Plant turnarounds play a crucial role in the overall success of a petrochemical company’s annual operations. This is because the maintenance and cleanup which take place during the turnaround increases and optimizes the plant’s efficiency. The turnaround, or shutdown, also helps prevent accidents or unplanned outages before they occur and cost the company even more money. However, shutdowns are also an extremely expensive undertaking. It is not uncommon for the equivalence of an entire year’s maintenance budget to be spent just in the short time that the turnaround is occurring. This is why the success and efficiency of the process is imperative to reap big rewards as well as to avoid major fiscal losses. This article will briefly cover 7 ways that STI Group services turnarounds to make them more efficient.
We Emphasize Safety
Some OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) estimates put the number of accidents which occur at plants during non-routine operations as high as 70%. That is a shocking figure considering that non-routine operations, such as plant turnarounds, account for a relatively small fraction of the plant’s overall yearly cycle. There are a number of reasons which might explain the elevated accident rate during turnarounds. For example:
- Increased pressure on employees to work quickly and efficiently
- Ordinary, routine safety protocols aren’t in place, or are different during a turnaround
- Work may be performed by temporary or contract employees who are less familiar with the equipment, or less experienced overall.
The cost of accidents are often difficult to fully assess because they can potentially cause personal anguish and debilitation to the injured employees and their families. No true monetary figure can be accurately attributed to this human suffering; however, that doesn’t change the fact that accidents are also extremely expensive to the company. Accidents can mean higher insurance premiums, expensive lawsuits and settlements, bad publicity, and of course lowered productivity and delays while the accident is being rectified.
Thus, in order to protect the employees’ well-being, cut overall costs, and make turnarounds more efficient STI Group places an extreme emphasis on safety during turnarounds.
Some of our safety measures include:
- Daily assessment of employees prior to their shift to ensure that they are healthy and fit for duty
- Safety checklists and other protocols
- Carefully training each employee on safe operational procedures
- Ongoing safety related supervision
- Establishing and emphasizing a culture of safety
To understand more about our commitment to safety, read about STI Group’s 13 Pillars of Safety which are at the core of our operations
We Plan Carefully
There is an adage that goes “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” That is never more true than when it comes to something as large-scale and logistically complicated as a plant turnaround. A thorough plan provides a clear, organized sequence of events, allows for contingency steps that may need to be taken, and ensures a realistic estimate of the time, money, and resources involved for each part of the process.
STI Group plans the execution of turnarounds with both a backward and forward perspective. When organizing a turnaround we review data from the previous year and use that information accordingly to formulate a new plan. However, we also build in a great deal of forward momentum as we look for ways to increase efficiency and accomplish the plant’s new goals for the coming year.
We formulate a comprehensive plan that includes information about all sections of the plant. We confer with key personnel such as shift leaders and project managers so that they too have a chance to review the plan before the turnaround begins. This way they can express any concerns or discuss any additional information which might necessitate tweaking the plan. A good example would be if they inform us that a piece of machinery or equipment needs to be upgraded or replaced. Turnarounds often provide the best, and sometimes the only viable time for such upgrades and replacements. By knowing all of this information ahead of time and making sure that the new machinery or parts have been secured, we can draft a plan taking everything into consideration and make the turnaround much more efficient.
We Communicate Clearly
Clear communication is at the heart of any successful project. For a turnaround to be successful the objectives of the plant must be clearly communicated to all parties involved and a strong plan of action must be formed to address how each of these objectives will be met. It is imperative that everyone involved in the turnaround be on the same page in terms of what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, and how long it needs to take. This not only directly relates to good planning itself, it also makes employees more committed to meeting the goals and adds an element of accountability into the mix. Furthermore it provides a benchmark against which progress can be measured.
Once we have received the plant’s objectives we articulate them to personnel at all levels. This allows both individual workers as well as STI Group to carefully gauge progress so that corrective action can be taken as needed or so that successful strategies and events already taking place can further be maximized.
At its core level clear communication provides a foundation for the entire success and efficiency of the turnaround itself. STI Group strives to meet and exceed all of the plant’s stated objectives and we keep the channels of communication open the entire time this is taking place, allowing for actionable feedback and input.
We Are Experienced In Project Management
In order for any complicated pursuit to be successful and efficient it requires strong leadership. In the case of a plant turnaround this leadership will come in the form of project management. STI Group is highly experienced and effective in this area. Our project management will:
- Schedule all of the turnaround work and activities
- Handle the logistics and execution of each project in the turnaround
- Conferring with each project or department leader
- Oversee the execution of safety protocols and other safety measures
- Coordinate and manage the turnaround’s personnel
- Accurately track all of the costs involved with the turnaround
- Keep a careful record of the work and activities done during the turnaround for the plant
This list of responsibilities and their considerable scope require the job project management to be very involved and complicated. Having STI Group manage the shutdown can put plant management and administration at ease.
We Use a Skilled Team of Workers and Craftsmen
It stands to reason that your turnaround will only be as efficient as the workers that you employ. It is not uncommon for a plant to need to hire contract workers to perform some of the increased labor and maintenance that is needed during a turnaround. That is exactly where STI Group comes into play with our highly qualified workers and craftsmen. We emphasize work excellence.
Our workers are NCCER certified craftsmen. NCCER is a national education foundation that develops standardized construction and maintenance curricula. Being NCCER certified means the laborers are guaranteed to have met knowledge and training standards and are very skilled in their crafts.
Our skilled, certified laborers will allow you peace of mind in the knowledge that they know what they are doing and are not putting themselves, their coworkers, or your plant and equipment at risk by being ignorant of safety standards or inexperienced with the machinery. Having quality workers will also mean that less time is spent correct mistakes or having to review information that they should already know. This results in a faster, safer, better performed turnaround and more than offsets any small savings you might have gotten by hiring less qualified people.
We Monitor the Budget and Costs Carefully
Naturally a big part of a turnaround’s success is whether or not it stays within budget. That is why STI Group is so meticulous about monitoring expenses and keeping the plant informed about any changes. In order to do this we report on a day-to-day basis the man hours used. This allows the plant to track this important budget aspect.
We also inform the plant right away of the potential for any change orders. Change orders can have a big impact on a budget and might occur as a result of a number of possible reasons. For instance a change in the scope of the turnaround or unexpected downtime due to rainouts or other unforeseen circumstances such as delays from a third party vendor. Whatever the case, STI Group will let you know immediately so that the budget or plan can be adjusted accordingly.
Our detailed cost tracking will also help you come up with savings strategies for the next shutdown, as well as provide valuable information that you can use to adjust your budget as needed the next time. We also utilize project controls to keep the budget from being exceeded in the first place without careful review and approval. This ensures that spending in any one area doesn’t get out of control and that the plant management is fully aware of the unexpected, rising costs.
As you can see from this list of STI Group’s turnaround efficiency strategies, many of them are interrelated and the success earned in one category is likely to have a positive spill-over effect into another category. Our success is measured by the overall effectiveness of the shutdown and the plant’s satisfaction for our services. With that in mind, STI Group treats every project as an opportunity to continue earning your business as a partner and service provider.