During a plant outage, proper shutdown and startup procedures for rotating equipment is critical to see your system smoothly and predictably come back online. Here are some tips and thoughts for executing a reliable shutdown & startup for your plant.
Tip #1: Keep the Startup/Shutdown Plan Updated
Having a plant shutdown & startup plan in place cannot be overemphasized. And that plan should be updated based on past experiences. In fact, if the plan has never been updated, then that is a good sign it isn’t serving your facility very well.
Your shutdown/startup plan should be regularly reviewed with the team members responsible for executing it. Lessons learned from previous shutdowns should not be ignored and can be thought of as part of continuous improvement for plant shutdowns and plant startups. The goal should be an efficient, cost-effective, coordinated, and reliable shutdown and startup that is safe both for staff and equipment.
Tip #2: Perform a Thorough Inspection
A shutdown gives you an excellent opportunity to perform a thorough inspection of the electromechanical equipment involved, including your electric motors and other rotating equipment. Inspections should start with a visual check for any signs of damage or issues which should be clearly noted, as well as any “temporary” repairs or adjustments that have been made since the last shutdown.
If appropriate, temporary repairs should be made permanent to increase the reliability of your electric motors and other electromechanical equipment. It is also an excellent opportunity for cleaning through dry-ice blasting or other measures, which can make it possible to see otherwise hidden signs of damage while enhancing performance and efficiency.
Tip #3: Have What You Need on Hand
Any replacement parts, rebuilt equipment, spare electric motors (especially criticals), new bearings, and fasteners should be in inventory so that the shutdown/startup can be executed as quickly as possible. In addition, the equipment needs to be ready to install. For example, spare motors should already be tested, lubricated, and ready to go online. If you are storing off site, confirm the recent testing of stored equipment. And depending on what type of equipment is involved with the shutdown, also make sure that key maintenance items are on hand, including replacement seals, lubrication, gaskets, oil seals, sensors, multimeters, and gauges.
Tip #4: Have a List of Equipment Involved in the Shutdown
When you are close to shutting down part of your facility, every piece of equipment that is involved in the shutdown needs to be identified. This includes not just electric motors but also gearboxes, conveyors, mixers, blenders, agitators, pumps, valves, and piping. Every item of equipment that will be impacted by the shutdown should be included. This list should also have notes about any equipment that has failed or had issues since the last shutdown, equipment that has been difficult to take offline or put back online in the past, and any special items or tools required to achieve the shutdown (e.g., overhead cranes for lifting motors and other heavy components).
Tip #5: Do Not Overlook Lubrication
Proper lubrication will extend the useful life of your electromechanical equipment, including your electric motors. Shutdown periods are an excellent opportunity to check oil levels and ensure that lubrication points are adequately greased for your motors and the equipment they interact with.
A lack of lubrication will compromise performance, adversely affect efficiency, damage bearings, lead to accelerated wear, and can cause a catastrophic failure that not only damages your equipment but can put the safety of your employees at risk. In short, make sure everything is adequately and correctly lubricated before you bring machines back online. It will save you money in the long run and extend the life of your equipment. This is also an appropriate time to check for over-lubrication, equally damaging as under-lubrication.
Tip #6: Begin with a Soft Start
When it comes time to bring the system online, you should perform a soft start at first. Experts recommend putting your machinery in jogging mode and increasing the power cycle-by-cycle until full power is reached. This provides you and your team with an opportunity to determine if any problems arise before the system is back to full power. Soft-starting may delay startup, but it is easier on your equipment and lets your team spot problems before they cause damage to other components in your power train.
Tip #7: Using a Vendor
Many times, shutdowns and startups will involve an outside contractor or maintenance vendor. This requires a significant amount of planning, which includes the scope of the shutdown, sequencing, responsibilities, and scheduling. Your team will undoubtedly want to minimize the time between the shutdown and startup, while the maintenance contractor will want to be sure there is enough time to get everything accomplished — needless to say, a balance will need to be struck. Also, keep in mind that the process of setting up a planned shutdown with a maintenance vendor may take some time with an average being around three months.
Tip #8: Communication
Communication among all involved remains key to a smooth shutdown/startup. This includes the following:
- Maintenance/repair vendors
- Technicians responsible for actual execution
- Employees who will be affected by the shutdown
- Managers responsible for processes/work impacted
- Team members responsible for inventory and supplies required for the shutdown/startup
Information to be communicated includes the timeline for the process, scope of the process, potential safety hazards, and areas that may be temporarily off-limits. It is also helpful to explain to employees why the shutdown/startup is necessary and how it will be beneficial to the facility. In addition, any concerns expressed should be addressed.
Shutdowns do not have to be problematic. With careful planning and attention to detail, they can lead to increased efficiency, better performance, and a safer work environment for your employees. Hi-Speed Industrial Service offers the professional assistance you need to achieve a smooth shutdown and startup of not just your electric motors but other electromechanical equipment such as overhead cranes, transformers, generators, gearboxes, eddy current clutches, fans, and pumps. We also provide predictive maintenance service for all the key industrial equipment in your facility. Contact us today to learn what we have to offer you!