Maintenance and turnarounds are challenging, time-consuming endeavors, but they are absolutely necessary to keep a plant running safely and efficiently. While most plants typically schedule maintenance on a regular basis, an entire unit might run 3 – 5 years before it receives any maintenance, and some units can actually run up to 10 years before undergoing a major turnaround. The infrequency of maintenance and turnarounds can make it difficult to find a rhythm to work out kinks in the process. Additionally, a lot can happen, both seen and unseen, over the course of five years, making it challenging to know which areas of the facility need more attention than others.
Understanding what to watch out for in terms of pitfalls and setbacks can be critical to smoothing out the maintenance & turnaround processes. Below, we’ve outlined five challenges that turnaround teams may encounter that can significantly hinder the success of a maintenance turnaround.
Turnarounds typically have to be completed within three weeks, and every day over that equates to time and money lost. The planning process for a turnaround typically begins 2-3 years in advance of the actual turnaround. When deadlines aren’t met, the costs of a turnaround can increase into the millions of dollars very quickly. That said, the magnitude of what a turnaround team must accomplish in this time-period is immense. In less than a month, the team must source potential problem areas, remove the insulation, fix any problems, and re-install new insulation and jacketing. In order to do this successfully, turnaround teams have to have logistics that run like a finely tuned machine - a concept that is much more easily said than done.
- Sequencing & Logistics
The sequencing of a turnaround is complex to say the least, and it includes the timing and delivery of everything from major pieces of equipment, to scaffolding, to maintenance crews, to operational shutdowns, to when and where new materials arrive. This isn’t a simple task as it includes highly variable components, like weather, transportation, multiple crews, existing operations, and material availability.
To ensure the sequencing occurs correctly, a solid logistical plan needs to be in place. Systems need to be appropriately prepped for the installers to be able to do their jobs correctly. Materials must arrive on the jobsite no sooner or later than they are needed, and there has to be a designated location to store the materials when they get there. When these minor details fall out of sequence or are overlooked, it can significantly hinder jobsite efficiency.
- Work Coordination
Successfully planning the logistics doesn’t just happen, and the responsibility for developing the plan can’t simply fall to one person; it takes cross-functional coordination between multiple stakeholders, like the facility owner, specifying engineer, mechanical contractor, insulation contractor, the distributor, and even the material manufacturers. When just one of these key players is missing from this equation, it can delay the entire project.
Beyond logistical delays there are always the inevitable discoverables. These are the random, one-off problems or issues that arise when the installers and maintenance crews begin to get into the weeds of the projects. They may uncover anything from corrosion under insulation (CUI), to damaged pipes, to damaged insulation, to new problem areas that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, these are unpleasant landmines that can only be revealed once the work has begun. Having a plan in place to adapt quickly to a myriad of these types of unforeseen problems is key.
- Deciding Whether or Not to Upgrade
In an effort to save time, many maintenance plans simply call to replace like-for-like materials – meaning the replacement material will be the same kind of material as what was removed from the system. While this may be the most efficient method, it isn’t always the most cost-effective or functional approach. This could stem from a number of reasons. Perhaps there is new technology that is better suited to the application, or it could be that the insulation that was initially specified wasn’t the best material for the application in the first place. To avoid this, a turnaround plan should carefully consider whether the materials currently used on the system are operating effectively and efficiently and withstanding the rigors of the application before deciding whether or not it should be replaced with a different kind of material. The best time for this consideration and evaluation to take place is in the early planning stages of the turnaround, as much as 2 or 3 years before the actual turnaround event. This allows for enough time for the engineering team to properly evaluate the proposed changes while there is sufficient time to look at the new materials with deliberation.
While turnarounds can be complicated and nuanced, there are a number of techniques that you can use to address these potential pitfalls. Find out more in our recorded webinar with JM and Apache Industrial Services.