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Shutdown/Start-up Project Management

Shutdown and startup projects usually require detailed planning and a high level of execution so as to bring a facility down for maintenance and/or changes and then re-starting production  all within a short time window.  The order in which tasks are executed and understanding project status and progress are vitally important to managers, engineers, and technicians.  These projects have real impact on your business success - and your customers' success, too.


These projects typically include one or more of the following:

  1. Short time windows for project execution
  2. Integrating significant changes
  3. Many disciplines working together
  4. Systems vital to company goals

These projects have in common careful planning among many parties for a long time.  


What makes Shutdown and Startup Projects Challenging?

These projects are complex: they involve many parties, many disciplines, many systems, and have many dependencies.  The plans themselves are reviewed and contributed to over months of time.   The meetings are often inefficient and opaque because project management software simply cannot communicate clearly to all project participants. 

Shutdown and startup project plans are difficult to reduce to Microsoft Project or Excel.  The reason for this is that for projects with more than a few dozen tasks, it is very difficult to document dependencies, timing, instructions, verification, documentation, etc. associated with tasks.  Any change to the plan requires a lengthy process to ensure, as much as practical, that changes will not adversely impact the project.  FlowWright PM addresses these challenges.

A typical shutdown or startup will involve electrical, mechanical, piping, operations, regulatory, civil/structural, instrumentation, automation, IT, and many other resources.  Some tasks are hands on, and some involve documentation.  Most tasks need to be done in a specific order and sometimes according to specific timing. When things happen that affect time and execution of the project (and they usually do) then companies and their project managers and teams need to be able to adjust.

De-Risking Shutdowns and Startups: Ensuring Success

Understanding the plan, following the plan, and understanding project progress and status in real-time are all critical to ensuring success.  The latter is particularly critical during project execution because, in the case of projects that take a few hours to a couple of weeks (typical of shutdowns and startups), understanding progress and status in realtime is vital to staying on schedule..

There are several kinds of costs that result from Shutdown/Startup problems:

  • Functional: unavailable systems results in company being unable to serve external or internal customers with critical products or services
  • Delayed Opportunity: unavailable systems result in company unable to take advantage of revenue opportunities because capacity is down.
  • Technical failure: poor execution leads to more serious delays and faults.

Companies usually try to manage project risk by organizing their project with Microsoft Project and/or Microsoft Excel.  They list all their tasks and assign resources and assign dates/time and, ultimately, emerge with a plan. This approach has significant flaws:

  1. Plans do not adequately capture relationships between tasks
  2. Plans are hard for all team members to understand the same way
  3. Project execution is not bound to the plan
  4. Reconciling progress and status with the plan is time consuming and inaccurate

The result is that risks identified early on in planning often manifest and negatively impact shutdown projects and the people who are responsible for them.

The way to address these issues is by using FlowWright PM.  FlowWright PM captures all project relationships clearly in the planning stage, and allows for simulating execution and discovering planning flaws.  FlowWright PM also binds all project team members to the plan and during execution it assigns tasks and gives visibility to managers and team members so they know what is coming and what their priorities are.  In addition, FlowWright PM gives managers real-time progress and status information:

  • Is the project trending ahead of schedule or behind schedule?
  • What is current critical path?
  • What are current outstanding tasks?
  • And more…

Using FlowWright PM not only saves substantial time during planning and execution, but it burns down risk and gives managers the ability to understand issues that arise immediately so they can mitigate them.  In general, FlowWright PM vastly increases project likelihood of success and allows project managers to decrease the impact of unforeseen issues to ensure their companies maximize their opportunities and realize minimal risk. 

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