Outage planning can be a very complicated process that requires the coordination of available resources, tight scheduling, consideration of safety issues, and the satisfying of the seemingly endless regulatory and technical requirements. Hundreds — sometimes even thousands — of contract workers are brought on site to support the outage, allowing the utility to work continuously, around the clock, until the outage is complete. Scheduled outages are often planned up to a year in advance and can sometimes last for months.
In recent years, cost overruns for planned outages at some utilities have dramatically exceeded their original set-asides for that work. Whether you just completed an outage, are in the midst of one, or in the planning process, here are 5 things to consider before planning your next scheduled outage.
What are your biggest logistical challenges? There are a number of logistical challenges that may come into play during an outage. One example would be geographical challenges. Is your facility in a geographically isolated location? When a customer or its vendor is in a geographically isolated area, capacity may need to be sought out at the nearest metropolitan area which, dependent on region, may encounter delays in responding to a shipper and/or consignee. Also, geographically isolated areas are impacted by lack of equipment to support pickups and/or deliveries and may not be accessible by truck or plane.
What deployable resources do you have? Many of the decisions will be heavily influenced by the number of resources you have available. Do you have a small team? Are you in a situation where many of the outage tasks and responsibilities need to be outsourced to vendors? At AGT Global Logistics we train our operations team to be prepared to support stations in outages by reviewing historical data and lessons learned from past outages, and insights gained from pre-outage meetings with members of the supply chain team. In order to sufficiently support a station during its outage, 24/7 operations and additional capacity are critical, especially in the event of something unexpected arising.
What are some standard pain points with outages? Which areas has your business identified for improvement? Has your organization identified areas of improvement for the next scheduled outage? If so, it’s important to think about what steps are being taken to address those key areas that have been identified prior to the outage. At AGT, when we work with a client on a scheduled outage we use insights gained from a briefing meeting, these little tidbits are often invaluable pieces of information that we hold onto and consider as we move through the planning and execution process.
What does success look like for your outage? Success can come in many different forms, it’s important to determine what is most important to you and your organization. Is staying on timeline most important? Is not going over the allocated budget a key outcome? Is your outage a high-risk operation where safety of all workers is paramount? Whatever your goals are, its critical that you set a benchmark as to what success would be and gear all efforts towards reaching that goal.
Are there any new laws or regulations that will impact your outage planning or execution? As mentioned in the opening, there are endless regulatory and compliance issues that can impact an outage. It’s important to stay up to date on new laws and regulations to assure your outage won’t be affected, and if it is, being informed will allow enough time to adjust and prepare for impending changes. One example of this is the recent ELD mandate. With electronic logs, delays at the shipper and/or consignee can result in delays to current transit or subsequent transportation. With efforts to load and unload in a timely manner, and being prepared with appropriate resources from shippers and consignees, the effect can be lessened. Not understanding the new ELD mandate and the impact it will have could prove to be a costly oversight.
There are certainly many other factors to be taken into consideration but starting with these five will put you on the path to a successfully planned outage.