1 May, 2018

The #1 Problem Facing Turnarounds, Shutdowns and Outages

Turnarounds, shutdowns and outages (TSO) are oftentimes subject to late minute work scope changes resulting in extended downtime and cost overruns.  In an effort to control downtime, management applies additional manpower, often resulting in inefficiencies and poor labor productivity.  The result is often cost overruns and a TSO that fails to fully meet the business needs.



The biggest problem facing turnaround, shutdown and outage teams is managing scope, particularly when it comes to freezing scope.  A best practice is to freeze scope prior to the start of detailed TSO Planning or 8 – 12 months before execution.  The intervening time period is then used to perform engineering, order material, etc. In essence, the work scope item goes through the entire project life cycle up until construction or the TSO.  In addition, planning must be done for integrating all the TSO work scopes.  This integration and the tight execution time frame is why scope must be rigorously managed.  When work scope is added, invariably there is a disruptive, ripple effect throughout the entire work plan.



One only needs to hear some of the comments that TSO managers articulate to understand why so many TSO’s are challenged:

 "Management and key stakeholders add scope at the last minute, often weeks before TSO start."

 "Plant operating and maintenance staff add scope after the start of the TSO and indicate that it is       “discovered work.”  It is mandatory because the plant cannot run “reliably” without the work or it         is a personal safety issue."

 "During the TSO event, work priorities change due to input from the home office or as a knee-            jerk reaction by management to a perceived risk or concern."

 "Management, due to cost pressures, may reduce the scope of work prior to the TSO.  When the       TSO starts the scope is added back in."

 "TSO schedules and manpower requirements are often overly optimistic."

 "There is no formal approach to scope development or the process is not rigorously followed."


So how do we effectively manage scope so that those issues don’t happen?



In a plant, everyone is a stakeholder and everyone has input into the TSO scope process. The challenge for the TSO manager is managing all of these “needs”.   Further complicating the situation is often the TSO manager is a peer to many of the stakeholders and hence is not the final arbiter or decision maker.

Operations typically has a substantial place at the table and drives much of the work plan.  Further, Operations depends on the Maintenance Department to keep the facility running and in a safe manner, which is the prime Operations directive.  Safety is a huge consideration so staff often defer to the personal safety or process safety professional when they indicate that an item should be part of the TSO work scope.  Environmental or regulatory work scope is key if the facility wants to maintain its “license” to operate. In addition, capital projects staff often have tie-in work for future growth projects.

There are a lot of stakeholders and the needs of each should be carefully weighed and work scope selected based on what is best for the overall business objectives.  The graphic below illustrates some of the key stakeholders.




A Steering Team should be formed for the TSO.  Members of the team are typically senior facility managers from all of the departments as well as key home office managers which typically include commercial and asset managers.  An effective method to select and manage TSO work scope is utilizing scope qualification criteria.  Work scope qualification criteria is developed by the Steering Team during the business strategy stage of the TSO lifecycle. Below are the stages of a TSO lifecycle and one can see that business strategy is the initial stage. During this stage the business goals and objectives for the TSO are established. 

The Steering Team will align the scope with TSO objectives and goals to serve as a guide during the initial planning.  When creating scope qualification criteria, it is important to know what is mandatory and what is discretionary. For example, work that requires a TSO to execute or HSE compliance items is often mandatory. Utilities upgrades, process improvement projects and corporate initiatives are often discretionary.


Here is an example of work scope qualification criteria and the approval process for a fractionation plant.

Work Scope Qualification Criteria

Only select Fractionation Plant is mandatory, work on any other process units is discretionary

Hot oil system work will have priority

All work that supports process controls upgrade will be done

No work on powerplant to be done as a TSO is planned next year

No process improvement or corporate initiative projects will be done


Work Scope Approval Process

Illustrated below is one example of a TSO work scope approval process that uses the work scope qualification criteria to drive scope management.  A further filter of mandatory vs. non-mandatory work is also used to support the decision-making process.



► Develop work Scope Qualification Criteria based on TSO business goals and objectives.

► The work Scope Qualification Criteria should be developed very early in the TSO lifecycle by the       TSO Steering Committee comprised of plant leadership.

► All TSO scope should comply with the Scope Qualification Criteria.

► Examples of scope that may comply with the above criteria often include the following:

• Work that can only be done during a TSO

• Regulatory or HSE compliance work

• Mandatory equipment integrity work

• Safety mandated work


If you would like to learn more about turnaround, shutdown and outage processes and best practices we recommend enrolling in Turnaround, Shutdown and Outage Management(TSOM).

Written by: Pete Luan

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