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Planning, Coordination and Risk Mitigation Dramatically Cut Downtime
Rob Goldsmith,
Senior Project Manager

Matrix reduces outage for complex pharmaceutical manufacturing project

A major dilemma that most industrial manufacturing facilities are challenged with is balancing system maintenance with production demand. Oftentimes, the production schedule will allow only a small window of opportunity for the site to perform preventive maintenance activities and implement any system improvement projects. The key to success in those situations is proper planning and coordination.

One such example of this was a turnkey project where Matrix was hired by one of our large pharmaceutical manufacturing clients as the prime contractor to replace an outdated, unreliable I/O communication protocol used in their process control system with the more traditional and stable hardwired 4-20mA HART protocol. We were responsible for the electrical design and build of six new remote I/O panels, programming for I/O communications within 14 PLCs, procurement of all hardware components, including 283 new HART-compatible instruments, and subcontracting the electrical installation and calibration services.

Initial Schedule

As part of the initial planning phase, Matrix was tasked with outlining a high-level schedule for installation of the new panels, modifications to existing panels, and cutover of all instrumentation, including pre- and post-calibration. Since the affected process area would need to be down during installation and cutover activities, we were required to work around a planned production downtime window.

Having previously performed this same work in a different part of the plant, we used the same approach as the first time and applied a multiplier based on the increased number of instruments. Based on that, the initial estimate called for a 40-day outage. This allowed for upfront panel installation and modifications, followed by pre-calibrations, instrument cutover with three teams working simultaneously, and would conclude with post-calibrations. As expected, site management pushed back on that duration and would not allow the manufacturing process to be down for that extended period, so we were challenged with developing a plan to reduce the overall duration by nearly half.

Detailed Planning and Coordination

To minimize the amount of work that was needed during the actual outage, we identified several tasks that could be performed ahead of time, such as instrument setup and staging. We also revisited the number of teams that we could have working in parallel. Knowing that we would be limited to a certain number of bodies in each area due to space constraints, we identified the maximum number of teams feasible, and then scheduled their work to avoid any interference between teams.

By performing pre-work and scheduling the activities in a manner that would allow additional teams, we were able to put together a schedule that reduced the overall planned outage to 23 days, which was acceptable to site management.

To help ensure we would hit that overall duration, we planned the various activities on a day-to-day basis. We also held a contractor coordination meeting to walk through the plan, gain alignment on the approach, and talk through any potential risks.

Risk Mitigation Strategy

As part of the contractor coordination meeting, several potential risks were identified with corresponding mitigation plans. By doing that, we were prepared in advance to address any issues in a timely manner should they arise, rather than scrambling to find a resolution in the midst of a stressful outage with a tight timeline. One such risk was the potential for defective instruments. The mitigation plan was to have several spares available, ready to use if needed. Any unused spares would then be added to the site inventory.

Another identified risk was with human resources. Since we had to staff up with nearly 30 people, there was potential that one or more of the team members might not be available for a number of reasons, such as unexpected illness or other personal matters. To mitigate that risk, we trained more people than needed and had them on standby as substitutes if needed.

By having a risk mitigation plan in place, we were able to quickly address issues that would have otherwise impacted schedule and jeopardized the return-to-service date.

Final Outcome

As previously mentioned, the planned schedule to complete all work was 23 days. With the amount of planning and coordination involved upfront and having a risk mitigation strategy in place, we were able to successfully complete the work in 20 days, three days ahead of schedule, thus shortening the production downtime window and resulting in an earlier return-to-service date.

Matrix Technologies is one of the largest independent process design, industrial automation engineering, and manufacturing operations management companies in North America. To learn more about our manufacturing operations management capabilities and risk mitigation, contact Robert Goldsmith, PMP, Senior Project Manager.

© Matrix Technologies, Inc.

Rob Goldsmith, PMP
Associate Director