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Plant Engineering/Turnarounds

From Shutdown to Head Start – Taking the Fear out of Turnarounds

| Author / Editor: Dominik Stephan / Dr. Jörg Kempf

Anyone wanting to turn the big wheel will need strong partners.
Anyone wanting to turn the big wheel will need strong partners. (Picture: Bilfinger Industrial Services)

“No more bets please!” – When all bets have been placed, that’s when you see who has chosen the right strategy. The situation is not different when it comes to large industrial plants. But a turnaround doesn’t have to be a lottery. Strategy makes a plant shutdown a safe bet ...

137 years – that’s how long it would take a single worker to complete the turnaround of the Borealis polyolefin plant in Schwechat, Austria. It’s a truly herculean task – particularly given that the actual plant shutdown was only supposed to last eight weeks. After all, every hour of a shutdown costs the plant owner hard cash.

“Because economic success depends to a large extent on the efficiency of maintenance, the top priority is to bring plant availability, maintenance times and costs into an optimum balance”, says Gerald Pilotto, Chief Operating Officer Central Europe of Bilfinger Industrial Services. Pilotto ought to know – industrial service provider Bilfinger is a specialist in turnaround business: with a workforce of 38,000, the Industrial Services segment posted turnovers of 3.7 billion euros in 2012. That makes industrial services by far the biggest field of business for the Bilfinger group. The focus of the internationally oriented conglomerate is on projects in the process industry and the energy sector.

The Challenge of Process Plant Turnarounds

Turnarounds are a demanding task: when production comes to a stop, it is not uncommon if hundreds of work packages and up to 100,000 processes have to be accomplished. Dismantling, modification and optimization processes are performed alongside servicing, repair and inspection. A turnaround is always rather like open-heart surgery. “The customer expects planning confidence in terms of costs and adherence to deadlines as well as high standards of safety and health and quality assurance”, Pilotto confirms.

Strategic Thinking Essential for Major Plant Projects

The success of a turnaround thus stands or falls with the precision of the advance planning: The aim is to systematically plan the large number of jobs that arise within a very short space of time and to find potential for optimization. The preliminary planning will first determine the scope of work, material requirements, timetables or budgets on the basis of which the individual work steps can be put out to tender. The detail planning defines deadlines and resources such as personnel, spare parts or vehicles, but also sets out the availability of power, compressed air or water during the shutdown.

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