An engineer inspecting an industrial plant

5 Steps for Managing an Effective Plant Turnaround

Also called shutdowns or outages, plant turnarounds are scheduled periods of downtime where the process unit of an industrial plant is taken offstream to perform maintenance, inspections, and analysis. The downtime provides opportunities to perform debottlenecking, revamps, capital project improvements, and catalyst regeneration projects. Turnarounds are needed to maintain safe and efficient operations.

It’s safe to say that all turnarounds should be thoroughly planned out before execution, otherwise you risk going over budget and not meeting timeline requirements. If you need to schedule a turnaround soon, keep reading this article. In it, we’ll cover the five steps you need to follow to ensure success.

1. Prepare & Plan

Engineer planning for an industrial plant turnaround

Intelligently planned and executed turnarounds are the cornerstone of a plant’s maintenance strategy. They are imperative to long-term success and therefore unavoidable. However, a large facility shutdown can cost millions of dollars in lost profits—every day! That’s why failing to have a good plan is like having a good plan to fail. 

In the preparation phase, you’ll define key variables, including budget, time frame, which assets will be focused on, and which assets will be left for the next scheduled shutdown. Specifying these variables will help you understand the full scale of the turnaround.

During planning, it’s also important to avoid common mistakes, including:

  • Improperly Identifying Costs, Task Lists, Schedules, Resources, or Constraints
  • Not Accounting for Certain Assets 
  • Misunderstanding the Condition of Machinery
  • Relying on Outdated Engineering Data
  • Poor Inner-Team Communication
  • Disjointed Asset Information

During the preparation phase, it’s vital to not only keep a long-term facility view in mind, but also to plan and develop a precise understanding of what needs to be addressed now. The more time you spend planning, the more efficiency you will see in your turnaround.

Base your planning efforts on accurate calculations and available data rather than subjective hopes and inaccurate assumptions. 

2. Establish the Scope

Scoping a turnaround is an extension of the planning process, and the two together commonly require between six and 18 months to complete. Scoping involves intricately defining the turnaround budget, estimated time frame, and the exact details of the project. During this phrase, your team should use all available engineering data, tested calculations, and other resources to develop a final plan of action.

The more time and effort that you dedicate to clearly understanding the extent of the upcoming turnaround, the safer and more profitable results you will achieve during execution.

Once you have delineated all relevant information, fully understand the scope, and have developed a cohesive and definitive action plan, you can release the details to all relevant staff, maintenance personnel, contractors, subcontractors, and management.

3. Plan Execution

Turnaround execution begins as soon as the plant is shut down on the planned date. Some shutdowns only take one or two days to execute, while others can take up to two weeks. The length of time depends on the type of facility, project, and work at hand. This phase of a turnaround involves:

  • Mobilization of Field Workers
  • Implementation of Work Orders
  • Contractor & Subcontractor Mobilization
  • Asset Testing & Validation

Assuming due diligence was performed in the planning and scoping stages, there should be very little guesswork involved during execution. 

And, if you did not skip the planning phase, you shouldn’t see too many accidents or mistakes. When mistakes happen during shutdowns, they are normally due to poor coordination and spontaneous decision making, possibly from someone who is not best qualified to make that decision. Again, meticulous planning and scoping is imperative for avoiding bodily injury or fatalities, equipment damage, overtime, or execution phase expansion—all of which detract from turnaround success.

4. Inspection & Start-Up

Engineer inspector in a plant

This phase of a planned facility outage is for getting the plant back up and running. It typically takes between one and two days, and involves final asset inspections that are needed before facility processes can be resumed. This phase also involves the help of operations and plant maintenance personnel, management, and any third-party participants needed to achieve the fastest and safest results.

5. Analyze Results

After a shutdown, there’s typically a two-week review phase to analyze the results. This period also often includes a review phase that involves performance system analysis, reporting, and debriefing all relevant parties about the overall turnaround process and the goals achieved or missed.

Get Help From IICC Today

With nearly 60 years of experience,  IICC has earned a reputation for managing safe and efficient plant turnarounds and shutdowns in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Our expert team is capable of providing quick turnaround times, detailed plans, and time-sensitive services. If you have general questions about managing plant turnarounds, or would like us to help you handle your next turnaround, please contact us today to schedule a consultation.