Turnaround Efficiently: Some Tips for Shutdown Season

Skeleton maintenance crews during Covid-19 will mean a tsunami of maintenance activity when Planned Plant Shutdowns are due. How can you maximise maintenance efficiency?

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As time draws close to the execution, the work should be increasingly defined and the amount of change in the schedule should reduce (Image by Darren Clyde)
Physical elements that should be considered when planning a maintenance job (Image by Darren Clyde)

Barely meeting Gate Compliance

Often there is pressure to get the work planned by the gate target date, as with anything problems arise and the work planner does the bare minimum to get their work plan through the gate review meaning to catch-up later on the detail. As with any job, their attention gets drawn away by the next most urgent job and they don’t think about the one they have just passed through the gate until it becomes urgent. This is where the gatekeeper must be decisive, if the job is not up to the spirit of all the planning criteria for that gate it must be pushed back to a later due date. There are two reasons for this, the job is likely to be in the same position in the next gate review, and it sends a message to the work planners that they will not be able to pass the work through the gate with just the bare minimum of planning, setting the expected standards for detail, the detail that will ensure the job can go ahead.
I worked on a major project where the only metrics for preparing the work-packs was lead times and quantity of work packs completed by certain dates, as incentives these made sure the work-packs were “completed” on time but didn’t ensure.

Discovering work after the shutdown starts

There is an unknown element with every job and example to illustrate this; I was renovating my house and wanted to reroute the wires of a light. I shut off the power and cut an access hole so I could push my hand through, what I discovered was the cables wouldn’t pull through, I had to cut another access hole only to find the cables had been clipped to the rafter which was stopping it from pulling through cleanly; the lead time for the job expanded when I opened up to see what the job entailed. This was a small job, imagine on a TAR that a pipeline inspection showed significant corrosion through-out the whole section of piping and all the work planner’s data modelling suggested only a 3rd of the pipeline would need corrosion treatment, the plan lead time for that job needs to extend by up to 60%, not to mention the knock-on effect to other concurrent and subsequent work.

Some suggestions to cope with emergent work:

  • Plan to open everything on day one and reassess the work plans to adjust for discoverable, or emergent, work early in the shutdown. Rescheduling will obviously need to be done, but this will be at the beginning of the TAR meaning much less schedule change later.
  • Keep a corporate experience library for the work planners to refer to when working out lead times for jobs. As the work comes to completion archive the plans and the planned vs actual timings. Now mandate consulting the library as part of the work planning process perhaps even add it in as a gate criterion.
  • Do a practice TAR. An Asian pharmaceutical firm carried out a practice TAR before the shutdown, the resulting activities worked perfectly, everyone knew what they needed to do, all the equipment and materials were confirmed to be in place and the documentations was proven. Even the emergent work had much less impact on the schedule than on previous TARs.

Bloated meetings

When running a TAR, meetings are essential for decision making and for agreeing and tracking actions. Often project and functional managers’ calendars are crammed with mandated meetings and these meetings are about updating or reviewing stuff. Can attendees update and look at the performance before the meeting starts? Perhaps using visual management?
What happens when someone is late to a meeting? Everyone else’s time is wasted. Meeting discipline is essential, plan the meeting, ensure there is an agenda, back it up with visual management, agree on meeting rules among the team (all visual management needs to be updated before the meeting starts). End the meeting on time (if meetings regularly overrun either the meeting needs to be extended, the scope needs to be reduced or the team needs to be more disciplined in keeping to the agenda). One person should run the meeting, this means challenging when people are going down rabbit holes. If anyone is starting to glaze this is a symptom that the individual’s time is being wasted and that the meeting is being taken down a rabbit hole. The meeting owner needs to curtail the discussion and direct it to be completed outside the meeting). The leader must make decisions on what to do if someone doesn’t show on time, which will include contacting them to discuss how to prevent a recurrence. The leader should make sure the meeting ends on time so the meeting discipline can be paid forward.

Planning with old data and models

I have spoken to work schedulers who complain that no one talks to them, these were the same people who told me that part of planning is weekly schedule re-baselines (completely re-estimating the schedule). Work schedulers need to be contacting the work planners and they both need to have a relationship with the technicians, that way when the work plans are created and then formed into a schedule, the planning and scheduling models and software have a chance to be accurate, issues can be understood and dealt with before significant disruption to the schedule.

Differences between the system and reality

Often work planners pass their jobs through the gate criteria based-upon what they see on the logistics tracking system (e.g. SAP) but how often are these wrong. Work planners, before submitting jobs to the final planning gate should be physically able to put their hands on all the materiel required before hitting the button to commit the job to the frozen schedule. In Aberdeen, a major energy company built a huge warehouse to reduce the amount of transportation required. They set that warehouse up so, as items arrived, they were put with the rest of the materiel for that job, many of the work planners were based in that building, meaning it was easy for them to walk down the stairs to the dedicated space and put their hands on the kit before hitting the commit button.

Too much stuff

This issue covers over-ordering, losing stuff and not removing used stuff quickly. Ordering more than is necessary just in case, which mightn’t be a problem on an individual level, but if every job had this fat deliberately planned in it would eat up the budget to no value as well as fill-up storage space. I worked with an oil platform team that had to take a month to purge the platform of unnecessary equipment (including shipping containers) as it was near its safe working weight limit. It would have been cheaper and easier to evacuate outstanding materiel at the end of each job.

The result of too much stuff being pushed to the worksite, (note the corrosion on the face of the motor plate). (Image by Darren Clyde)
One of the hired test kits left on the worksite. On the right, this is kit left at the job site after a maintenance team were asked to leave to make room for unplanned maintenance. (Image by Darren Clyde)
Two of the on-hire shipping containers left at the worksite for months which were found to be empty. (Image by Darren Clyde)

Darren is a business improvement expert with 15 years experience working with organisations to reduce the cost and frustration of doing day to day work.