Forced outages are necessary, but they also have a significant impact on businesses. Outages can end up costing one-third to one-half of maintenance budgets, so getting them done effectively and efficiently is critical. Improving forced power plant outage schedules can reduce the effect of downtime and costs that these outages have on companies.
Take an air quality control system, for example. Upgrading the system could take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. That level of upgrade requires an extensive amount of coordination and communication. While there’s no way to foresee every problem that can arise, a solid plan, a realistic scope, the right technology, and certified experts on-site can turn a forced power plant outage from a major hassle into a streamlined process.
When it comes to a forced power plant outage, there are often complicated schedules that involve multiple moving parts and numerous teams. These types of schedules can often be unsuccessful because there isn’t enough planning involved in the preparation leading up to the outage. That leads to inefficient execution of the plan and, ultimately, an increase in the time and budget it takes to complete the outage.
Every outage is different, but in the hundreds of outages that SITEX has worked on, it’s clear that planning is a crucial element of success. When an outage involves multiple contractors with different tasks, goals, and schedules, there is little room for integration and communication. Bringing the contractor and utility owner together as one unit is an easy fix that makes planning more streamlined. This step facilitates open communication about what needs to happen on both sides of the partnership around outage readiness instead of playing a guessing game. Open communication is key in not only meeting goals, but reducing safety and environmental concerns as well.
By bringing both the utility owner and the contractor to the table, planning can begin early. This also makes it easier to synchronize data between both parties, ensuring a smoother execution as everyone will be working with the same data set and goals.
With outages being high-cost projects, it’s challenging to keep the work within scope when all of the data hasn’t been reviewed. Instead of creating a scope and telling all teams to get to work, a more practical approach involves freezing the scope early on in the process so contractors can estimate and schedule activities properly. Breaking down the project into manageable pieces and setting milestones for each completed task is a great way to ensure that work is being completed safely and effectively.
It’s also essential to integrate outage schedules across all parties. With many outage tasks requiring coordination, it’s better to have the plant’s departments and contractors have insight into each others’ schedules to facilitate how best to complete tasks. For example, a single job could involve shutting down equipment, technicians coming in to work with the instrumentation, electricians handling any unwiring needed, building scaffolding, and so on. When there are many teams working towards one common goal, it’s more efficient to integrate their schedules, so they work as one team for the task, rather than separate entities working on their projects with little to no communication.
One of the most common recommendations out there for forced outages is using the right technology. While many solutions will help power plants with their outage scheduling and execution, they are only as good as the people using them. For example, there is no solution to help inexperienced team members who haven’t dealt with the hectic nature of outages. Those same team members may not have the communication skills or knowledge of specific assets in the outages process. These gaps in communication can lead to safety concerns down the road that power plants can avoid with trained safety teams.
Working with a team of certified professionals keeps confidence and communication at a high level throughout the outages. With the number of outages SITEX has worked on, our team is well equipped to handle any planned or unforeseen challenges that come up. That includes having permits, zoning, and safety regulations ready to go when they’re needed. We also work with the latest technology to keep information accessible at all times. We check our work against the key performance indicators (KPIs) we establish at the start of a project.
Every outage has its unique challenges based on location, size, staff, and several other factors. That means that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to every outage, but steps and practices can be implemented to make a challenging situation more streamlined.