Shutdowns, Turnarounds and Outages
All of the major process industries (refining, petrochemicals,
power generation, pulp & paper, etc.) have their own nomenclature
for maintenance projects. For the purposes of this document,
"turnaround" is intended to encompass all types
of industrial projects for existing process plants including:
- I&Ts (Inspection & Testing)
- emergency outages
- debottlenecking projects
- catalyst regeneration
where an operating plant must be shut down until the work
is completed and then restarted - thus "turning around"
the unit/plant. Within this document, "turnaround"
is also intended to reference the entire span from pre-turnaround
preparations to shutdown to execution to start-up.
Turnaround Specific Management Methodology
The discipline of project management enjoys different states
of maturity across different industries. The construction
industry probably enjoys the greatest maturity in the field.
The software development/IT industry is probably enjoying
the greatest growth in maturity at this time. The maturity
of the project management discipline in process industries
for turnarounds is still very poor and stagnant at best.
There appears to be little, if any, developement or dialogue
of the discipline within the field. Turnaround failures (budgets
blown by millions of dollars, target dates missed by days)
are still as prevalent as ever. The same mistakes are being
repeated over and over. The main problem is that turnaround
managers continue to treat turnarounds as EPC (civil construction)
projects and apply an EPC centric project management methodology.
One of the greatest challenges to turnaround managers is
realizing that turnarounds are different from EPC projects.
They have their own unique characteristics and demands. They
require a specialized project management methodology. This
document is intended to spark a dialogue for developing a
turnaround specific management methodology.
The Project Management Institute (PMI) has published A Guide
to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) to identify
and describe the subset of the project management discipline
that is applicable to most projects most of the time. It provides
a loose guideline for structuring a project management methodology:
1.1 Purpose of this guide
... the primary purpose of this document is to identify and
describe that subset of the pmbok that is generally accepted.
generally accepted means that the knowledge and practices
described are applicable to most projects most of the time,
and that there is widespread consensus about their value and
usefulness. generally accepted does not mean that the knowledge
and practices described are or should be applied uniformly
on all projects; the project management team is always responsible
for determining what is appropriate for any given project.
It is up to turnaround managers to evaluate the applicability
of their specific project management methodology for turnarounds.
Many turnaround managers do not have a formal background in
project management and have never studied the PMBOK. As a
result, there has been little discussion in professional circles
of the proper application of the PMBOK for a turnaround specific
Most turnaround managers employ an an EPC centric project
management approach to turnarounds. In order to analyze the
applicability of this approach, we first need to understand
the important differences between turnarounds and EPC projects.
Then we shall have the proper basis for evaluating a turnaround
centric project management methodology in accordance with
Important Differences Between Turnarounds
and EPC Projects
There are significant differences between turnarounds and
EPC projects as outlined in the Project Vs. Turnaround white
paper. The significance of these differences bears exploring.
Because the scope is only partially known when execution
begins, turnarounds demand much stricter scope management
controls. A constantly changing scope (and schedule) means
that baseline schedules are useless measuring sticks for turnarounds.
As the baseline schedule is the entire basis for measuring
and tracking EPC project performance, it is clear that a different
paradigm is required for turnarounds.
A changing schedule (and manpower staffing requirements)
make resource leveling, a popular tool for EPC projects, counter-productive
for turnarounds. This issue is explored in greater depth in
the Resource Leveling Vs. Critical Mass white paper.
The compressed work basis for executing turnarounds means
that all team members have less time to analyze and react
to changing priorities. Problems that go unchecked can significantly
impact the chances for a reaching the time and budget goals.
As a consequence, there is a much greater need for using the
schedule to drive the project execution in a turnaround (whereas
it is sometimes used mostly as a contractual tool in EPC projects).
It is critical for all schedule and progress information to
be highly visible, timely, comprehensive and accurate.
With these distinctions in mind, we can now explore the tenets
of the PMBOK and start working towards a turnaround specific
project management methodology.
Project Scope Management
One of the greatest challenges in a turnaround is scope management.
This is true for virtually all phases of scope management
as outlined by the PMBOK: Scope Planning, Scope Definition,
Scope Verification and Scope Change Control.
