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The 4 Stages For An Effective STO (Shutdown, Turnaround & Outages)

Shutdowns, turnaround and outages (STO) are an inevitable element of asset management, and one with the potential to have a dramatic negative impact on profits. With only approximately 32% of projects running to schedule, it’s an area ripe for improvement – and one that savvy plant and infrastructure management teams need to give their utmost attention.

The key to effective STO management begins long before implementation. Without quality planning, the likelihood of on-time delivery, adherence to budget, minimal delay and the return to normal output is unlikely to be achieved. The following discusses the crucial organisational elements necessary to bring about an effective STO event.

The 4 Stages of STO: from planning to completion

Best practice STO begins months before the works are carried out. It’s during this planning that the task/s are determined, the range and scope assessed, precautions put in place for unplanned events and the deliverables to achieve before each stage can progress to the next.

The 4 stages of planning are as follows:

  1. Scope management
  2. Cost control
  3. Stakeholder comms
  4. Shutdown control

Together these four elements create the blueprint for smooth execution of the shutdown and a return to output by the scheduled date.

#1: Scope management

Knowing how to plan is as crucial as the planning itself. Vital elements include:

  • Team creation: Ensure the relevant people are involved, with the necessary experience and knowledge to formally plan, manage and action the project. A chain of command should be determined, with all team members being aware of their role and methods of escalation.
  • Determine the scope of the task: While many of the finer details will be unclear until inspections take place during the STO event, it’s important to use accurate data from previous outages, investigations and expected lifespans of assets to determine the likely scope of work necessary. Adequate time should also be built-in for unexpected maintenance, labour issues, equipment malfunction, procurement etc.
  • Delay mitigation: The ability to adapt and be flexible during the outage is vital. Therefore, challenging all the planned works for necessity, risk, cost and scheduled maintenance/replacement is a pre-requisite of the planning process. Can elements be scheduled for future downtime, or are they crucial at this time? What about unforeseen HSE incidents, permitting issues and unexpected extra costs and repairs? These are all fundamental basics that make up the baseline of a quality STO plan.

#2: Cost control

One of the most complicated areas, this demands highly accurate cost tracking at every stage. Outgoings should be scrupulously monitored throughout – including both direct and indirect expenses. Good pre-planning also takes into account adequate margins that will absorb unexpected costs during a shutdown. Determine the different areas, such as labour, materials, equipment, overtime etc. and budget in each specific area. The best STO plans require cost analysis per shift. This means that once work commences, it’s possible to establish a real-time running sheet and ensure adherence to budget.

Again, the planning stage is where many mistakes are made, with under-estimation of the scope of the works and failing to take into account unavoidable changes that only come to light once the project is underway.

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#3: Accurate and timely comms

Wholly transparent communication is key, from senior management to turnaround team members and, of course, with stakeholders. Accuracy and simplicity is key, as is allowing all team members to have an effective mode by which they can communicate in their area of expertise. The right management decisions can only be made with input from all areas of the team – a challenge that’s often made more complicated than it should be, thanks to outdated methods of information flow (multiple spreadsheets, failure to collaborate, unwillingness to embrace technologically advanced data solutions, etc).

If data is not freely available from the bottom up (and vice versa), with teams able to raise potential issues that might delay works during the project, then the STO plan is almost guaranteed to run into difficulties.

#4: Cost control

All shutdown projects are, by nature, intricately linked with the budget. The smallest of delays or difficulties during the execution of the project has a direct or indirect impact on every area. The right planning is what reduces the risk of such delays, allowing the works to continue along the forecasted route. Combining all of the above elements of the STO plan not only determines the budget but puts adequate safeguards in place for the inevitable unplanned requirements that only come to light when inspection and investigation take place.

Read more: How to minimise unplanned downtime with preventative maintenance

Utilising Technology for Effective STO

Historically, industries such as the Oil & Gas, Mining, Subsea, Infrastructure and Manufacturing are slow to take advantage of the many cutting-edge inspection solutions available to them. This is often due to the perceived increased expense or difficulties involved in the hire or purchase of such assets.

This is where the Nexxis difference comes into play. A leading supplier of inspection, testing and measuring equipment to a global playing field of industries, their expert team works with individual company needs to provide a dynamic end-to-end solution that’s as flexible as a project needs. This diverse approach is a crucial element of STO planning and helps to build the crucial safety net to ensure shutdowns, turnarounds and outages run to schedule and within budget.

To find out more and discover the advantages of including Nexxis at the earliest planning stages, contact a member of our Solutions Team.

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