Plant Shutdown - Vacation From Your Life

Part 1 in a Series

I'm an engineering consultant, which means I work on site at a manufacturing plant, in my case, pharmaceuticals. Engineers and engineering consultants are in charge of ensuring that the plant, its equipment, its supporting utilities, and its control systems are capable of operating 24/7.  Which means that the only time we have available to make modifications or installations is during a plant shutdown.

A good example - utilities and facilities (not my actual plant)
Another good example - manufacturing tanks/reactors (not my actual plant either)

Plant shutdown could alternately be called "vacation from your life".  It's like the engineer's version of what tax season is to accountants.  You're basically moving into the plant for the duration and eating, breathing, sleeping your project(s).  You will plan on working long hours to ensure that all of the work gets accomplished during this short window.  The good news - shutdown occurs only once or twice per year, and is scheduled well in advance.  The bad news - shutdown almost always coincides with a major holiday, so you can forget about a holiday vacation.

My current clients have plant shutdown during the week of (USA) Independence Day and the week of Christmas.  Which means, I just finished one (explaining my absence).  It was definitely more complicated this year, since we had just moved, and the house is still disorganized.  Now it's time to start planning ahead to accommodate the three week shutdown in December.

December 13  - January 2 = Winter Shutdown 2015
I've scrubbed any details that would indicate my client or projects. 
Managing some semblance of work/life balance (more like integration) at these times takes planning, organization, and just plain work in the weeks ahead.  You're going to be living at the plant, literally, and your family will be living without you, even when (if) you get to come home to sleep. This series will discuss some of the things I do to prepare for shutdown heck, so that my family will remain fully functional in my absence (and subsequent exhaustion). I would love to hear from my readers about their survival tips as well.

Watch this space for the next installment - Food/Kitchen Prep for Shutdown Survival.



  1. Woohoo, another blog by an engineer! I found you via Katherine's blog (Engineering in style) and read your posts and had a good laugh. Anything to do with pictures of cats is a win in my books. Can't wait to read more about your food prep for the shutdown! I work at a nuclear power plant so we have outages 1-2 times a year, and like you said, I basically drop off the face of the earth with anything un-work related. I just started a blog, so we will see how it goes through October when I have no time to post lol. Are you a chemical engineer? I am (my husband is aerospace)! I love finding other engineering gals with blogs (and cats), so I thought I'd come say hello!

  2. Hola chica! (sent you an email earlier!) Engineers and cats go together - it's all about the stress relief and realizing who's really in charge at the end of a long day.

    Plant shutdown survival tips can be applicable to any long engineering project time period in which, yes, you drop off the face of the earth for a while. I definitely have to go back and rework a paragraph or two sometime (when I don't have a shutdown looming, haha). xoxo


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