Ethanol Plant Shutdown Management: Plan Your Yearly Maintenance for 2023

Ethanol Plant Shutdown Management: Plan Your Yearly Maintenance for 2023

If you run an ethanol plant, you know all too well that it is a responsibility requiring substantial planning and organizing. You have to keep your employees safe and productive, while making sure they have everything they need to get the job done. One aspect of running an ethanol plant that is crucial to its long term success is planning regular maintenance. If you’re in the process of planning your power plant shutdowns for 2023, this post covers important factors to consider.

Pre Shutdown Procedures

Long before the actual day your plant shuts down, there are many to-do’s to ensure a seamless and productive maintenance period. In fact, most plant managers agree that the planning phase of a shutdown is both the most arduous and the most important.

Prioritize What Needs Cleaning and How

Rely on industrial cleaners to guide you towards the most effective cleaning options for your plant. Different types of equipment will need unique cleaning approaches. Luckily, skilled industrial cleaners will know which methods (hydro blasting, dry ice blasting, sponge blasting, etc) are best for your plant. Schedule a walk-through or phone consultation with an industrial cleaning company 90 days in advance to ensure ample time to plan and schedule your cleaning.

Plan Your Shutdowns For the Same Time Every Year

Planning ahead with your annual shutdowns is the best way to manage them. If you can plan for a shutdown around the same time every year, you’ll be able to get contractors to work on specific tasks, and you will have more time to plan how long each activity should take. It also helps employees to feel prepared in the months and weeks leading up to the shutdown if they know exactly when it’s coming, and what productivity goals look like in the meantime. Managers can plan things like altering employee working schedules, facilitating an employee celebration or employee training, etc during the shutdown.

Map Out the Jobs, the Time, and the Money

Aside from identifying the tasks you must complete during a power plant shutdown, it’s also important to consider how long all of these tasks will take. If you don’t have enough time, prioritize the most important ones first. For example, if your generator needs replacing and that is the only reason for a shutdown (and not for maintenance), then your priority should be getting the new one installed as quickly as possible so that you can get back up and running again. As mentioned above, if your yearly maintenance takes place around the same time each year, you will be better prepared to map out the time and priorities needed, and make sound decisions for your plant.

Make a Pre-Shutdown Checklist And Timeline for Completion.

When planning the yearly maintenance of your ethanol plant, it is important to be aware of all the activities that need to be completed before shutting down. Furthermore, it’s essential for employees to be aware of what new or different jobs they may be expected to perform as part of the pre-shutdown preparation. Managers should estimate the amount of time it will likely take to accomplish each pre-shutdown task. For example, if there are two days allocated pre-shutdown preparations, then you should have two days worth of work planned out on paper. This will help ensure that nothing gets forgotten or rushed through due to lack of planning ahead.

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To get a comprehensive checklist to prepare for your next plant shutdown, download our free 5-phase checklist.

To get a comprehensive checklist to prepare for your next plant shutdown, download our free 5 phase checklist!

Hire Contractors Well in Advance.

To prepare for your annual maintenance shutdown, compile a list of contractors who can tackle the work. Book them 60-90 days in advance so you have confirmation of their availability and are not scrambling at the last minute. After receiving signed agreements with your contractors, schedule a walk through with the different contractor teams to ensure there is clarity about expectations, scheduling, etc. If you do not have enough time to plan and coordinate the shutdown, then you should consider hiring a third party consultant.

Work With Your Insurer to See if Repairs Will Affect Your Coverage.

Before beginning your yearly maintenance, you should contact your insurer to see if any repairs or improvements will affect your coverage. If you need to make any changes, contact your insurer before starting work. If you do not complete this step, you could end up with a higher premium.

Shutdown and Labor Handover

Accomplish as Much as Possible

The best time to perform routine maintenance and repair activities is when your ethanol plant is not in operation. Plan ahead to have technicians, cleaning staff, engineers, etc. on hand during the shutdown to make the best use of the time. The annual production shutdown is essential for maintaining the performance of your facility and ensuring its longevity, so you might as well get the most bang for your buck during this time. Similarly, plan to incorporate not just general maintenance, but also cleaning, organizing and training if appropriate. 

As an ethanol producer, you have an obligation to ensure that all safety measures are being followed on a daily basis. However, it’s important to understand that these procedures must be in place even when production has stopped. This is because some equipment may still be running during off-hours when there’s no one around to monitor it—and if something goes wrong, you don’t want your employees at risk due to faulty machinery or materials used during construction projects. Plus, some upgrades may need additional time to be completed once operations resume again; so take advantage of those periods by scheduling these tasks ahead of time so everything will run smoothly once production begins again!

Conduct a Cost Analysis of Equipment Repairs

We understand that each moment your plant is not in operation represents money not being made. However, thorough maintenance exams can uncover crucial information about the machinery in your plant and avoid costly shutdowns down the road. Delaying plant shutdown maintenance could lead to a breakdown that could leave you without electricity for weeks or months, which would be terrible for your business. Because of this, consistent maintenance shutdowns present a valuable return on investment. We recommend conducting a cost analysis of different machinery in your plant to determine what must be done immediately, and what can wait. Compare the costs of repairing old equipment with buying new machines.

Consider Upgrades or New Technology Implementation.

It’s important to consider whether there are any upgrades or new technologies that would improve efficiency and reduce costs. For example, if your facility has been paying for multiple costly annual repairs of an older piece of equipment, it may be worthwhile to invest in something new.

On the other hand, if equipment is dated, but is still effective; or perhaps can be improved with some simple parts replacements, then buying new equipment might not be necessary. Weigh the pros and cons of scheduling and dealing with the logistics of ongoing maintenance vs the cost of buying new equipment determine what makes sense for your plant.

Daily Logistics During Shutdown

Over communication is key. Keep in mind that you’re working with teams of contractors who are not familiar with your plant or your expectations. Check-in frequently with team leaders about progress and adjust deadline expectations accordingly.

You can maximize productivity of your contracted teams by ensuring they have their needs met throughout a shift. Catering a lunch, providing beverages or a break station can help increase focus by keeping crews onsite throughout each work day. 

Similarly, use the time you are shut down to be financially strategic with your plant’s employees. Can you encourage time off during this period? Or perhaps it would be an advantageous time to conduct annual safety training. Either way, use the time wisely.

Re-Starting Production

Once you have done a walkthrough of the plant with each contracted maintenance team and have confirmed the work has been completed, it’s time to get back into production. Ensure you have the proper staffing on-site and ready to resume work as soon as you are ready. 

It can be helpful to review safety protocols and production goals as your teams get back into action. Don’t forget to go over any changes to layout, or provide training on new equipment if appropriate.

Post Shutdown and Conclusion

Promptly complete a shutdown report after the plant is up and running again. Include details on all tasks that were completed, their associated costs, and the related benefits to production they will provide having been cleaned or repaired.

Failing to plan is planning to fail when it comes to ethanol plant maintenance. Plus, putting off maintenance during a power plant shutdown could cost more in the long run if it eventually leads to a breakdown. With the information in this post, you can proceed confidently into your 2023 annual maintenance with a plan for success.

For scheduling or support, New Age Cryo is here to help! Contact us today!