The manufacturing shutdown checklist firms need

Manufacturing shutdowns are complex. There are a lot of moving parts and a significant amount of planning, preparation, and coordination that needs to take place. But a successful shutdown starts with the right plan to help you achieve shutdown objectives and minimize production downtime. That’s where a shutdown checklist comes in handy.

“Good checklists are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations,” says Atul Gawande, the author of “The Checklist Manifesto .” “They do not try to spell out everything…Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps—the ones that even the highly skilled professionals using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical.”

Your checklist provides you with a helpful starting point. It’s a framework you can use to rally your people, build policies, and outline procedures specific to your business. Use our checklist to get started.

1. Create a shutdown plan

Create a plan that accounts for the various phases of your shutdown. You’ll also need to account for the team you have on hand to manage your shutdown. Planning is essential because it provides you with concrete answers to specific questions.

  • What are the important metrics and KPIs for this shutdown?Are you working to reduce costs (e.g., expenses, direct labor costs)? Are you working to improve your safety record or improve compliance?
  • Who will manage the shutdown?Will the shutdown be handled by your employees internally, or will you recruit a contractor or liaison to shepherd the process? Will you rely on a combination of the two?
  • What are your pre-shutdown tasks? Will you need to dispose of any specific ingredients, inventory, or products? What sort of prep needs to happen for a shutdown to occur? Outline all waste-handling equipment, or safety concerns during this pre-shutdown stage.
  • What are your shutdown tasks? You’ll want to break this down further. Are you phasing out a specific machine or piece of equipment? Is it an immediate or slow phase-out? Is there a repair or upgrade? Will you roll out these changes across all machines or machines in specific departments? Make a list of everything you need to do within the budget and constraints you’ve set.
  • Who will be responsible for the shutdown? A shutdown is a team effort. You’ll need salespeople, engineers, maintenance, facility management, and safety team members. Make a note of the crew you’ll need to complete the tasks slated for the shutdown. You’ll need to define each person’s role carefully. Does everyone have the required experience for this shutdown? Have contractors and third parties been vetted?
  • What will your team need? Your employees will need raw materials, cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), training, and support. Depending on your locale, you may need to acquire the right permits. Depending on your industry, you may also need a safety officer or company representative to ensure vendor and contractor compliance. You’ll also need to verify that you have policies and procedures in place to maintain quality and ensure companywide compliance with required regulations.
  • What is the duration of the shutdown? What’s the projected duration of your shutdown? Will you have enough inventory to cover the business while the plant is out of production? Let’s say your estimate is wrong. How much of a buffer will you need to maintain production for your customers?
  • General shutdown needs. This category is also broad. Do you have the sales projections you need to provide your customers with a consistent volume of product? Have you verified that each of your employees has the instruction, training, and education they need to perform well? What about contact information for each of your equipment or machine vendors? How many of your contractors have appropriate insurance coverage? What about waste handling? Will you need any temporary buildings or enclosures?

NSF International recommends several best practices for facility shutdown management, including:

  • Creating your shutdown management team.
  • Setting timelines for each shutdown activity.
  • Contractor or third-party management.

Depending on your experience and the size of your operation, the planning process could take six months. You’ll want to commit to and flesh out a rough plan ahead of time, doing your best to avoid scope creep.

2. Coordinate the order and timing of your shutdown

Next, you’ll need to organize all the data you collected during step one. Essentially, you and your team will need to outline your shutdown effort from A to Z.

  • Create precise workflows for each department, crew, project, and vendor. Identify who is responsible for what, when, and where. Take the time to outline and delineate each step carefully.
  • Establish a chain of command for each department, crew, project, and vendor. There should be no confusion about who’s responsible for what or where to go for help.
  • List shutdown tasks in order of importance (e.g., equipment tear down, repairs, upgrades, sanitization, etc.). Outline the departments, crews, and workflows that you’ll need to complete these tasks.
  • Outline startup and shutdown sequences for each piece of equipment and machinery and system that runs in your plant. Make a note of these details ahead of time, for all of the areas affected by the proposed shutdown.
  • Coordinate any outstanding or scheduled maintenance projects. Build these projects into your existing plan or budget to avoid scope creep and cost overruns.
  • Synchronize all non-shutdown projects with the existing shutdown schedule and budget. If this isn’t possible, revise your plan or budget to accommodate these non-shutdown projects or postpone them.
  • Coordinate purchasing and procurement requirements. Do vendors have a general idea of what we need? Who will pick up and deliver the necessary products, components, or materials you need during the shutdown?
  • Coordinate any contraction, expansion, and relocation requirements. Will you need to move or install any new equipment or machinery? Who will remove the machinery or equipment you don’t need anymore? What sort of temporary, partial, or permanent logistical or structural changes do you need to make in this stage?
  • Communicate roles with employees during the shutdown. Will workers have access to certain areas during the shutdown? Will they need to adjust their regular routines? What’s the reason for the shutdown? What are your shutdown goals and objectives? What are you doing internally and externally? How will you manage contractors?
  • Provide your team with necessary shutdown documentation:Schedules.
  • Inventory plans.
  • Access to permits.
  • Safety documentation.
  • Resource plans.
  • The shutdown budget.
  • Contact information for anyone responsible for managing the shutdown.

The bigger your plant, the more complex your shutdown is likely to be. That makes communication and coordination essential for your success.

3. Manage execution, startup, and turnover

If you’re unfamiliar with the ins and outs of a shutdown at your plant, give yourself time to learn.

“After doing it for 10 years, you know you’re going to need 10 new bearings for this piece of equipment,” says Darry Campbell, former plant manager at Rhodes Bake-N-Serv. “I’ll need to replace the conveyor belt here, and I’m going to need to replace these sprockets over there.”

At this point, you’re working to execute your plan. Remember Murphy’s law. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. Be prepared to adapt, adjust, and reconfigure your plans as needed.

  • Expect to find unexpected machinery and equipment problems.
  • Adapt quickly and make decisions with limited information.
  • Work quickly to repair, upgrade, and replace equipment and machinery.
  • Update your budget, plan, and schedule daily so that you can avoid scope creep and cost overruns.
  • Use KPIs to downsize resources as you complete shutdown tasks.
  • Minimize costly add-on work and unnecessary scope creep.

Once you complete important tasks, you’ll want to begin the rebuild, restoration, and startup process. This can help you ensure you can restore all equipment and machinery to full working order. Once you’ve restored equipment, it’s time to ramp up. Work to ramp up slowly, testing your equipment and machinery as time progresses. This is where manufacturing plants are most likely to fail. Now’s the time for adjustments and fine-tuning. Flesh out any problems or issues before you resume production.

A successful shutdown needs a good plan

Each manufacturing company is unique. Use this checklist as a practical starting point for your preparation and a guide for your ultimate shutdown plan. Work to build your own set of internal checklists, policies, and procedures. Create a plan that accounts for the various phases of your shutdown and the workforce required. Start with this framework, and you’ll have the tools you need to reduce complexity.

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