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The Importance of Scheduling Facility Maintenance Shutdowns

We’re all aware that we need to perform periodic maintenance on our vehicles, such as oil changes for our cars every 3000 miles. What’s the worst that can happen if we skip these?  A potentially hefty repair bill at the mechanic shop or a breakdown on the side of the road is the worst case scenario.

Similar to our cars, our manufacturing facilities require periodic maintenance.  Most facilities are shutdown every 6-18 months to perform preventative maintenance or repair tasks on facility systems.  What’s the worst that can happen if these are skipped?  There’s probably no significant damage to systems if caught in relatively short time.  However, there is a significant risk of failure of equipment and systems when operating outside of the manufacturers’ recommended maintenance intervals.  These repairs can cost a significant amount of money, facility downtime and most importantly potential loss of product. It will also require an assessment of the impact to manufacturing processes and products.

Knowing this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that facilities and equipment be maintained and kept in good repair in 21 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 110.  One manufacturer, a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in North Carolina, who ignored this warning learned the hard way when in November of 2007, they underwent an inspection by the FDA.  The inspector found excursions in the purified water loop dating back to February and March of 2007 – eight months earlier.

While the company noted that a modification to the purified water loop would correct the problem, the necessary parts had not been ordered or installed.  In fact, the company waited until June 2008, during the plant’s semi-annual plant maintenance shutdown, to install it.  In the meantime, production was compromised by this and other issues which they failed to address or rectify.

As a result of this and other significant violations, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a warning letter advised the plant to take prompt action to correct all deviations. Failure to do would result in regulatory action including seizure and/or injunction.

Had this plant taken the necessary steps to schedule the maintenance and modification of their purified water loop during their annual or semi-annual plant maintenance shutdowns, they could have identified issues causing the environmental excursions successfully taken corrective action.  Their inspection could have then gone smoother, and they could have avoided receiving the dreaded “483 – FDA Warning Letter” and the prospect of fines, penalties and expensive repairs.

Most importantly, they would not have compromised their manufacturing facility with potential contaminants which could lead to a loss of contracts, the destruction of inventory, and a public relations nightmare.


By properly planning for a shutdown, complete preventative maintenance designed to improve equipment life can be performed along with any modifications and updates to the system in the shortest amount of time.  With the time afforded for a plant shutdown, operations can be expected to run at the greatest efficiency eliminating or minimizing the need for downtime.


To ensure the longevity of your operations, schedule your annual plant maintenance shutdown. You’ll sleep better knowing that all ystems are on track.

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Published by Murtaza Kapadia | Senior Manager, Enterey


Next week’s blog: A Look at What Happens Behind the Scenes of a Plant Maintenance Shutdown