Managing a Plant Maintenance Turnaround

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What is a plant maintenance turnaround?

In order to ensure that a process plant continues to run at peak efficiency, it is prudent to do a sort of “spring cleaning” of huge sections of the plant. This cleaning and repair process is called a turnaround (stop the plant, clean and repair, then start the plant). In certain industries and areas, a turnaround may also be called a shutdown, an outage, an overhaul, a slowdown. In all cases, an operating plant or plants are carefully and safely shutdown. Maintenance workers then descend on the plant and work around the clock for days or weeks to get the plant ready to run again. Plant downtime is money lost and the owner is willing to pull out all the stops to ensure that the plant is up and running (and earning money) as soon as possible.

Turnaround Management Organization

In order to manage all of the work that is involved in a turnaround, the maintenance manager and plant manager typically assign the position of turnaround manager to a seasoned engineer or project manager. The newly-assigned turnaround manager has a number of challenges to confront. These include:

  • The immediate need for a strong team of support staff to help manage the turnaround
  • Coordinating the efforts of 100 or more contractor companies and their personnel
  • Assimilating and managing the scope of work to be done during the turnaround
  • Planning the work in the upcoming turnaround
  • Scheduling the turnaround work
  • Coordinating with operations and process personnel regarding availability of operating assets, as well as approval tracking
  • Managing the safe execution of the work
  • Accurate tracking of costs
  • Timely and accurate payment to contractors
  • Logistical planning and support of the turnaround effort
  • Accurate recording of work done in the historical record of the plant’s assets

Each of these challenges, and their relevance to the turnaround management process, is discussed in turn. We use the features of the TeamWork Solutions work management system to highlight how an integrated tool that supports all of these efforts is the turnaround manager’s best option to ensure that a successful outcome is guaranteed.

Too many turnarounds today still result in the turnaround manager having an abrupt and involuntary career change. This occurs for a variety of reasons, including poor decisions with respect to the timely handling of turnaround-related information. It is ironic that, in the information age, we are using tools such as Excel and Word to bury ourselves in redundant data that is the result of poor data management choices.

Turnaround Team

Many plants troll for turnaround personnel from the ranks of their in-house staff or from their contractor companies. It is important to ensure that the people chosen are knowledgeable in the management of maintenance work. Too often I have heard the call go out for “Primavera planners.” A person that understands how to use a software tool is not the equivalent of a person who knows how to plan the disassembly, cleaning, repair and reassembly of a tower, an exchanger bundle or a heater. In fact, the team that makes this wrong choice has a huge problem from the very start of the turnaround. This is a fatal flaw in the organization.

The turnaround data management tool should NEVER determine who is on your team. Ensure that you have good people who understand the scope and nature of the work. These people will take to the appropriate turnaround tool as easily as a duck to water – regardless of their experience with computers.

TeamWork Solutions‘ web-based turnaround work management tool is available 24×7 on the Web and cloud. Any application on the Web is, by definition, an easy application to master. It will not require experts in scheduling, database, word processing or spreadsheet software to be used effectively and accurately.

Contractor Management

You may have five to ten major contractor companies, each supplying 100 to 1000 people for the turnaround effort.  Each of these may have a few sub-contractors. In addition, you may have service contracts for smaller numbers of specialty people such as painters, NDE technicians, compressor mechanics, etc. You have to have a plan for distributing the work to the available workforce. You have to decide whether you will have time and materials (T&M) or lump sum (LS) contracts.  Do you plan to have contractors with union people work alongside those with non-union people? If you do, you need to have an agreement with the unions that outlines the rules of engagement. You certainly do not want to be surprised by labor action at the beginning of your turnaround.

You will need to prepare a bid package for each chunk of work. Along with the scope of work, each contract needs to include your expectations for the contractor’s timekeeping and progress reporting. You will need to have a team to prepare these packages for issuance to the contractors. Another team needs to review the bids that are received.

Your team then needs to work closely with the winning contractors to ensure that the plans are workable within target timeframes. A detailed review and walk-through of the site by your planners and contractor planners is a mandatory requirement that pays dividends in ensuring that there are no surprises once the work starts.

TeamWork Solutions is a great tool for having both your staff and the contractors work from the same playbook––yours.  Bids can be prepared based on the estimates and plans already completed in TeamWork Solutions. Bid comparisons and awards can be made from TeamWork Solutions. You can coordinate meeting agendas and minutes, as well as training for your in-house and contractor personnel. TeamWork Solutions also provides a means for attaching contract bids and other documents to the turnaround project. This provides everyone in your team with ready access to all relevant contract documents.

This saves immensely in meeting time, and prevents redundant communications such as, “What does the contract say about supplying safety PPE?” or “Where is the contract?” These types of questions are following by a rummage through a filing cabinet or a search for the MS Word document that is saved on a clerk’s hard disk. More wasted time.

