STO Success: The End (Strategic Goal) Justifies the Means (Tactical Actions)

Focusing on the big picture helps determine course of action

The Strategic Goal

You are a member of the management team for a major Shutdown, Turnaround, Outage or Project (STO/P). At the end of the STO/P, what do you want to say to your team and to management about the huge effort that you, and your team, just completed? Something like this?

“Mission Accomplished.

  • Zero HSE Reportables: No one was injured.

Our safe work is a tribute to your care, attention, awareness and diligence and our adherence to process.

  • Zero Re-works: We did not have to re-do any work, including startup

Our high Quality work is a result of your attention to detail and attentive planning and execution.

  • Zero Environmental Events: We had no environmental spills or leaks.

Our neighbors in the community should be reassured that we consistently ‘have their back’.

  • Zero Delay: We completed the work ahead of schedule and the plant is up and in production.
  • Zero Cost Overrun: We completed the work, including changes, within the budget of the STO / Project.”

Accomplishing these objectives covers a huge set of interacting work, done by large number of company and contractor people, suppliers and vendors all working in concert towards the same goal. Coordination of this effort is no small feat.

Additional objectives, before we celebrate too much, include:

  • Post Audit each Plan – Schedule the time to compare the execution of each work package, with the plan for that work package. Note the changes needed to ensure better performance the next time and make those changes in the template work package plan that will be duplicated for the next STO/P event. Ensure that each stakeholder signs off on the changes for each plan.
  • Process each Lesson Learned: Schedule the time and resources to modify the STO/P strategy, including Stages, Deliverables, Processes and Assignments, based on discussion and evaluations of each lesson learned. Ensure that you get the buy-in of stakeholders, via a sign-off, before tweaking the strategy. Ensure that the strategy applies to all of your plants so that you gain the widest benefit from your hard-earned lessons.

This is the end of the STO/P process! Well done! You deserve a promotion! Take a well-earned rest with your loved-ones, who have missed you dearly during the last few weeks.

Tactical Actions (the means: how we achieve the goal)

To weave this together in a consistent way for each of your company plants around the globe, you need a Strategic Plan for Managing a STO/P.

The Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan is already in place for your company, and your solution for managing process ensures that each participant is following a pre-defined process. Briefly, the strategy:

  • Spells out each of the Stages for a STO/P.
  • Defines the Deliverables or Procedures that are to be completed in order for a Stage to be completed and for the process to move through the Stage Gate to the next Stage.
  • Breaks down each Deliverable into Process Steps that are each assignable to a Role within a Stakeholder Department. Process steps should be logically linked to ensure they are presented to be done in the desired sequence.
  • Identifies the Assignment on a process as Responsible or Accountable, to ensure that the person signing off is aware of the expectations.

Basic Stages for a STO/P event

These Stages are configured to meet the needs of your process plant. These examples are applicable to a petrochemical plant that is alert to the hazards of that industry:

  • Readiness: Typically 6 months to a year before a major event. Use this period to include each of the Stakeholder Departments in the scope development, scope challenge (screening), planning, procurement, contract creation, bids, evaluation and assignment. Use Progress Measurement and sign-off, to ensure completion of each stakeholder commitment.
  • Pre-Shutdown Work: Typically 1 or 2 weeks of concerted scaffolding and de-insulation work just prior to the safe shutting down of the chemical and mechanical processes. Contractors move on site and are safety oriented.
  • Shutdown and Safe-ing Process: A controlled shutdown, run by Operations, based on a detailed plan. Includes the gas-free, blinding, blanking, Lock Out and Tag Out (LOTO) processes that are a prerequisite to creating a safe work area for the hordes of contractor maintenance teams that are ready to enter into the plant.
  • Maintenance Period: This is the main event. Money is spent quickly in this period. Teams need safe work permits ready to go, in order to safely get this work done on time and with no cost overruns. Your planning in the Readiness stage really helps you now: People know what they need to do, and get it done, safely, with equipment and materials and permits that are ready for them. When equipment is cleaned, closed and tested, the plant is ready to hand back to Operations.
  • Start Up – De-blinding and Lock/Tag removal and startup follows the detailed Operations plan for this process.
  • Post-Start Up Work: This is the post period when contractor crews are still available to de-scaffold and re-insulate and clean up and de-mob.
  • Post STO/P – complete reviewing invoices, paying the bills, post audit plans and conduct lessons learned reviews, while memory of the pain is fresh and can be leveraged to ensure improvements for the next effort.

Teamwork is working together, with the same information

Your solution backs up your belief that communication and integration is key to having your team work well together. There is no place to hide data, intentionally or unintentionally. The ‘better be safe than sorry’ approach, with large, wasteful STO/P meetings, is no longer needed. People are made aware of issues as the arise, and there are no surprises. The solution enables teams to issue Requests for Information, Obtain feedback, Sign-off as required, and thus forestall potential delays. Verbal commitments, made in hallways, that are promptly forgotten or misunderstood, and that have no documentation of the emerging issue, are not a part of this process any longer.

Ensure that each sign-off, each request for information, each alert for action on a late process, etc. is documented and on the record. Ensure that each stakeholder person is in-the-loop, 24×7, and does not have to wait until the next meeting to, maybe, learn about an emerging issue.

Build your plan, your budget, your contract packages, your material lists, your inspection lists, your shift-based execution lists, your progress tracking, your cost tracking, your time tracking in the solution, so that you never need to re-enter the same data into a spreadsheet.

Reap the Benefits

Your team will appreciate this ‘no place to hide’ approach and will improve their performance as visibility of actions is improved. This, in turn works to ensure that the goal, that you started out with, is easily met. This is all common-sense. The challenge that our industry has, is in ensuring that our solutions mirror this common-sense approach that we understand intuitively. It is incumbent on each STO/P team to recognize the value of a coherent strategy and to implement in the solution, the means for the team to act in accordance with the strategic plan. In this way, companies with one or many sites can ensure consistent, significant returns on investment. The convergence of technology and knowledge in the solution provides a solid foundation for success in STO/P management.