Scope Planning, Definition and Verification
Unlike EPC projects which usually have a well defined scope
established with a long lead times before the project execution
phase, it is common for turnaround scopes to be changing up
to the last minute before project execution. There are a number
of factors contributing to this:
- Market conditions (plant profitability) can cause variability
in considerations for the budget (requiring scope adjustments),
window (squeezing or relaxing the timeframe available to
execute the project) and start date (which may affect the
decisions on what scope to include, the ability to plan
the work, or material availability).
- Planning input is usually derived with input from Operations,
Inspection, Safety, etc. Operations may continue to identify
potential scope for the turnaround until the last minute.
- The availability of specialized tools, materials, equipment
and/or resources may affect decisions on how to approach
portions of the scope (ie. plans may need adjusting to accommodate
a different method/scenario to accomplish the same goal).
One result of this situation is that turnaround budgets
are rarely based upon a complete, detailed plan. Turnaround
budgets are often based upon conceptual estimates, extrapolations
of past turnarounds, or on incomplete planned scopes that
are compensated with a large contingency. Because of this
situation, it is necessary to review the cost estimate for
the final approved scope and make sure it is covered by the
approved budget (AFE). If not, either the scope should be
culled where possible (or failure to meet the budget will
be predetermined) or the budget should be adjusted to reflect
the plan (not always politically viable).
Scope Change Control
In a turnaround, the scope will change - sometimes dramatically.
As equipment is opened, cleaned and inspected, the extent
of required repairs can be determined, planned, costed and
either approved or tabled for a future window of opportunity.
Every add-on to the schedule should be processed with a defined
procedure for evaluation/approval.
An additional challenge is presented in companies where the
existing culture allows operators to direct work crews (or
get supervisors to direct work crews) to perform work that
for one reason or another were not included in the approved
project scope. The only solution is to change the culture
to respect the defined procedure for add-on approval. Operators
and Supervisors/Superintendents must buy in to the add-on
approval procedure and field hands must be directed to work
only on approved scope as directed by their Supervisors. Where
this is not possible (or "a work in progress"),
it is imperative to at least document and account for these
unapproved jobs where performed so that progress tracking
(earned value) may give a meaningful impression of the productivity
of the field work.
Management needs to excercise care when evaluating add-on
repair scope to ensure that existing resources, productivity
and time can accommodate the work (where the repair scope
is not operationally/safety critical). Management can end
up in a position of balancing the impact of add-on repair
work against the culling of original scope where resources
become constrained on non-critical (both time and operation/safety)
It is desirable to classify scheduled/progressed activities
according to two main criteria:
- Approved Scope
- Unapproved Scope
- Cancelled Scope
- Original Scope
- Add-On Scope
Project Time Management
One of the most obvious signs of the low maturity in turnaround
project management is the state of the planning and scheduling
that is intended to form the foundation of the management
process. A successful turnaround management methodology must
set a high standard for the planning and scheduling to be
Planning activities that are overly broad in scope are one
of the biggest obstacles to using a schedule for any meaningful
- They are difficult to estimate with confidence
- They can mask details that the planner neglected to consider
- They preclude a detailed critical path analysis where
more detail may allow refinements in the logic
- They detract from the accuracy of progress estimates
(estimating % complete is more difficult)
Because of the compressed nature of turnarounds, there is
a very small window available for recording and processing
progress information in order to generate updated schedules
for the next shift. The greater the detail in the activity
definition, the less thinking/guesswork is involved in assigning
progress to the defined tasks.
Activities must be clearly defined, and should be measurable.
This means anyone should be able to determine if a particular
activity (as defined) is in progress, or completed. Activities
must be defined every time there is a break or change in work
content, and/or by changes in the work crew. See the Turnaround
Project Planning Primer for more information on Defining Activities.
It is of paramount importance to understand that, unlike EPC
projects where a baseline schedule is often used as a firm
contractual commitment, for turnarounds a schedule should
be a considered a guideline tool to drive the execution of
the work. This issue is fundamental to developing a successful
turnaround management methodology.
Turnaround managers have a lot of discretion with regards
to scope management in turnaround schedules. While there will
be portions of the scope aside from the critical path work
that must be executed within the instant project, a significant
portion of the scope may usually be postponed to future turnarounds
or maintenance opportunities. As priorities shift depending
upon the scope of add-on repair work and resource constraints,
managers need a turnaround schedule that offers flexibility
in managing the non-critical work.
