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5 Ways To Prevent Plant Turnaround Failure

Contributor: Tim Haïdar, EIC
Posted: 04/02/2012
Tim Haidar
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Simply put if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Here are five ways that you can prevent failure during your plant turnaround.

1. Don’t cut costs


In the beginning plants shutdown were done in house. However as a means to reduce labor and benefit costs, manpower was cut.

These days contractors do all the work during normal plant operations and turnarounds. The problem with this is that when they look for short term contractors for turnarounds they usually go with the lowest bid. These contractors usually have a few good men that stay with that company and the rest are picked up locally. That is where the not so trained workforce comes from.

So the best workforce has a higher cost but can accomplish the turnaround in the shortest duration. In other words you get what you pay for.

However in this volatile economy cutting costs are unavoidable. Therefore the best thing to do is to get the contractor and in house representatives to work as closely together as possible to achieve the shutdown goal. In - house personnel needs to actively assist the contractors with respect to job completions and observations.

2. A good owner / contractor relationship

It is not to say all contractors are incapable of shutdowns and turnarounds, in some instances a good owner/contractor relationship could be significant.Building the ownership and improving the working environment could be one of the methods that can improve harmony within the task teams. A good relationship between the owner representative and the contractor can be crucial to success.

Once the owner representative takes the role of supervising the activity, he will almost certainly try to finish it in the best possible quality for two reasons:

1 He is already familiar with the high level expectation from the company to control quality.

2 He knows the consequences of failure which could result in a re-work for the local maintenance teams.


Another thing is involving these supervisors early in the preparation activities in order to make him familiar with all of the packages that are responsible.

3. A thorough Quality Assurance and Quality Check program


Some companies have a QA/QC program which utilises a 2 part tagging system. For example when the tradesperson completes his task, the foreman takes a tag out and hangs it on the piece of equipment that his co-worker has worked on. He inspects the work and signs the tag and returns part one to the QA/QC inspector who then goes out and inspects the work again and signs it off as ready for startup. Although this system is extremely labour intensive, it has been proven to work time and time again.

4. A thorough cost benefit analysis to incentivise contractors

Previous work packages and planning can be used as a basis for the new turnaround, assuming that there is a shortlist of contractors who are capable of doing the job. It is better to have a reliable contractor, who has the spare capacity and equipment on top of the turnaround requirement, than to go for the lowest price.

A delay of only one day costs more to the organisation than the difference between a reliable contractor and the lowest price.
If the aim is for a low turnaround price and the possibility of an extension is forgotten, the point has been missed, even if a penalty clause is included in the contract.

5. Get the contractors involved from the beginning


Workpacks used to be made by plants with the help of a third party. Then just prior to the shutdown the respective contractor was brought in and he executed what someone else prepared. This simply doesn’t work.

Nowadays, plenty of plants are introducing their contractors at the beginning of the preparation phase, and letting them prepare their workpacks as they feel is the best practice. This creates ownership, and the contractors know exactly what is meant and what needs to be done.


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Tim Haidar
Contributor: Tim Haïdar, EIC