Routine turnarounds are a fact of life at most industrial plants, factories, and refineries. It is during this time that day-to-day operations cease and important maintenance and service duties are carried out. Turnarounds are also expensive and potentially dangerous if handled incorrectly. Avoiding the following common mistakes will go a long way toward making your next industrial turnaround more successful.
- Too Much Cost Cutting – Turnarounds are extremely costly and it is prudent to attempt to keep costs as low as possible without damaging the success of the turnaround. However, too much cost cutting can backfire and result in a subpar turnaround.
- Blindly Selecting the Lowest Bid – When contractors bid on the turnaround it is important to examine more than just the price of the bid alone. Some companies may have low bids because they deliver poor quality work or can’t actually get the job done on time. In addition to the bid itself consider the experience, resources, and reputation of the companies.
- Poor Budgeting – Poor budgeting can work both ways: either constraining the turnaround with an unrealistically tight budget, or turning it into a money sinkhole by allocating too large a budget. Instead it is important to accurately and realistically budget likely expenses and costs.
- Delaying Repairs or Replacements – With so much money already being spent on labor, maintenance, parts, and downtime, it can be tempting to delay a needed repair or replacement if the piece of equipment is still working. However, turnarounds are ideally suited to these types of repairs and replacements precisely because the facility is already offline and everything is already geared for this type of maintenance. Trying to save money by delaying repairs or replacements could result in even more costly outages down the road if the equipment fails completely or in long-term productivity and output shortfalls if it keeps running, but only poorly.
- No Cost Control – Many of the problems on this list arise due to attempts to save money; however, it is just as large a financial mistake to throw too much money at a turnaround and fail to have any cost control measures in place.
- Poor Scheduling – Effective scheduling is crucial during a turnaround. This includes the scheduling of workers such that there is adequate shift coverage without over-scheduling. It also encompasses scheduling the arrival of needed parts and equipment at the right time.
- Poor Planning – Turnarounds are very large, complicated undertakings. The sequence and pacing of work is crucial and in many cases the same equipment and personnel will be needed in different places during multiple phases. Without thorough planning the turnaround can easily become a logistical nightmare.
- Ineffectual Communication – Good communication is the key to keeping a turnaround running smoothly. This includes communication between various departments and team leaders, as well as communication between the company heads and the various contractors and subcontractors. Mistakes and inefficiencies will run rampant if everyone isn’t on the same page.
- Vague Objectives – Having vague objectives and no or few progress benchmarks can be just as destructive to a turnaround. Clear objectives with clearly defined benchmarks are crucial for keeping the turnaround on task and providing teams and individuals with a way to measure and monitor their success.
- Ignoring Data from Previous Turnarounds – No two turnarounds are exactly the same; however, ignoring data from previous turnarounds is a huge mistake. Examining the issues that arose last time is a great way to prepare for and head off any similar problems during the new turnaround. Examining past turnarounds is also a great strategy for setting budgets, objectives, and benchmarks and for looking for strategies to improve performance.
- Failing to Orient New or Temporary Workers – Since the labor needs for a turnaround are typically much higher than for day-to-day operations it is common for companies to hire new or temporary workers. Any contracting or subcontracting companies are also likely to come with their own work crews. This ultimately means that there will be quite a few new, often inexperienced faces present for the turnaround. It is crucial to do job walk-throughs, safety analyses, and general orientation with these new workers to ensure that everyone is aware of risks and how to handle them.
- Abandoning Safety Protocols – Accident rates are usually higher during turnarounds than during routine operations. A major reason for this is that during routine operations there are countless safety protocols and procedures in place. By contrast since turnarounds happen relatively infrequently there may not be as many established safety protocols or it may be easier for them to be overlooked. Establishing and emphasizing the importance of safety protocols is an important way to prevent accidents.
- Creating an Environment that Doesn’t Value Safety – It is just as important to establish and maintain a culture of safety at the job site, particularly during turnarounds. Employees must know that safety is the number one priority, and that it is not okay to abandon safety procedures even for the sake of higher productivity or convenience.
- Inadequate QA/QC – Testing, quality assurance, and quality control are vital for ensuring that equipment, processes, and production are running smoothly. Often good QA and QC will require significant investments in time and money, but the ultimate payoff is better quality, consistent reliability, and higher profits.
- Ignoring Correct Maintenance Procedures – With so much going on during a turnaround it can be tempting for some workers to cut corners and ignore correct maintenance procedures for a given piece of equipment or machinery. However, doing so puts the equipment and indeed the entire facility at risk. It may also void important manufacturer warranties.
- Poor Synergy between Departments – It is more important than ever for the different departments within a company to work together smoothly during a turnaround. This means establishing a collaborative style and looking for ways to help each other as opposed to squabbling or competing.
- Insufficient Training – It is crucial that everyone who will be working on the turnaround be well trained and prepared for their job responsibilities. Insufficient worker training can rapidly take the sails out of an otherwise good turnaround.
Polaris offers high quality turnaround and maintenance services. We can help your company avoid these and other serious turnaround mistakes. We can also show you how to make your turnaround more efficient and cost effective. Please contact us for more information.