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Pit Stops Get Plants Back on Track Faster

The words shutdowns, turnarounds and outages are familiar terms in heavy industry. In all cases, they involve a lengthy stoppage of a plant’s operations. Whether the stoppage is a planned event, or an emergency caused by equipment breakdown, all share the same downside. They disrupt the plant’s production and impact revenue.

It makes sense that the shorter the stoppage, the less revenue lost. Enter the plant pit stop.

In the auto racing world, a pit stop sets off a flurry of activity. A driver pulls into the pit box and the car is instantly surrounded by a pit stop crew, working together seamlessly and quickly. In a matter of seconds, the team replaces tires and refuels the car, and the driver zooms off back in the race.

In an industrial setting, maintenance cannot be done in matter of seconds.  But some of the principles and practices that make a race car pit stop so effective can apply.

What is a Pit Stop in Heavy Industry?

A pit stop maintenance project is a quick and efficient maintenance task sometimes carried out during normal operations of a plant. These projects are typically shorter in duration than traditional maintenance projects, which can last for weeks or months.

Barnhart removes a feedwater heater during a maintenance project.
Barnhart removing a feedwater heater during a maintenance project at a nuclear plant.

A pit stop can be a short, focused event – a 24/7 job that may require fewer weeks and a smaller number of cranes and other equipment. Plants can focus on only small unit downtime and avoid full plant outages. 

In fact, many large plants and refineries have chosen to use multiple pit stops a year rather than perform a major turnaround. This means the crew moves from unit to unit (pit stop to pit stop) during the year increasing their efficiency, teamwork, and performance. It also avoids the challenge of sourcing large numbers of temporary labor and costly mobilizations.

In a race car pit stop, two critical factors affect maximum performance: planning and organization of the team. Without the presence of these two crucial elements, the pit stop will be chaos and the driver will lose valuable time.

A plant pit stop requires thorough planning and preparation as well. The scope must be clearly defined with target start and end dates. Coordination between inside team and outside vendors is seamless. Personnel are organized and trained on their tasks. Tools and equipment are checked and maintained before the precision event begins. It also helps to have a seasoned pit stop “crew” like Barnhart that has an extensive arsenal of equipment, cranes, and innovative rigging solutions at their disposal.

Benefits of Pit Stop Maintenance

The benefits of pit stop maintenance projects are many. First, they help to prevent unexpected breakdowns, which can be costly and disruptive to production. Second, they minimize downtime by keeping the equipment running efficiently. Finally, they can extend the life of equipment, which can save money in the long run.

By incorporating pit stop maintenance projects into the overall maintenance plan, companies can reduce downtime and ensure their equipment is operating at its best.