Shutdown Scheduling – Why Bother?

The time spent in putting a schedule together for a major shut event is no small task. Days, weeks even months of time can be invested in putting together a plan that becomes more of a political football than a road map to success. Over the years I have observed the way most schedules are utilised in the shutdown process, only to come to the conclusion that a poultry five to ten percent of all plans are followed with any rigour whatsoever.

Most schedules do not reflect the work that is in the CMMS with any accuracy, in many cases the execution team see the schedule as a pain rather than a strategic plan to help them navigate the multi layered working landscape. Very few plans reflect correctly weighted resource levels and more often than not the Critical Path is a mismatch of loose links and redundant data.

So why do we bother? Why not just produce a list of work and let the supervisors work it out themselves? Well in some cases where we are doing high frequency (repeatable) low complex shutdowns, then a simple list could do the job.

But where we have highly complex event with horizontal and vertical interfaces and a cast of hundreds, then a well-constructed schedule if done right can be the very thing that assist the execution team to work the plan and deal with contingencies.

How do I know the schedule is not working? One simple sign is at the progress meeting. When supervisors or coordinators turn up to this meeting without a schedule I know something is wrong.

If they do have one and they are looking at the work list instead of the Gantt then something is wrong.

There are other signs but these first two tell the story of a terminally ill schedule.

In many cases the execution team fumble through and get things done despite the gap between them and the plan. This creates a false sense of achievement and reinforces the idea that the schedule is just a waste of time.

But what if the schedule was perfect? What if the schedule really reflected the best plan with built in contingencies and perfect resource levels?

Even with the perfect plan the execution team still need to believe in it before they work with it and get the best result.

So a few things need to happen if we want to see change in this space.

  1. All work must be planned in the CMMS and be schedule friendly. This means creating stepped Work orders with the right duration's, resources and logic

  2. The schedule must be linked to the CMMS so that it captures change as the work orders are created and evolve (This element alone reduces confusion and returns control back to the planning process)

  3. After the first cut, schedulers should sit down with supervisors to go through the plan and get agreement on the structure

  4. Supervisors commit to follow the plan as close as possible as it is laid out.

  5. During execution the scheduler updates the plan with actual's and reprints the next 3 shifts/days with any updates and rescheduled work as a result of any knock on effect.

  6. progress reports are driven from the updated schedule and forecast analysis takes places to estimate remaining work, time, cost, and risk.

Driving the report from the schedule helps the execution team stick to the plan and liaise any changes with the scheduling team as it happens. This also gives management confidence that the whole team are working as one and working towards the same goals.

In many shutdown teams the schedule component is often under valued or simply created to a standard where it has limited value.

Without reinventing the wheel bringing the schedule up to speed and building in smart data can change its value and effectiveness almost overnight.

In many cases management don’t even know the schedules are sub standard, whilst they know something in the overall process is not quite right they rarely suspect poor scheduling as the culprit.

Fixing this one element can pay off big in terms of control, forecasting, correct manning, and overall confidence for the whole team as they get ready for day one of their next shutdown event.

If you think your team could be working with a better plan then contact us for a schedule health check

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