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Unlock Plant Longevity: 5 Proactive Tasks for Seamless Outages

Like bi-annual dentist visits or your yearly physical, shutting down your plant for a health check is critical to the health, wellbeing, and longevity of your operation. And these outages are undoubtedly stressful—just like cramming in that last, overdue floss, or trying to find time in the workday to step away—outages are costly and full of time-consuming downtime that may not feel totally necessary in the moment.

However, as stressful and time consuming to both complete and prepare for, you will experience far more peace of mind having gone home at the end of the day without worry about plant safety, equipment efficiency, or cavities.

To help you prepare for a successfully planned outage our flow control team shared five proactive tasks you can plan for now.

These tips include tactics outside of the most common processes you’re already doing—fixing and rebuilding valves, performing calibration of measurement equipment, and inspecting devices.

Read on to get the most out of your planned shutdown!


two mce employees working on a blue and silver heavy machinery tool

 MCE employees performing routine machine maintenance.


5 Tasks & Tips to Minimizing Plant Downtime and Maximize Performance

1. Perform Steam Equipment Checks in Advance

Seasonal outages are a hectic time with plenty of inspections to complete. The best thing you can do to prepare for outage season is to plan and work on checks that can be started ahead of time.

One of those is getting started on steam trap work orders. Schedule your steam trap survey two or three months before a scheduled plant outage so that the repair parts can be sourced in time to complete the repairs during the planned shutdowns.


2. Check Heat Trace Just Before Freeze Season

Plant heating capacities are another factor that can be prepared for in advance. Heat trace uses a cable and qualified accessories to keep pipes and instruments warm during cold months.

Failure of a heat trace system during the winter can result in frozen or worse, burst, pipes, which means more maintenance to manage, and pay for, in the winter.

Feel confident as temperatures drop by getting your heat trace system checked in the fall months just before the freeze season.


3. Performing Instrument Air Maintenance

Compressed air is essential to flow control processes, as air is the power that opens and closes valves. If compressed air is not clean, dirt or other harmful byproducts can get into process control elements and create issues.

Proper compressed air maintenance includes all aspects of a compressed air system which means checking to make sure compressors, dryers, filters, separators, and pressure regulators are working properly and that parts are replaced as needed. Check all parts that use instrument air to ensure that air quality is operating correctly and meeting essential standards.

Examine flow meters, pressure gauges, and dew point analyzers to identify potential issues with your air before system performance drops. Checks are not just necessary for efficiency improvements. Making sure compliant regulatory lockout and tagout safety procedures are followed makes sure that your employees get home safely.

We recommend that you make sure your instrument air is working and complete maintenance during the fall for efficient and safe winter months.


4. Add Calibration Redundancy to Critical Instruments

You may relate to many of our customers who ask, “how often should specific instruments be calibrated”?

Not only does this impact your outage planning but it can also have a direct impact on your bottom-line during downtime. 

Our rule of thumb for the best results is to base calibration frequency on criticality:

The more critical an instrument is—or the more detrimental or dangerous the results of a failure could be—the more often it should be calibrated. 

We also highly recommend instrument redundancy for these mission critical instruments for better performance assurance.


5. Don't Skip Inspections – Even if you can’t see them, you still need to inspect them

Don't cheat your inspections. Proper inspection leads to highly efficient and effective turnarounds. Time constraints and resource-limited markets can result in checks being passed over. However, getting checks complete gives you an edge by making sure no problems are passed over.


Ensure to inspect the following:

  • ROTATING EQUIPMENT – these are the motors of pumps and fans that move air for combustion.

  • FLOW METERS – there is a low visibility of flow meter performance on the outside. Taking a flow meter apart reveals obvious problems that would have remained unnoticed if it had not been taken apart.

  • INTERLOCK CONVEYORS – check and test regularly. Interlock conveyors are part of a repeatable process, so errors will repeat often.

  • pH SENSORS – could have your system running on bad measurement information, as they still work if they are not cleaned. Clean your pH sensors at least monthly.

  • INSPECT ALL OF YOUR TANKS/CONTAINERS – as leaks or failure risk not only a loss of profits, but a risk of serious workplace injuries.


Skipping some inspections to gain speed may seem like a good idea short-term convenience, but those extra minutes seldom outweigh the cost of time and money spent on future maintenance issues or safety risks that could occur with repeated missed inspections.

Managing a plant outage can come with a significant time investment but taking extra steps to be prepared makes all the difference when you’re back to running full speed with a little extra peace of mind.

By having completed proper planning, preventative maintenance, and all the critical procedures, you’ve taken on outage season as an opportunity to maximize the safety, productivity, and performance for your operations.


MCE has a full team of outage specialists and consultants. Contact us today for more information on our outage/shutdown services and experience the MCE difference.


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