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Shutdowns and Turnarounds: 3 Crucial Steps to Success

When it comes to effective operational needs, shutdowns and turnarounds are usually acknowledged as a necessary challenge to be endured. However, this essential element of asset maintenance is, perhaps, wrongly perceived. Instead, viewing the process as an opportunity to move into the next phase of production with a fully maintained and optimal operation transforms an arduous process into something that, if approached in the right manner, can provide a true advantage over your competitors.

The key to this is threefold – and requires an innovate approach to the combination of health and safety, scheduling, and optimal budgeting.

A Historical Problem

No-one is going to pretend that the complexity and costs involved are anything less than major. However, the historic reluctance for asset management to embrace cutting edge technology that’s racing forward at breakneck speed means many are missing out on ways to streamline the process, not to mention increase the safety of workers, and therefore dramatically reduce the millions of dollars spent on annual maintenance.

The ability to remove the human factor from many maintenance and inspection tasks has become a reality, and advancing technology continues to bring this to the mainstream. While human intervention will always play an essential element, every time you remove physical interaction from the equation you increase safety, speed up the process and reduce costs. This has a direct impact on your bottom line – something crucial in what is an increasingly competitive marketplace.

With that in mind, let’s look at the three crucial steps that will optimise the shutdown/turnaround process.

1. Health & Safety

While this should always be the number 1 priority, the irregularity of maintenance and shutdown events make adherence to this even more crucial. During regular operation, workers and management become familiar with the usual health and safety procedures. But the abnormality of a shutdown brings with it new considerations, such as additional equipment, contract workers and tasks. All these aspects, therefore, bring with them an increased risk factor.

Assessing this and putting relevant mitigation in place is vital. Shutdown and maintenance planning should address the following:

• Procedural overview
• Up to date training for all personnel, including the use of new technology, such as drones and robotic systems
• Use new technology to plan using software that can assist with inspection methodologies
• Send in the robots – deploy robotic technology to reduce confined space entry and enhance the ability to collect valuable data.
• The necessity for knowing the location of staff at all times (to include any contractual workers), the ability to monitor this and ensuring all personnel are in possession of the correct permissions at the right times
• Restricted areas – including additional restrictions/times to consider work during the shutdown

Utilising remote equipment, such as robotics, crawlers, and aerial inspection vehicles can dramatically reduce the risk factors during maintenance and inspections. This, in turn, increases worker trust, company reputation, public perception and can play a part in bringing down the hefty insurance premiums associated with plant operation.

2. Scheduling

An idle asset ceases to make a profit and instead becomes a drain on an operation. Because of this, shutdowns are typically compressed into the smallest of time windows. This makes adherence to timescales essential. Achieving this necessitates the following:

• Neither under or overestimating the extent of tasks necessary and the time frame in which they can be carried out
• Introduce 3D modelling software, like nexSIM, into your pre-inspection plan to enhance onsite inspection requirements
• The correct order in which maintenance should be completed
• To be able to monitor the real-time status of tasks as they are being carried out and where they should be at any point during the process
• The completion of all key tasks prior to the scheduled start-up date
• Always plan for the unexpected and allow for a buffer in the schedule

Read more: How to minimise unplanned downtime with preventative maintenance

Once again, determining the right technology that can reduce the number of time tasks take to complete is key. Examples include the use of various robotic systems that can enter harsh environments while still capturing rich data, which removes the need for the extensive safety features for human entry to take place. Discussions with expert providers prior to creating a maintenance schedule can potentially lead to extensive shortening of timescales.

3. Optimal Budgeting

Shutdowns almost always throw up additional maintenance issues when the close inspection takes place. Poor planning and incorrect budgeting can, in worst-case scenarios, run into millions of dollars, caused by extended downtime and additional resources. Such expenses add considerable expense to operational budgets.

While it is impossible to remove this challenge completely, taking advantage of proactive maintenance opportunities afforded by the growing array of easy-to-use maintenance options, such as inspection cameras and robotic systems, can effectively reduce such occurrences.

Other budgeting considerations include:

• Efficient timekeeping of all personnel, including contractors and sub-contractors
• Program monitoring and cost associated with the shutdown in real-time (or near real-time)
• Accurate integration and collation of timesheets
• Effective cross-checking of contractor and employee invoices against plans, timesheets and other budgets

All three of these aspects have a significant impact on the success of a shutdown. Careful pre-planning, the use of the right technology and being aware of evolving assets that can streamline the process (and therefore drive down costs and increase maintenance efficiency) is key to rising to the shutdown and turnaround challenges.

Nexxis is at the forefront of such a technological revolution and is fast becoming the equipment supplier of choice to a variety of industries, thanks to their flexible, solutions-driven approach. With a global reach, Nexxis offers the unique provision of needs-specific rental, lease, and sale equipment that’s as dynamic as an operator’s requirements. To find out more about how this innovative approach to a historical problem can benefit your operation, get in contact with someone from our Solutions team today.

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