A plant shutdown, also known as a turnaround, aren’t the most popular activity for companies or employees. In the short term, the company loses production time and incurs the cost of third-party contractors. Not to mention the unpredictable costs of newly discovered issues that may be exposed during a shutdown.

Shutdowns allow for the internal components of equipment to be inspected, which is impossible while it is running. The ultimate goal is to make repairs and maintain the equipment. This will keep your plant running efficiently until the next plant shutdown.

As we partner with many plants to plan and execute their shutdown, we find many approaches. Here are some tips from our best experiences that have helped our customers save time and money during their shutdowns.

Tips to Save Time During a Plant Shutdown:

1. Prioritize time-critical activities with a list.

Use past documentation/experiences to help you apply a duration for each repair. Analyze where/why overruns occurred and what you can do to avoid them this time.

These are the systems and equipment that need to be serviced in order for your plant to run efficiently until your next plant shutdown:

  • The equipment/system needing service.
  • The scope of work for the repairs/maintenance.
  • It’s priority rank, 1 being the most crucial and 100 being the least.
  • Include the trades needing access to the equipment/system. Can they work at the same time? What order will they need access to?
  • Do you have a lockout plan? Who locks this equipment out?

2. Prioritize access.

Many contractors work together and need access to the same piece of equipment and system. To save time and decrease costs, identify which contractors get access to the equipment first. For each piece of equipment or system, list the contractors needing access and what their priority is. Consider a pre-shutdown coordination meeting or call including all contractors working on critical equipment.

Use this as a guideline to create your shutdown schedule. Have contingency plans ready to go if issues are found upon inspection. Have your list of lower priority items for contractors that complete scope ahead of schedule. If you brought in the materials ahead of time, some items that didn’t make the cut may still be completed.

3. Cater lunch/dinner.

We’re not just saying that because people like free food. By having food on site ready to eat, you can get trades back to work within 30 minutes.

Preventative checklist blog white paper with download now call to action.

4. Provide a “resource package.”

Like wedding invitations, the purpose of this resource package is to get people to show up at the right time with all of the right gear. Within this package you should:

  1. List the hotels in the area – You’re most familiar with your area and making sure everyone is as close to the site as possible will save you in time. You can also save money by working with hotels to get a reduced rate.
  2. List safety requirements – Provide a list of all of the safety training requirements for your site.
    • Identify how long it will take to complete your site-specific training and ensure it is available as needed before and during the plant shutdown.
    • Identify what PPE is required so project managers can have PPE supplies stocked.
    • Have a lockout plan for each piece of equipment and walk down the lockout with each foreman.  This saves time, and if you ask for feedback, it can improve the reliability of your lockout. Your contractors do this every day and may have some great tips!
  3. Provide a schedule of work ahead of time.
    • List the equipment, the duration, and the contractor’s priority.
  4. Have a map of your site:
    • List parking areas.
    • Smoking areas.
    • Cell phone areas.
    • Contractor staging areas.
    • Exit plans.

Plant Shutdown Tips to Save Money:


Provide a list of work orders ahead of time to all of your contractors. These work orders should be associated with all the equipment or systems the contractor is repairing or servicing. Include instructions for tracking and charging time to the work order too.


Work with your trusted partners to negotiate rates for your shutdown. The contractor gets the added benefit of guaranteed work. You get the savings through a reduced rate.


  • Service technician on scaffolding set up outside a building during a plant shutdown.

    Having scaffolding set up prior to a shutdown can save time and money.

    Safety: Use your own or contracted safety teams to work as a hole watch and fire watch. This reduces costs because you are freeing up the tradesmen to perform work.

  • Scaffold: Consider bringing a scaffolder on site. Have pre-shutdown meetings with major contractors and get their scaffold requirements. Have scaffolding erected prior to the shutdown. (This saves time, too!) Keep a scaffolding crew available for daily inspections, modifications or additional needs. If all contractors are working on lifts or bringing their own scaffold, things can get crowded and dangerous. Watch for untagged or non-OSHA approved scaffolding and ensure contractors use scaffold and lifts safely.
  • Cranes: Many plants will hire 1 crane if there is a lot of lifting during the shutdown. Plan and schedule lifts before shutdown starts. Bringing in 1 crane prevents each contractor from having to bring in their own. This eliminates the added expense and can reduce the number of people on-site to manage. Rent the crane with a rigger. Like scaffolding, this will help to ensure the safety of ground personnel. Your plant shutdown may not require cranes. In any shutdown, ensure anyone who is coordinating lifts on site is properly trained. By using the right gear and keeping everyone in the work area safe with proper barricades, you can avoid injuries.

3 Other Important Things To Remember:

Plant Shutdown Scheduling

Whether it is non-shutdown maintenance or a full plant shut down, shutdown management needs to be on top of the operating schedule. This ensures shutdown scheduling doesn’t interfere with other jobs. Detailed planning of shutdown work should also be combined with scheduling to ensure tradespeople and contractors can be included in the planning process. This is especially important for process industries, like power generating stations or ethanol plants that can be operational 24/7.

Plant Shutdown Safety Practices

Ensuring you have enough time during the planning stage of a shutdown is essential. It is also important to focus on industry specific hazard. Chemical plants, ethanol plants, and manufacturing plants often have different hazards. One of the key steps for chemical plants from an article by Craftforce on safety states:

“Some plants, typically chemical, pose a real risk of exposure to toxic chemicals. This might include acidic chemicals, flammable gases, toxic fumes, airborne fibers, etc. Bring on a specialist to test for exposure risk, and check out OSHA’s resources on Controlling Exposures if you detect hazards you need to control.”

Why Plant Shutdowns Matter

Ultimately, plant shutdowns give operators the opportunity to fix and prevent issues before they arise and cause, unplanned shutdowns, costly outages or worker injuries. With proper preparation, and using these tips, you can save valuable time and expenses during your future shutdowns.

It is also important to remember that proper documentation can be a lifesaver. This includes lists of shutdown work, the process inventory plan, permits, critical-path schedules and plant shutdown budgets. It should also include all isolation and vessel-entry procedures, as well as contact info and job responsibilities for everyone involved in the shutdown.

Need Help?

If you have any questions or need help with your own shutdown, contact us today! Call the pro’s at Rasmussen Mechanical Services at 1-800-237-3141, email or chat with an agent. Our team is here to help!

Service Technician on lift during an industrial plant shutdown.