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Turnaround Perfor m ance Imp rove m ents

A system cannot understand itself. The transformation requires a view from outside.

W. Edwards Deming, Quality Management Guru.

Author: V. Narayan

Location: 2.3.1 Large Complex Petroleum Refinery


This refinery had a clear technical edge over its competitors. In benchmarking studies, however, it proved to be only an average performer. As there were many process units to maintain, they carefully spaced their turnarounds (called shutdowns outside North America—and in the rest of this chapter) to balance the workload, costs, and product availability. A central shutdown planning and execution team managed most of this work, in cooperation with staff from the relevant units.

This brought two benefits. Lessons learned from previous shutdowns could be applied immediately in the following ones. Using the same teams meant that they acquired specialized skills in planning and executing these shutdowns. Staff from the relevant units played an active role at all stages, so the danger of alienation was avoided. It was therefore surprising to find that they were poor performers in shutdowns as well, according to the benchmarking studies.

They were keen on rectifying this situation and requested the corporate technical headquarters (location 2.3.3) to assist them. For this purpose, I was an independent observer at a major multi-unit shutdown, lasting 8 weeks. The people involved were receptive and cooperative, so my presence was not seen as an intrusion. They, and many others in the refinery, were aware that despite their best efforts they were seen as poor performers and could not understand the reasons. It was not a blame game; once they knew why, they could commence their corrective actions.

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