Past Plans – Source for Turnaround Lessons Learned

Learn Lessons from your past plans
Learn lessons from your past plans. 

The Turnaround Premise – what’s the value of Past Plans?

Turnarounds are intermittent projects for process plants. For this reason,  you need to staff up for them, starting months before the Execution stage.  To fill the required Turnaround Roles, you use a mix of in-house staff, seconded from their full-time roles, and contracted experts.  The assembled turnaround staff follows the Turnaround Procedures, so as to complete the required deliverables in each of the 5 stages of your turnaround lifespan.  These procedures were painstakingly built and maintained and were built based on lessons learned in past plans from past turnarounds.

As turnaround teams are temporary, and are assembled for each new turnaround, they are challenged to comply with unfamiliar processes and procedures.  Some people may be new to your site.  Team members may have been seconded from the Routine Maintenance team.  In this post we’ll dig deeper to expose the problems caused by this unfamiliarity and the technology used to manage and maintain historical turnaround data.  We’ll finish with a description of a logical solution pathway to discover and use lessons learned from past plans.

Stages of a Turnaround

Plant teams organize their Turnaround work into 5, largely sequential, stages, as described here.

In the Strategic stage (1), the team formulates roles and responsibilities, the turnaround charter and pre-qualifies (ex. risk analyze) the work scope for inclusion in the turnaround scope.

During the Tactical stage (2), the planners and estimators build the detailed plans, and estimate the costs to build cost and schedule baselines for the turnaround scope.

Within the Logistical stage (3), the procurement and supply chain teams formulate contract packages, pre-qualify contractors and vendors, and manage the communications with suitable contractors that culminates in selection of the winning contractors and vendors.  Safety teams ensure that contractors are oriented during mobilization.

While in the Execution stage (4), your field teams get the work completed safely, and efficiently, in order to get the plant back up and running on schedule.

And finally, in the Operational Stage (5) your Maintenance teams, along with Operations Teams, ensure a safe restart of the plant, and the close out of turnaround-related accounts.

The Problem

While some turnarounds may have a capital projects component, like replacing a FCC head,  most work scope is a repetition of job steps that were done in previous turnarounds or outages.

Past Plans versus New Plans

In stage 2, the planner develops detailed job steps for maintaining each  equipment asset.  While newer technology may be available for the current maintenance, such as a better cleaning method, the basic plan work steps are pretty much the same every time.  The steps for maintaining valves, pumps, exchangers, towers and vessels are almost exactly the same, with the same resources, on each successive maintenance cycle or turnaround.

Your past few plant turnarounds provide you with a goldmine of reusable data and analytics knowledge of each equipment asset in your plant. An equipment asset’s previous plan, or plans, provides a much better starting point than starting from scratch for each turnaround.

A similar discussion applies for the turnaround risk analysis, roles and responsibility definition, safety checklists, quality, cost and schedule reporting frameworks.

It simply makes sense to not completely ‘reinvent the wheel’ on each new turnaround. At the very least, duplicating, then modifying a past plan seems like a less risky way to go, rather than building a new one from scratch every time. However, the past plan’s lessons can only be learned, when the past plan is in focus and not hidden away deep in a complex folder hierarchy.

Why, then, does your new turnaround team effectively start from scratch each time? One reason is, you often have a new team, and the second reason relates to the technology’s limitations. A short review of each of these issues follows.

New Team members, Past Lessons Not Learned

In order for Plants to keep their costly FTE staff low, they must use contracted expert help to supplement their turnaround teams.  While the contracted staff are quite experienced, having been exposed to turnarounds in many locales, they are not as conversant with your plant and processes.

Among the core contracted skills that are brought in are ‘Primavera Planners’. As a ‘Primavera Planner’ myself, and having worked with the ‘Primavera plans’ across hundreds of projects and turnarounds, I have a good understanding of ‘Primavera Plans’.  Incidentally MS Project plans are quite similar, and this discussion relates to those as well.