Scope Management

Just what exactly is the scope of the turnaround? Currently, each department in the plant maintains its own “wish list” of items for the next turnaround. These lists are maintained laboriously in Excel spreadsheets or standalone Access databases. They are pulled out and provided to plant managers about six months prior to a turnaround. Turnaround scope items should be collected and maintained in the same place that all maintenance work scope is maintained––the asset work manager. When this is done, the opportunity for completing turnaround scope is possible during unplanned plant outages. The asset work manager also allows for routine maintenance work to possibly be delayed until a turnaround, thus reducing the cost of having to ready a site for two different work cycles.

The benefits of a transparent scope development tool that is accessible to all people in the plant––operations, maintenance, reliability, inspection, environmental, engineering and safety––ensures that there are no surprises, and that unnecessary work is avoided.

TeamWork Solutions‘ work management tool is a robust and complete tool for collecting work to be done on each asset.  In addition, electronic links to condition-monitoring (CM) systems provide for automatic generation of environmental and inspection work requests. TeamWork Solutions‘ coordinated, asset-focused work management system ensures that all people in the plant can access, review, add to and comment on any work that is being considered. In addition, TeamWork Solutions supports electronic approval cycles that ensure that a record is kept of each business-rule-mandated approval, its date and its approver. TeamWork Solutions document management system also ensures that any backup information for each work request is available by simply accessing the work request itself.

Planning Management

The work that a good planner does is like a warranty that ensures the success of the turnaround. A detailed plan is the basis of a great schedule, as well as an accurate estimate of costs. Your planner’s time should be maximized by the provision of a planning system that ensures that he/she spends the majority of his/her time walking the site and discussing the logistical issues with operators, inspectors, etc. The planning tool should be simple and focused on easily collecting the plan data from the planner. A hand-held mobile device is optimal as the planner can accomplish a large amount of planning without returning to his/her desk.

The plan should be integrated directly with the asset work management system that is used for collecting the work scope, as it makes no sense to plan in a different system than your scope development system. This simply invites errors (such as asset number inconsistencies) and requires the maintenance of redundant data in a separate spreadsheet or scheduling program. Using a scheduling program for the planning process puts an undue focus on scheduling issues, when the focus needs to be simply and completely on plan development. Too many schedule-based plans are severely flawed because scheduled-based considerations are included in the plan. Similarly, planning considerations are often trumped by schedule concerns. Certain small duration, but critical, work items may be ignored by a scheduler for being too insignificant when viewed alongside larger duration, big-ticket, schedule items.

TeamWork Solutions‘ simple, planner-focused tool is designed to maximize the bang-for-buck for the time the planner spends with it.  With it, a planner creates a work package for an asset. He/she adds detailed work items for each work package. He/she links each work item to ensure that there is a logical flow to the work in the work package. He/she estimates the manpower needed to complete the work item in the estimated timeframe. He/she also estimates the consumable materials as well as delivery timeframes for these. Costs due to specialty work that is needed to complete the work item are also estimated. The complete plan is the foundation of the entire tracking system and must be accurate. TeamWork Solutions also includes a status-based change management system. This allows the planner to modify the plan based on newer information as the work progresses.


The scheduling process for a turnaround project takes a well-planned scope of work, marries it to a well defined human and equipment resource availability matrix, and then computes possible dates for each work item in the schedule. A number of dates affect the computation of the schedule, including turnaround periods (which define timeframes within which certain work, such as pre-shutdown work, is done), milestones (which provide target dates and also act as the start and finish of each period), date constraints, logic, duration and progress data dates. Applying resource limits to the availability of manpower and equipment resources further affects the computation of these scheduled dates.

Your system should be able to pretty much automatically (without human intervention) use the data provided by the target milestones and the availability of manpower and equipment to do the scheduling function. Your head planner and turnaround manager working with the contractor planners can provide the information required for scheduling directly to the system.

TeamWork Solutions‘ built-in scheduling engine, SALLE, is the automated scheduler that does the work with data that is provided. It can be set to run automatically at a preset time each day. Sophisticated, priority-based multiple forward pass scheduling ensures that the optimal dates are computed for work items. The result of the schedule is presented in a simple, easy to read milestone variance format.  Critical path is determined as the shortest duration from start to finish. Use of resource leveling ensures that many critical paths can emerge in order to help finish the work more quickly.


A substantial volume of communication types are required during a turnaround, including:

  • Meeting agendas
  • Meeting minutes
  • Scope request spreadsheets turnaround
  • Contract documents
  • Training records
  • Estimates
  • Engineering drawings

Now look at the distribution lists that seem to be an integral part of every turnaround. A team of clerks will copy incessantly prior to and during a turnaround in order to keep the distribution list supplied with paper. This wasteful approach, rather than a “green” alternative, is required because there is no single system available to each of the turnaround players: the manager, the planners, the foremen, the superintendents, operators, inspectors, safety personnel, contractors, etc. So, give them one system!

TeamWork Solutions has all of the tools needed to ensure that your communication gets to its intended recipient. It records the recipient’s responses and tracks each issue identified on the communication. If the recipient needs a hard copy, they have that option. It is time to move into the 21st century and use the tools that are available.


