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A 9 3/4 mindset going into your shutdown


Imagine your production line is winding down after a productive month, and now it is time to allocate time for your monthly repair turn or the annual shutdown. Your team has put in hundreds of hours of prep work and war games to prepare for a flawless outage. The team is eagerly optimistic as they wait in their metaphoric stadium-like tunnel, ready to take the field to execute their organized chaos of rehearsed activities. The outage begins, and because you are so focused on the outage, you fail to realize you missed a unique opportunity to conduct a drill.


Why conduct drills?


There are a variety of legal requirements to conduct periodic evacuation drills to test your team's ability to assemble in an organized fashion at a muster point. There are Process Safety Management standards that require you to have preventive maintenance in place to validate the readiness of safety circuits. These proactive responsibilities are strategies that team members hope never to have to do in a real-life emergency. However, there are limited proactive initiatives and maturities to simulate unplanned events in manufacturing to see how the team responds to a scenario. 


I remember an annual outage years ago scheduled to last five days. We were on day three, and things were going almost too good. All jobs were on or ahead of schedule, and the reached milestones made the outage look easy. I was responsible for the overall outage, and I began to sense everyone was teetering on a complacency bubble. To disrupt this potential, I authorized an unplanned evacuation drill to disrupt the complacency that was setting in. Of course, some individuals were extremely upset that an unplanned drill occurred in the middle of a job. However, like any good audit, lessons identified vulnerabilities and gaps within training. Additionally, I realized I could be better at creating a culture that embraces drills and unplanned events.


I thought about where I could insert a habit to test the team's capability to manage through a manufacturing ambush. It dawned on me that the transition time of operating the assets to an outage might be the optimum place to insert a random drill with the least amount of risk. Think about it as if it was the magical transition in Harry Potter as you board the Hogwarts Expressed to go to Hogwarts. 


Platform nine and three-quarters is the train platform from which students board the Hogwarts Express, the scarlet steam engine that brings students to and from Hogwarts. It can be accessed by walking straight through the solid barrier between platforms nine and ten. Harry Potter Fandom

When should you do an emergency drill in manufacturing


The metamorphic moment from manufacturing a product within a production line to conducting planned maintenance is the optimum time to perform a drill. Creating an artificial water leak on a critical application or actuating your safety shutoff valves in a controlled semi-producing environment has the least likely potential for collateral damage at this transitional moment. Instilling a "9 ¾" moment can be that cultural shift that readies you for the emergency event.


Next time you realize it is November and you have not done your annual drills, consider how you may have missed your own 9 ¾ boarding platform. The next time you look at your aging backlog of open work orders and realize you have not actuated your emergency valves, think about how you can incorporate it into the start of your next outage. Realize there is an optimum boarding platform to simulate unplanned events so that you are ready for the real ones. 




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