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!


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 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.

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