In any industry, planning and scheduling shutdowns, turnarounds and outages (STOs) requires extensive experience and detailed planning. The average budget reaches more than $1M before companies factor in the financial impact of weeks of lost production, so a comprehensive plan is essential to prevent cost overruns.
Planning and scheduling work makes up 90% of the effort of a successful STO. This detailed activity is often referred to as front-end loading. With so much on the line before any maintenance work actually occurs, it’s vital that the STO plan and schedule be detailed and designed to prevent potential consequences. Here are some tips to plan a successful STO:
1) Plan for the unexpected
Regardless of how detailed your project plan is, ‘found’ or ‘discovery’ work is inevitable. Not accounting for found work will have a huge negative impact on priorities and critical path, most likely causing your project to finish behind schedule or over budget. With so many outside factors affecting an STO, you cannot assume that everything will run smoothly or as planned. Building contingency – about 10 percent – into your plan is a smart way to ensure that found work, or another extraneous factor, does not derail your project.
2) Establish clear goals with contractors
When working with contractors, communicate your specific expectations. Be detailed about their scope of work and their expected targets, and provide incentives based on their performance. To ensure accountability, communicate extensively and don’t be afraid to enact a gate keeping policy that will allow you to verify that each step is performed properly before moving on. If claims or problems do arise with contractors, be sure to resolve issues immediately to avoid penalties and to perpetuate a professional work environment.
3) Don’t underestimate the importance of a solid cleaning plan
When cleaning time is miscalculated, all subsequent work backs up because other tradesmen cannot gain access to equipment to complete their assigned tasks. Additionally, poor cleaning can impact post-project production if equipment does not function properly as a result. If you want your project to be completed on time, make sure you put a detailed cleaning plan in place that specifies when equipment will be available for other technicians.
4) Look away from look-ahead schedules
Look-ahead schedules are often vague and wrongly encourage workers to choose the work they prefer over priority work. This practice creates congestion due to contingencies and can be destructive to wrench time. Safety can also become a concern if tasks are taking place out of order.
5) Keep track of ordering tools and equipment
A turnaround can be stopped cold if basic equipment is not accounted for. To avoid disorder, don’t assume that simple resources will be available at turnaround time. Before the project begins, take a detailed inventory and order the materials you need. It’s not uncommon for companies to spend millions of dollars purchasing the wrong parts or materials that they already have. Manage tools and equipment easily and stay organized by keeping this data in your ERP system.
Planning ahead and in detail is a common theme in each of these tips. While these tips are crucial to executing a successful STO, they are nearly impossible to execute without a standard ERP system. Standardizing your ERP allows you to ensure best practices are met across all projects and data is kept in real-time. When you streamline your maintenance planning and keep data in your ERP system you gain greater visibility across projects, and cost tracking is improved. Visibility is imperative for informed decision making and for greater confidence that project goals will be achieved.