boxes. TA-DA!!!! The outage report was done. When someone would ask me a question about where was that leak or which sootblower needed to be index’d, I would thumb through my collection of the true, and invariably I would find it.

As the year went by I made up drawings and inspection documents that could be copied, colored and scribbled on. As each inspection sheet gets filled out that became my ‘as found condition’ and then I would take the same blank and draw the scope that I wanted to execute and that became my ‘scope documents.’ Lastly the scope documents would be signed by ops, maintenance and engineering and that would then become my close out documents.

All of these documents go into a three ring binder and that would become our outage report.
The book I have just described is one of three tools of Zone Outage Control called the Boiler Book. The Boiler Book is your outages iPod. It has everything you need to plan, manage and execute an outage.