The quality of the plans differ wildly, depending on the skill and knowledge of the planner and on the expectations of the plant owner, or the Steering Team. Factors that affect the quality include:

  • The level of detail in breakdown of activities, ex. are durations consistently less than a shift in length?
  • Consistent modeling of turnaround, plant and unit milestones and utility outages;
  • The logic ties between each asset’s job steps and milestones;
  • The level of resource loading on each activity, including the use of congested areas to limit work congestion;
  • The minimal use of constrained dates on activities and the exposure of these when used;
  • The use of crew, craft, equipment and congestion resource limits to regulate flow of work on to daily crew work lists;

Simply stated, it is virtually impossible to get the same, or even a similar, result from different planners over multiple years,  without a standard checklist and set of planning processes based on lessons learned from past plans.

Technology Shared Dead End

A common reason provided for not using previous data is a variant of: “those past files are hard to get to (even though they are in Sharepoint) and, in any case, the data is not that good, because that turnaround was ‘fill in the blanks here with a reason or excuse or some explanation’ . . “.

Your plant has valuable, historical Primavera or MS Project projects safely stashed away in a Sharepoint folder.  And there they remain.  Hidden from the world and from the next turnaround team!  They find it simply too time-consuming (and costly as an expense that’s hard to justify) to tease out meaningful data from this past, stored plan data.

The same goes for innumerable spreadsheets also, carefully stored and ignored.  It simply takes too much time to make this past plan data make sense. And so, your new team starts from scratch each time.

The Solution

What would be a logical solution to this issue of ignored ‘past plan data’? Simply having all of your historical plans in a single location is a good start. Also, being able to store multiple iterations of the plan, as it evolves in Stage 2, through completion in Stage 4 would provide a useful audit tool to help in development of new lessons learned based on past plans.

As TeamWork Group has imported thousands of Primavera XER files and Excel files, we are an ideal choice for no-nonsense staging your past plans. These past plans become more useful and available on any of your mobile devices when they are reviewed in TeamWork’s Integrated Solution Technology (TWIST) browser-based, spreadsheet-like screens and tabs.  You can easily examine and compare the logic, the resource loading, etc.  between multiple historical past plans.  Your analysis helps you to tease out data-driven lessons learned from your goldmine of past plans.

Your Benefits

Your current scenario, i.e. not learning lessons from your past plans and schedules, is not a good norm. If you agree that this needs to change, then you are ready to reap benefits from the easy to use, cloud-enabled, easy to access historical work into which you have already invested copious amounts of time and money.

With your past plans available 24×7, at your own site, you can copy an equipment package or a group of packages to create a new turnaround or shutdown schedule.  

Then, when you are ready, you can download it as an XER file, to import into your own Primavera space.

If you wish, as an added value, you can use our plan analytical tools and TeamWork Group’s support, to provide you with a completeness analysis of your plans. Questions such as:

  • What percent of activities are NOT resource loaded?
  • What percent of activities are NOT linked logically?
  • Percentage of activity logic tied to Milestones?
  • Number of activities not assigned to an execution crew?
  • Percent of activities driven by Procurement delivery dates?
  • can be answered, along with others that make sense to you and your team . . .

Each of these measures can be baselined against your own company data, or against an industry and regionally-biased baseline, to justify the use of lessons learned from improvements based on past data analysis.


Until you add value to your hard-earned data, by using analytics to tease out useful information, your Sharepoint, or other file-based, repository is of little added value.

Is it any wonder that your teams prefer to start each new turnaround and project from scratch, with new plans developed by fresh, and often transient, contractor-based, teams?

Your adoption of the TeamWork Integrated Solution Technology (TWIST) platform to store your data in an analytics-friendly, always accessible mode, is your first step to making your data work for you.

What Happens Next?

Contact us via the website Contact Us form at:

or email us at:

We’ll followup by validating you and your company, to ensure that your data is secure, and then providing you with a secure access to your site, where you, and your team, can upload and review and compare your plans.

Acknowledgement: Trade names of products mentioned in this post are used for illustration and are the property of their respective owners.