You really cannot do anything safely in a plant without having the appropriate person sign-off on it. These approvals are often a big reason for demanding that paper be printed. The arrival of electronic signatures has now provided a means for ensuring that all business-rule-based approvals––for expenditure of company funds or for safe work––are tracked accurately (similar to the FedEx electronic signatures).

TeamWork Solutions supports the routing of electronic materials for approvals based on a business-rule-based routing map. There is no longer any doubt about whether someone has approved something. A person may assign approval ability to a designee. Approval ability is inherently available to a supervisor. Simply managing all of the approvals centrally, in the same system as the rest of your work is accomplished, is a huge time savings. It also lends an air of high professionalism to the process. It certainly saves a lot of time.

Execution Management

The people that actually do the work need to be a part of the picture as well. A hand-held mobile wireless system is a critically useful tool for foremen in the field. They can quickly see what needs to be done next. They need to also be able to quickly indicate when they have completed a task or work item. In addition, at the end of their shift they should be able to easily record the people that worked on work items that day. This would save them the tedious and error-prone task of filling out timesheets.

The frontline of the work is where the foreman is often hit with deviations to the plan. Currently, these deviations are often lost as the foreman simply assigns people to the work and it is done right away. This happens because current systems for planning and tracking work are tedious.

TeamWork Solutions‘ execution management tools provide frontline supervision with a tactical advantage to help them get their work done more quickly and far more accurately than they can with current tools and approaches. Tools for accurately collecting scope changes, progress data and actual time expended by labor and equipment are all easily and quickly maintained by foremen. This approach leaves them with more time to actually direct their crews than they currently have available.

Tracking of Costs

Your labor, equipment, materials and contracted expenses are costs that are incurred in real time during the execution phase of the turnaround. When these incurred costs are compared, also in real time, with the earned value (based on progress) and the target costs, the turnaround manager has an extremely useful and effective tool to help in making real-time decisions based on how things are developing in the field. Add to this a real time comparison of the commitments and the expenditures to date, and the manager has a holistic picture of the entire turnaround AFE project. This is the single most important tool that the manager has, and its success in communicating the story is based on the close integration of each data source––scope development, planning, scheduling, execution, purchasing and accounting.

TeamWork Solutions provides the tool that accomplishes a complete integration of work management with external accounting and purchasing systems. Electronic integration reduces the need for redundant and error-prone data entry. TeamWork Solutions’ integration of turnaround tasks enables it to also provide mission-critical, timely decision-support reports for turnaround management. This is also done with a lessened need for costly contracted (temporary) help.  Skill building opportunities for plant personnel are enhanced.

Invoice Verification

Your contractor, with 100 people on-site, has just presented you with a bill. This bill is due in a week. His line of credit will not let him have four weeks in a row of these expenses, so it is imperative that you pay him quickly. You need a system that has already tracked the time each of those 100 people spent working. You should know what they worked on. You should know if they worked overtime and whether that was authorized. You should have signed acknowledgment that the equipment that he is billing you was actually on site and used. Also, you need validation that the materials that were delivered were, in fact, received.

TeamWork Solutions‘ timekeeping and tracking modules are integrated with the work scope being executed and provide a tight link between the work done and who did it. As this data is collected in real time from frontline foremen, it is quite accurate – more so than the timesheets and LEMS that are filled after the fact in most scenarios today. With this tool available, you can be confident that your contractors’ invoices can be quickly validated and that they will also stand the test of a company audit.


Each turnaround has a list of items that must be done in a certain order. These have been developed at each plant – usually as a “lessons learned” process following a turnaround. In order to not have to redundantly re-learn all of these lessons and to help you get things done expeditiously, you can use previously developed checklists and lists.

TeamWork Solutions has built-in locations for documentation, as well as numerous locations for note-keeping. These provide a way to ensure that the best practices that you evolve during your turnaround remain readily available to the people that follow you. They will be grateful that you were as thorough and were as attentive to detail as you needed to be. Successful turnarounds will become routine. What a concept!

Work History Retention

A quick review of current paradigms in plant turnarounds will show you that the work history is seldom effectively recorded in the asset’s history. This is because a one system was used for scheduling the work and another for managing it. That system was used because there were experts in it available. Now that the turnaround is done, everyone’s attention is focused on completing things and getting the costly contractors off the payroll. So, little attention is given to the asset history. “Hey, we have the files, so we have the history, right?” “We can always get someone to add it in later.” Yeah, right. This never gets done. And if it is done, it is riddled with errors as it is entered after the fact––and by data entry people who have no memory of the events.

TeamWork Solutions has an asset management system at its core. This allows you to manage all asset-focused work in a way that the work is always a part of the asset history––whether the work is already completed or simply being considered. The whole story of the asset is always ready to be viewed at any time.


Managing a turnaround is a little like being a juggler––with about 100 pins! Still, with the right mix of people and an integrated tool for the job, you should be well on your way to being a successful turnaround manager.

We, at TeamWork Group, are glad to make ourselves available, in person or over the Web, to help you decide your options and to help you manage your turnarounds. Our TeamWork Associates can be on-site with you and your team to help them build skills that will help you and them “fly solo” in the future.