5 Steps for a Successful Turnaround Project

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A plant turnaround, or shutdown, is a scheduled stoppage of all or part of a plant’s operations. At one point or another, every facility will experience a turnaround for reasons ranging from maintenance, to repair or replacement of capital equipment, safety upgrades, lighting and energy upgrades or even regulatory compliance.

Typically, these issues are on a large scale and cannot be addressed while the plant is operational. Whatever the reason, the goal of the turnaround is to optimize performance, improve safety, lower costs and increase profit.

Every refinery or chemical plant manager and their turnaround managers understand the risks associated with a turnaround project and the battle against the clock. Turnarounds are designed to fit into the smallest viable timeframe with minimal interruption to production.  Any overrun in cost or missing the scheduled startup date will damage the bottom line.

It’s important to have a carefully managed plan and a partner to help guide your facility throughout the process. 

The following five-step approach is one way to achieve this:

  1. Planning
    Turnarounds are usually planned 5–10 years in advance. This all-important first step sets the tone. During planning, the turnaround management team determines the scope and goals for the project, including an analysis of equipment, capital and personnel requirements and a preliminary schedule. All key participants contribute to creating the turnaround plan.
  2. Engineering 
    In this highly technical stage, the turnaround team determines how to solve the challenge at hand, determining needs and performance benchmarks, identifying points that need remediation, and investigating product and process solutions. The newest affordable technologies available are considered to improve reliability and performance. Care should be given to consider OEM standards, the Approved Manufacturers List (AML), and the competitive landscape. Any capital investment needs to stand the test of time. Ideally, the company’s sourcing provider(s) offers technical expertise and advice to assist in creating the solution plan and requirements.
  3. Scheduling

    The turnaround schedule is set 12–18 months prior to the kickoff of construction. Often overlooked during planning, the scheduling phase is vital to ensuring a seamless arrival of materials to their intended locations per the project timetable. Look for a sourcing partner that can deliver both turnkey and customized supply chain solutions, and who is nimble enough to respond to sudden changes in the marketplace such as materials shortages, tariffs, legislation or embargos. Training programs are often implemented at this stage.

  4. Construction

    During construction, the turnaround workforce is mobilized, the clock starts, and the work begins. Vigilance is key: the management team must monitor performance against the schedule to ensure that materials are being delivered when and where they’re needed. They also need to be on alert for any emergencies or mishaps as delays during this phase can cripple the entire turnaround project. An ideal sourcing partner not only has the infrastructure, materials and processes in place to support the turnaround, but can react to any unexpected emergencies. 

  5. Completion and Reporting

    The final stage is no time to rest on laurels! Before operations return to normal, onsite services must be immobilized, excess materials returned and contractors mustered out. Turnaround leaders then prepare the final report detailing expenses and savings, and measure against any key performance indicators established for the project. If the project was completed on time, at or below budget, odds are it was a success. The final report serves as a basis for future turnarounds.

Plan for Success

Successfully managing your turnaround is critical to maintaining a safe environment while optimizing operational performance. Look for a sourcing and solutions provider with proven turnaround experience in the refining and petrochemical industry at every phase of the project.


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