Planning and scheduling must work hand-in-hand for a
turnaround, outage or shutdown to be executed to budget and
schedule. Unless proper diligence is given up-front to planning
and scheduling, no amount of execution excellence will recover
the waste associated with unclear work plans, inflated
estimates and poorly defined schedules.
Scheduling practices in use today are examined here, and the
common pitfalls encountered in planning and scheduling are
explored. Additionally, tips to avoid these pitfalls are
Present scheduling practices
In a survey of European companies involved in
conducting shutdowns, turnarounds and outages, 57% of the
respondents did not have detailed, step-by-step procedures for
creating a schedule, and they did not reuse schedules from
previous events as a starting point when building a new
Building a schedule is considered the exclusive domain of
the scheduler, and it is dependent upon each schedulers
experience and knowledge. A surprising 26% of schedulers have
built less than 10 schedules, and 45% of schedulers have
learned scheduling by doing it (Figs.
1 and 2). When schedules are built,
77% are made either by hand or by importing data to create a
new schedule. Only 23% of companies have an archive of schedule
templates from previous events that they can modify to create a
1. Scheduling experience and
Fig. 2. Level of scheduling
However, on the positive side, the use of a schedule during
execution shows that 54% of companies provide continuous
feedback and updates to the schedule. Only 17% produce a
schedule, hang it on the wall, and then never update it. A full
70% of schedules are updated either at the end of the shift or
at least once per day.
Expectations of planning and scheduling
When beginning an event, it is important for all
stakeholders involved to understand and agree to certain
ground rules or expectations. For a schedule to be
an accurate and useful tool, it requires the effective and
timely interaction of planning, estimating, scheduling and
operations departments, as well as the contractors working the
job. If any one party is absent, the resulting schedule will
not reflect the actual requirements of the event and will
likely result in failure for the execution team.
There must also be a high degree of information
consistency between all parties involved. Everyone must
understand what the information requirements will be prior to
and during the event, including but not limited to:
- Timing of input
- Frequency of updates
- Information required (in what format and level of
- How estimates for schedule progression will be
- Who is responsible for providing these estimates.
It is best to build a communications matrix prior to the
event and to include all information requirements/updates,
involved parties, frequencies and templates/level of detail.
This matrix should be reviewed with all stakeholders in a
pre-event coordination meeting (Fig. 3).
3. Time of feedback (asked only if
feedback is provided).
Expectations for the planners are straightforward; walk down
jobs and build complete work packages for each job as defined
by the scope of the event. Ideally, the planner will have a
library of work packages from the last time the turnaround was
conducted and can update the old work package to current
The planner and the scheduler must agree on who will build
contingency into work estimates and where this contingency will
be located. This is primarily the schedulers
responsibility, but both the planner and the scheduler must
understand how the contingency will be managed.
The objective of the scheduler (with the support of
planning, estimating, operations and contractors) is to build a
single turnaround schedule that incorporates all planned
activities for the turnaround, any capital project work being done during the
event, and the operations departments detailed shutdown
and startup plans for the unit.
The first 24 hours of the shutdown plan must be detailed and
include sequenced hour increments, identified dependencies and
specific resource requirements for each activity. The scheduler
will provide operations with a date by which the plan must be
delivered in sufficient detail and accuracy to be incorporated
into the overall turnaround schedule.
The schedule should be built with the goal of having a high
degree of repeatability and sustainability to support its reuse
in future events, with some updates and modifications, vs.
rebuilding a schedule from scratch each time.
Present turnaround planning and scheduling
Increasingly, contractors are doing more planning and
scheduling on behalf of the operators. While the contractors
must bring expertise and knowledge of the tools, the operator
cannot abdicate the leadership role to the contractor. It must
be the operator who defines which scheduling IT tool will be
used, what level of detail will be seen in the schedule by each
functional group involved in the turnaround, how job
progression to the schedule will be calculated and when updates
Note: Although more contractors are being
used, some level of expertise must be retained in-house. This
is necessary to ensure that specific knowledge remains with the
operator to validate or challenge work estimates and plans
built by contractors for accuracy. This knowledge will also
enable effective coordination between operations and
Differences exist in the area of work estimation using
standardized work values, resulting in inconsistent and
inaccurate work plan estimates. North American operators rely
more on expert judgment, so it is not uncommon for
work estimates to be inflated by as much as 40%. Europe, on the other hand, uses
standardized work component estimation, providing greater
consistency and accuracy. Work estimates and plans should
always be validated by a credible source prior to being entered
into the schedule.
With the increased use of contractors, contracts and how
they are structured play an increasingly important role in the
success of any event. More precisely, integrated and
comprehensive job evaluations allow for the introduction of
modern contract types for contractors, reducing the need to
push risk to the contractor.
Frequently, the objective of the contract is to create a
win-win agreement for both the operator and contractor.
Establishing a win-win contract allows the operator and the
contractor to work together instead of against each other. Time
and material contracts, favored in North America, drive
contractors to integrate as many workers as possible into the
turnaround. This creates an immediate conflict, as operators
prefer to complete the turnaround with the minimum resources
required in the shortest time possible. To prevent these types
of conflicts, improved accuracy based on better advance
estimates and planning is required.
There are three phases to the scheduling process:
- The concept phase, which is the foundation for an
effective and efficient schedule
- The creation phase
- The usage and update phase.
During the concept phase, several parameters should be
defined: the schedule structure, standards for the schedule
elements and progress feedback procedures, and schedule
reporting during the execution phase. Once these parameters are
defined, they must be communicated to operations, to the
execution team and to the contractor team.
A precondition for the creation phase is that the scope must
be defined, and the detailed technical planning results must be
available. Many companies seem to ignore this precondition and
then do not understand why the events schedule and budget
are not met. In conjunction with scope management and cost
control, scheduling forms the magic triangle of project management for
There must be flexibility in schedules to enable a quick and
easy response to any changes that become necessary. Schedules
should be reasonably flexible without sacrificing the necessary
control mechanisms. Schedule flexibility is necessary because
of unscheduled repair work, uncertainty about equipment
availability and capacity, and logistical challenges and
restrictions due to limited space in the plant.
The quality of the schedule is defined by scope freeze. The
scope needs to be frozen and the schedule prepared using
optimization techniques, ideally 12 months prior to the
shutdown phase of the turnaround. Scope freeze begins with all
stakeholders understanding and agreeing to the reason for the
turnaround. Once the scope-freeze phase is finished, any
suggested additions must be challenged into the
scope, not out of it. A rigorous scope-management process
should be well managed and based on a companys defined
The pitfalls of planning
Planning is the starting point, and the schedule can be no
better than the items that go into it. With this point in mind,
Table 1 reviews common planning pitfalls and recommendations
for avoiding them. HP
Wanichko is the director of consulting
operations for T.A. Cook Consultants in North America.
He has over 25 years of international consulting
experience in several industries, with particular
expertise in oil, gas and chemicals. Previously, he was
director of operations for Fluor, where he provided
routine maintenance, reliability, and planning
and scheduling services at 13 different petrochemical sites. Mr.
Wanichko provides consulting services to
asset-intensive businesses in the refining and petrochemicals industries.
His work supports clients with maintenance optimization,
turnaround, outage, shutdown optimization and overall
equipment effectiveness improvement.