Turnarounds: Every minute counts

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How intelligent solutions help save a lot of time

Operators tend to view turnarounds from two very different perspectives: While such processes make the plant fit for the future, they also result in significant revenue losses due to the temporary shutdown of the plant. The objective, therefore, is to ensure downtimes are as short as possible.

Plant operators are required to carry out a turnaround about every two to five years. The process seeks to ensure that the plant remains technically reliable, legally compliant and environmentally compatible. Extensive improvements and maintenance work are conducted during the shutdown, consisting of numerous and sometimes very different sets of tasks. This requires professional project management and meticulous planning well in advance of the actual work: Up to two years of preparation time has to be scheduled so that all of the pieces fall neatly into place during the implementation of the turnaround and no unnecessary time is lost.


2021 is a turnaround year


The Corona pandemic, however, wreaked havoc on the schedules of many plant operators: A lot of the turnarounds scheduled for 2020 were executed with a reduced scope of services or postponed entirely. As a result of this development, a majority of the turnarounds that did not take place last year will now be carried out this year, while others will not be completed until 2022 – in addition to the turnarounds that have already been planned for some time. This will compound the challenges that have existed for years: Complexity (a larger number of tasks in a shorter period of time) is growing, and the availability of qualified skilled workers who can be deployed flexibly and on a mobile basis is leading to bottlenecks. And because measures to combat the Corona pandemic must remain in effect, upcoming turnarounds have to be planned in greater detail and with greater precision than ever before. 

Due to the corona pandemic and the increasing complexity of turnarounds, each step in the planning process must be carefully considered."

Dennis LubschBusiness Unit Director Turnarounds, Bilfinger Engineering & Maintenance GmbH

“2021 will definitely be a turnaround year”, says Dennis Lubsch,  Bilfinger’s Business Unit Director responsible for turnarounds. “Because of the large number of planned shutdowns, priorities have to be set very carefully and execution plans have to be thoroughly thought out, right down to each individual work step. And of course the time pressure does not mean that there can be compromises when it comes to quality or safety.”

With the Bilfinger Turnaround Concept (BTC), Bilfinger has developed an approach for carrying out all the necessary work in tightly coordinated timeframes. The primary goal is always to keep the duration of the plant shutdown as short as possible without causing interruptions or even accidents. “The modules that make up the BTC are solutions and ideas for the turnaround process that generate significant value added for the plant operator. They are the result of our many years of experience combined with innovative methods that we are constantly developing”, says Lubsch. 


Turnarounds are extremely individual


One reason why turnarounds have to be planned and implemented on a tailor-made basis is that conditions vary greatly from plant to plant. There are also various reasons for commissioning a turnaround: In addition to legal requirements or official inspections, they may also be necessary in the case of plant expansions or conversions, for example. It is therefore important that plant operators define very clear and measurable goals for the turnaround. Only then can the team consisting of plant operator and service provider identify the proper measures.

Another success factor has been to divide the turnaround process into four main phases: Preliminary planning, execution planning, execution and analysis. Analysis in particular is critical because it has a major impact on the planning phase of the next turnaround – and thus on future success. “A turnaround should not be viewed as a one-time, special measure”, says Lubsch. “It must be interpreted as a cycle. Because the next turnaround is always around the corner. That is why it is so important to document the results achieved and the lessons learned, and to draw on these during the next turnaround. This contributes significantly to further reducing downtime and increasing the intervals between turnarounds.” 


Download Issue 04.2021

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Contact in case of questions:

Dennis Lubsch
Business Unit Director Business Turnaround
Bilfinger Engineering & Maintenance GmbH 
Phone +49 174 301 6099

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