Maintenance Shutdown Planning

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The client’s normal approach to maintenance shut down projects was not as effective or efficient as they believed it could be, and resulted in incomplete projects, insufficient resources to complete the project needs, and cost overruns. Projects were managed reactively as opposed to pro-actively creating workplace stress and uniformed or reactive decisions.

Business Need

A change in the general approach to planning the maintenance shut down was required to keep projects on track, on budget and completed within the limited timeframe of the shut down.  The client wanted to introduce alternative planning, communication and resource allocation methods to better engage the workers towards common goals but did not know how to do this. They needed help to design and implement a new approach, as well as develop and teach the tools and techniques to help the workers communicate, plan for and achieve their project goals.

Solution Approach

Sphere placed professional Project Managers onsite to learn about the existing processes and incorporate and introduce new processes to facilitate project planning. One of the first adjustments was to explain the importance of preparing for the projects well before the actual project execution. By changing the focus from execution of the work to planning the work, sphere was able to engage workers in the project much earlier than normal, and begin to change the approach to the shut down from reactive to proactive.

Effective and frequent communication was used to build stronger project teams and facilitate the exchange of information in a more timely manner. To demonstrate the various project needs and timelines, schedules and reports were presented in a customized, visual and consistent standardized format. It was important that the visual representations be customized for the worker’s needs so that they could easily interpret the information presented. The visual representation of the work through gantt charts, wall posters, work maps and daily reports allowed everyone involved to stay informed and identify problems early in the planning stages. For example some work was outsourced when it was identified that there would not be sufficient internal resources available due to competing project requirements.

 Additionally, working with the various project planners, Sphere was able to help develop tools for project cost and schedule tracking to allow timely, ongoing and accurate project status reporting to management. This also involved change request control to ensure project objectives were met and workers were not distracted by non-essential project work.


There were many skeptics at the beginning, who said maintenance shut downs were naturally disorganized and there was nothing that could be done about it. After working with Sphere and implementing some basic project management approaches and learning some new tools and techniques, the workers now understand the importance of early project planning and open communication. As a result, project schedules and budgets were maintained and projects were completed on time. Resources were properly allocated to prioritized projects and additional resources were available when required. As a whole, the maintenance shut was well planned, relieving workers of the “last minute” reactive stresses they previously experienced. The new tools and techniques can be incorporated into non-shut down project management and implemented even earlier for the next maintenance shut down. The cost and schedule tracking tools in place allowed management to quickly understand project status and be more confident in the project team and the ability to make informed project decisions.

In the words of the Customer …

“Thank you so much for the great work your team”