Baseline schedules (other than critical and near-critical
paths) are meaningless for turnarounds once they start. For
turnarounds, it is expected that as inspections are performed,
a changing scope (and therefore priorities for constrained
resources / non-time-critical work) and often poor schedule
compliance (for unavoidable circumstances) will force the
schedule for non-time-critical work to change from update
Because of the dynamic nature of turnarounds, it can be counter-productive
to employ soft logic and resource leveling schemas that level
the schedule. Both techniques are designed to produce a static
plan for execution that is not practical for turnarounds.
Soft logic will necessitate constant time-consuming changes/updates
to maintain a meaningful schedule once deviations from the
schedule occur (and this is expected in a turnaround). Resource
leveling schemas that alter a hard logic schedule will introduce
multiple problems within a turnaround context as outlined
in the Resource Leveling or Critical Mass? white paper.
It is instead preferable to maintain a schedule for critical
and near-critical path analysis and to allow field supervision
discretion in directing their crews on non-time-critical work
according to changing priorities and circumstances. Turnaround
managers should monitor progress trends, productivity/earned
value and scheduled resource requirements every update to
ensure that sufficient time and resources are available to
complete the non-time-critical work within the span of the
Project Cost Management
Turnarounds are notorious for overrunning the budget. Part
of the problem, as mentioned earlier in the Scope Planning
section, is that budgets are rarely based upon the detailed
plans/estimates for the scope. Many turnarounds have failure
predetermined! Should budgets be based upon a detailed plan
(or at least cover the estimate for it), turnaround managers
have a reasonable basis for managing costs according to the
formula used in EPC projects, as laid out by the PMBOK:
- influencing factors that create changes to the cost baseline
to ensure that changes are agreed upon
- determining that the cost baseline has changed
- managing the actual changes when and as they occur
At the end of a turnaround, the final scope of the execution
usually encompasses several categories of work:
- Known scope (planned/estimated)
- Anticipated repairs (may or may not have been planned/estimated)
- Unanticipated repairs (not planned/estimated)
- Unauthorized work (not planned/estimated)
- Cancelled work (planned/estimated but culled during execution)
So, prior to execution, the turnaround manager may have
a budget set including known scope, anticipated repairs and
some contingency for the remaining items. Because most indirect
costs (not necessarily material costs though) are keyed off
of the direct labor costs, the key to successful cost control
in a turnaround is execution control (keeping resources productive)
and scope management (balancing add-ons against non-critical
Earned Value Management
In most cases, it is very difficult to obtain a meaningful
earned value analysis in a turnaround. There are several problems
that conspire to frustrate the system:
- The process for capturing and approving actual hours usually
lags the progress updates by at least one shift if not two
- The application of the correct work order / cost code
number on timesheets is poor
- Unauthorized work is charged to existing work orders
/ cost codes but not captured for planning / estimating
Where earned value analysis is conducted, it may be most
meaningful to compare numbers broken out by resource type
instead of by work order / cost code. In this fashion, managers
may have a some measure of the productivity of the resource
relative to the schedule.
Project Quality Management
According to the PMBOK, project quality management entails
- quality planning
- quality assurance
- quality control
Of these, quality assurance and quality control are usually
well defined (and in some cases, government regulated) for
safety concerns in turnarounds.
Quality planning on the other hand is an issue that is usually
poorly addressed by turnaround organizations. It is recommended
that organizations employ a system for capturing and improving
plans and estimates for recurring jobs from turnaround to
turnaround. This entails benchmarking during execution and
a follow up review post-execution to update the system. Too
often, the follow up review never occurs and it is left to
chance that the planner will remember necessary details the
next time a turnaround involving the same unit is planned.
In many cases where the preparation time for planning a turnaround
is compressed or inadequate, there is a better than average
chance that turnaround plans based upon templates (or historical
plans) will suffer from cut and paste syndrome and not receive
due consideration for customizing to the instant situation.
The best solution for mitigating these problems is to use
a planning system like eTaskMaker.
