Shutdown and turnaround management part 1

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Aside from a shortage of skilled labour, non-compliance or failure to respect on-site procedures by third parties is the greatest hindrance facing industry. According to a worldwide study by the ASM Consortium, these violations are more common during exceptional situations, such as a shutdown. Why is this? Factors include third parties having insufficient skills and experience on the site, as well as the lack of a consistent response to violations during process operations such as start-up and shutdown procedures. The results of 18 factory studies in Europe, the US and Canada show that 40% of abnormal situations in process operations can be attributed to human error.

Proper planning of the entire cycle is the only way to guarantee that the shutdown or turnaround will run smoothly and without incident. This practical guide, with useful links, focuses on the planning phase, the shutdown, the turnaround process and finally, the restart.


The real challenge is to design and execute an optimal strategy to meet your company’s business and operational goals. One can never guarantee 100% certainty, but many major errors can be avoided. Maintenance needs can be divided into routine, failure-sensitive and preventive maintenance. The ultimate goal is therefore to optimize preventive maintenance techniques in order to minimize the need for maintenance between two shutdowns.

The financial implications, the current performance of the plant, the organization, maintenance and scope of the project are some of the crucial factors that directly influence the success of the entire operation. The success of a shutdown depends on effective team building and on handling the ‘psychology of the shutdown’, and is similar to a change management process. A shutdown is a cyclical process in four phases: initiation, preparation, implementation and restart and evaluation. The initiation phase of the next shutdown follows on from the termination phase of the current stop.

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These days, a very different approach is taken to a shutdown or turnaround than in the past, even though the tasks to be performed remain the same. Repairs, inspections and overhauls still need to be carried out, but thanks to the automation of many processes and the efficiency of the current machines, the stop can be done more smoothly and safely. Companies with a modern industrial park can prolong the interval between two major shutdowns (not including brief maintenance stops) up to six years. The initiation phase is used to find answers to complex questions: ‘Can we postpone the shutdown for another year and what impact will this have on safety?’, ‘How can we improve and/or automate the current processes?’, ‘How can we structurally shorten turnaround times?’

But the initiation phase is also an evaluation phase. It is the ideal time to examine any trouble-spots in the previous shutdown and to adjust the processes where necessary. Once the future method of working has been finalized, it is important to provide training. Not only for permanent employees, but also for all external providers and contractors.

The foremost challenge remains the replacement of outdated installations. A study by the European Union concludes that 44% of the industrial installations of the approximately 200 production companies surveyed will need to be replaced within ten years, while 17% of companies are concerned about safety incidents. The schedule is often subject to time pressure. For example, when it involves old equipment for which no plans are available.

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The preparation of the turnaround time for the shutdown is closely connected with process optimization, demand planning and equipment management. Everything needs to happen in concert, if possible, without any delays or incidents, in order to minimize the risks for employees and the environment. With realistic scenarios, and plenty of experience and support, many small plans can be converted into one big plan that directly affects the success of the project.

To avoid health and safety issues for external providers and contractors, you should ensure that you have:

  • experienced workers
  • good preliminary training
  • a full pre-inspection


The difficulty of the shutdown depends on your operational schedule. Do you work with daily closing times? Then planning the shutdown is relatively easy. In process industries that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and where the costs of downtime can add up to $ 100,000 per hour or more, shutdowns should be approached like pit stops, with the maximum amount of preparation and a minimum of surprises.

The planning for the work to be carried out during the shutdown is similar to the daily planning of working with third parties, but is simply much more concentrated. Having more people on the site, who often aren’t familiar with the location, the rules, the dangers, and the problems that crop up during maintenance can delay the restart.

The key to a successful shutdown is to start the planning process early.

  • Take sufficient time to plan each task in detail.
  • Carefully review quotations and consider them carefully.
  • Manage the process inventory to access tanks and other equipment for inspection, etc.
  • Develop a detailed list of essential activities, with a deadline for each activity.


Finding competent contractors to carry out the planned jobs, when you need them, is crucial. Most industrial companies organize shutdowns during the same periods, which leads to scarcity on the contractor market. Contractor companies often expand their own teams with foreign subcontractors. This is not a problem in itself, but you should make sure that any subcontractors are well trained and fully qualified to reduce the chance of risks.


An incomplete cost estimate will have a major impact on the business. It is not so much the direct costs that are likely to be overlooked, but rather certain indirect costs. Such as rental of equipment, materials, overtime and external labour, for example. If costs are documented after each shift and compared to the original budget, this information can be used to plan and manage turnarounds in the future.


Be sure to have all replacement parts, refurbished equipment and accessories in stock. The inventory should be up-to-date well before the actual stop. Environmental checks are also part of this inventory, including pressure gauges, temperature sensors and parts of the flushing line. Sealing equipment, such as gaskets, process seals, oil seals, new lubricants, and lantern rings should be in stock and ready for installation.


A checklist should be available for assessing each device involved. All stakeholders should review this list to make sure nothing is missing and the checklist must be periodically updated. Examples of assets for most installations include:

  • Stirrers
  • Airlocks
  • Conveyor belts
  • Doors
  • Dust bags
  • Gearboxes
  • Manways
  • Mixers and blenders
  • Engines
  • Pipes
  • Pumps
  • Valves



The communication ahead of the shutdown follows the same steps as the communication during a change management process. Determine the scope: how big is this shutdown? The first step is to increase awareness of the necessity of the smooth implementation of the shutdown, which will ensure greater buy-in. How? By emphasizing the risks. Proper training will allow the information to sink in. It is also useful for testing whether the new skills have been mastered and the target group is ready to carry out the job assigned to them.

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Contractor Management System

Onyx One supports its customers before and during the shutdown process Our system:

  • replaces the classroom briefings required in the run-up to the shutdown with online e-Learning modules.
  • closely monitors who has not yet completed the preparation.
  • ensures that all parties involved automatically receive the correct information.
  • allows contractors to register their staff for the shutdown job.
  • provides insight into which contractor can perform a particular risky task.
  • maintains an overview through interactive checklists.
  • ensures a thorough follow-up and keeps track of important information for the next shutdown.


Oh, J. Seveso II-richtlijn: voor overheid en bedrijven. Arbeidsomstandigheden.
Inventarisatie verlaging van de faseringsfactor. Arbeidsveiligheidsrapport. Comprimo,
Wiersma, T. Safety Performance Indicatoren. Doelfinancieringsvoorstel
Responsible Care Progress Report, DSM,
Hale, A.R.; Heming, B.H.J.; Smit, K.; Rodenburg, F.G.Th.; Van Leeuwen. N.D. Evaluating
Safety in the Management of Maintenance Activities in the Chemical Process Industry.
PMI Standards Committee: a Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge.
Oliver, R: organising the Plan for Turnarounds. Petroleum Technology Quarterly. USA.
Bos, M. H: The Shutdown Manager’s Pre-Shutdown Checklist.
Dickey, M. L. and Velasquez-Griffith, P.: ^ractices for Successful Turnarounds, Independent Project Analysis,

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