By DSI/Dynamatic

Temporary shutdowns, which usually occur the week between Christmas and New Year’s, are scheduled breaks in manufacturing facilities where activities such as inventory, preventative maintenance, upgrades and process improvements occur. They’re not necessarily a negative thing, though they sometimes carry negative connotation.

During most shutdowns, managers and most laborers are off the floor of the facility, leaving time available to schedule routine maintenance on facility equipment, among other things. A skeleton crew can work efficiently and without much disruption from the production lines. Planned shutdowns can lead to improvements in the performance of equipment and processes. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has noted that shutdowns “are an opportunity to reduce the energy, materials, safety hazards or waste connected with manufacturing.”

According to IMPO Magazine, in order to complete a successful shutdown, a few guidelines should be followed. We added two others to the list to ensure a smooth transition.

  1. Designate a leader. One person should manage the process from beginning to end and be the point person to make decisions. This leader should also be cognizant of the budget. Once a designated leader is chosen, the team determines in what order things will be accomplished. A workflow design might be established.
  2. Follow best practices. What has been learned from previous shutdowns? Maintenance plans should be consistent with current manufacturer plans.
  3. Develop and communicate a clear plan. Planning for a shutdown is critical. Specific goals should be created, and it should be clear who is responsible for each task.
  4. Deploy a smart inventory strategy. In advance, talk to experts in charge of key equipment to determine what parts are necessary to have on hand.
  5. Planning is the key to a successful shutdown. In the planning phase, determinations are made for the scope of the project, the pre-shutdown activities, and general logistics. Planning should begin at least three months prior to shutdown and lessons learned from previous shutdowns should be reviewed.
  6. There should also be a plan and date for return to service. Right before a return to service, equipment should be tested to prove they are installed, operating and functioning properly. If there are lingering issues, this is the time to address them. No errors are insignificant, so it is imperative to make sure all discrepancies are resolved.

It is important that the team remain open in communication throughout the shutdown process. Proper communication will keep morale high and will allow the team to work most efficiently during shutdown.

Aside from addressing facility equipment and processes, research shows that holiday shutdowns are beneficial for those who have the time off. Holiday time off improves overall employee productivity, improves the health of employees, and saves companies on overhead. This year, with COVID-19 being top of mind, many companies are looking at expanding the time spent during holiday shutdowns for those reasons.