Project Human Resource Management
Most turnarounds involve managing a large contract work force
to execute the project. The dynamics of organizational planning
and staffing acquisition are usually well understood. The
industry is mature enough that project roles and responsibilities
are well defined. There is a mature support industry of specialty
and general contractors to supply the necessary human resources.
Probably the greatest challenge that turnarounds present
over EPC projects is the management of the human resource
pools. This is true at a macro (overall staffing levels) and
micro (delegation of work to labor pools) level.
Most turnarounds' staffing levels can be represented with
a bell curve. Staffing levels for specialty skills are brought
up slowly as units are blinded and vessels opened. Staffing
levels are reduced as repairs are completed near the end of
the turnaround. Managers should analyze staffing levels versus
schedule requirements frequently (in some cases daily) to
ensure that sufficient manpower is available to complete the
bulk of non-time-critical work within the span of the critical
path while also demobilizing excess manpower to control costs.
It is critical to the successful execution of a turnaround
for field supervision / superintendents to foster a cooperative
teamwork spirit with regards to managing the existing labor
pool. Where supervisors / superintendents are held accountable
for meeting individual schedule and progress goals, competition
for (and hoarding of) skilled labor can occur and jeopardize
the project success. Supervisors / superintendents should
should bear equal responsibility for meeting the overall schedule
and progress goals.
Project Communications Management
One of the single most important aspects to successful turnaround
management is communication. Because of the compressed time
frame, there is less time available to everyone in the turnaround
team to overcome the problems caused by poor communication.
Many turnaround organizations do not have a communications
plan outlining team members' information needs, delivery schedule
and distribution system. Ad hoc reporting on an as-requested
basis does not provide the necessary foundation for maintaining
high visibility of the project to all stakeholders. A proper
communications plan should include/address:
- Executive Management (summary schedule, progress)
- Turnaround Management (scope, schedule, progress, manpower)
- Planning / Scheduling (scope, schedule, progress)
- Inspection (schedule, progress)
- Operations (scope, schedule, progress)
- Safety (scope, schedule [permit requirements])
- Warehouse (scope, schedule)
Since turnarounds are so dynamic, information needs to be
updated every shift to maintain visibility and control. In
order to help field supervision stay on top of changing schedule
priorities, it is recommended that complete schedule updates
be initiated just before the end of every shift so that updated
schedules may be disseminated to the field at the start of
the next shift. Without complete schedule updates every shift,
the schedule will quickly become meaningless as a tool to
manage and drive the project scope and execution.
Stakeholders in turnarounds are always pressed for time.
It is recommended that all disseminated information conform
to standard report formats. Familiarity with the report format(s)
will allow team members to read and digest the information
quickly while minimizing the potential for misinterpretations.
A turnaround project should not be analyzed in the same manner
as an EPC project. The dynamics and characteristics of EPC
projects and turnarounds are different. Baseline schedules
that drive EPC project analysis are relatively meaningless
for turnarounds after the first couple of shifts.
Turnarounds require specialized metrics for analysis. Some
examples of specialized metrics for turnarounds are:
- Summary Progress Curves for measuring/tracking/trending
against earned progress
- Critical Mass
Project Risk Management
Turnarounds usually entail a high degree of risk. Because
the scope of work is only partially known, managers must prepare
for the possibility that the effort to clean or repair equipment
may exceed estimates and expectations when the equipment is
opened and inspected for the first time.
In general, it is not practical to attempt to model all potential
risks within the project schedule. There are virtually infinite
possibilities for required repairs on the more complicated
pieces of plant equipment like compressors, heaters/furnaces,
It is recommended that risk analysis be considered for critical
and near critical path work in the schedule as they have the
greatest likelyhood for impacting an on time completion. Managers
must balance the costs for maintaining any specialized parts
or materials for identified risks against the costs for a
possible schedule delay should they need to be procured at
the last minute.
Turnarounds are very challenging and dynamic high performance
projects. They have many unique characteristics that differentiate
them from other types of projects. The EPC centric approach
to project management does not work very well for managing
It is hoped that this document may spark a some consideration
for employing a turnaround specific methodology to managing
turnarounds. Considering the stakes, it is high time for industry
to raise the bar in the maturity of their turnaround management