MRO Magazine

Connecting the shutdown to your business strategy (Part II – THE FRAMEWORK FOR EXCELLENCE)


December 14, 2001
By PEM Magazine


Having set the larger frames within which the framework operates, it is now time to turn to the details of the framework.

Key to the framework

The approach to shutdowns is broken down into six critical areas for consideration:

  • Organization — how the people should be organized;
  • Planning — how the work should be done;
  • Contractors — how external organizations should be selected and integrated;
  • Costs — how expenditure should be estimated, reported and controlled;
  • Logistics — how the goods and services should be organized onsite;
  • Execution — how the event should be managed and controlled.

The element columns

Each of the areas is further broken down into nine elements that are, reading from the top to the bottom of each column, approximately chronological in order. (See Figure 1 in Connecting the shutdown to your business strategy (Part I).)

It can be seen that the top row of boxes under each of the six headings contain terms such as strategy, philosophy and approach, indicating high-level outline consideration whereas the bottom line of boxes is to do with finalizing and closing the processes out, with those in between describing the progress of the process from start to finish in each area.

The critical considerations

In turn, each of the nine elements is broken down into three key activities or requirements. To be effective, each of these has to be considered. If, after consideration of the benefits and consequences attached, the decision is taken not to perform any particular activity or meet any particular requirement then that is the prerogative of good management — and they will reap the benefits and bear the consequences of any such decision in the knowledge that they managed the situation. If, however, the action is not performed or the requirement not met because the managers or their staff were ignorant of the need, or simply to avoid costs while refusing to recognize or take responsibility for the likely consequences, then this is bad management.

Although this may be a relatively simple looking figure at first glance, it covers 54 separate elements of shutdown management and requires consideration of 162 critical actions and requirements. Such consideration will take the user deep within the fabric of the company’s approach to shutdowns and will severely test the larger business framework within which the shutdown is carried out (in a few cases, beyond the tolerance of senior managers who preferred to maintain the status quo at the cost of shutdown effectiveness).

The main areas of the framework

In this section, the elements within the main areas of organization, planning, contractors, costs, logistics and execution, are broken down further to reveal the fabric of excellence in shutdown management.


This area considers the total shutdown organization from the senior managers through to the workers who will perform individual tasks. Often these functions are performed by various people in companies, but much added value is lost because it is not done in an organized way. The elements for consideration are:

– Steering group
The ideal way for the senior management to demonstrate commitment is to form a group that will meet regularly through the preparation and execution phases to balance drivers and constraints and make policy for the shutdown. The group is made up of business interests, decision-makers and stakeholders in order to focus in on the shutdown and avoid the inclusion of extraneous people.

– Shutdown manager
Shutdowns are expensive and complex, so they deserve a full-time experienced manager. Once appointed, the manager joins the steering group and chairs its meetings. The manager is given total control of the shutdown (within set objectives and limits) because he alone has the overview and provides continuity from the beginning to the end of the process.

– Preparation team
Made up of experienced planners, this team turns the various strands of information into the plans and schedules for the event. For very large operations it may require the full time support of an engineer. The team’s success depends upon the cooperation of the plant-based team who will provide them with the information they need.

– Empty box organization
If the process is rational, the organization required to execute the event should be designed rather than be cobbled together from available personnel. The basis of the design is to specify the functions necessary to perform the event, to identify the roles and responsibilities of each, to define the chain of command and to integrate the parts of the organization to ensure optimum performance. This is a theoretical part of an exercise that is completed practically in "the living organization".

– Process team
These are the plant-based operations or manufacturing personnel who will handle plant centered functions such as permits to work, shutdown and start-up networks and will define and control process-driven tasks. They also provide much of the basic data the preparation team needs to plan the work. A good working relationship between the groups is vital to the success of the event.

– Technical team
This team is drawn from the engineering and maintenance functions, specifies the work required and provides the preparation team with technical information and backup. Once again, working relationship is important.

– Resource levels
We define how many people we need to perform the actual labour functions of the shutdown. This involves determining what our own staff will do and which tasks are to be left to the contractors. Of great importance are the work patterns for the event — shift working, allowable overtime, timing of the increase and decrease in resource levels throughout the event.

– Client/contractor
We define the roles and responsibilities of the client and the contractor management and determine the functions we wish the contractors, managers and engineers to perform in the organization. This requires us to specify levels of discretion i.e. how much power and control should be handed over to contractor managers and engineers — and to what extent the contractor can be trusted.

– The living organization
Having designed the empty box organization, we now populate it with the people available. By doing it in this sequence we are able to identify any shortfalls between what we require and what we have. Steps can then be taken to either procure temporary people for the roles or to train existing staff to fill them.

This method ensures that if we go into the event with any of the necessary functions boxes unoccupied or populated by individuals with less than the required knowledge or experience, we accept the risks involved.


This area considers the approach to planning the event.

– Planning philosophy
We determine the approach we will use to set forth the planning of the event, what methods we will employ, including software packages. We fix the level and quality of the planners we require and we investigate existing planning archives to determine how much of our existing planning we can adapt for use, thus saving on planning costs. Finally we fix the acceptable level for planning output — will a verbal instruction be sufficient or do we require written plans or even quality plans for particular jobs?

– Worklist definition
Every single requirement of the shutdown — duration, costs, materials, resources etc. — is generated by the worklist. It is therefore vital that we get it right. We do that by identifying every job that needs to be done, justifying every job on the worklist and then testing the specification and requirements for each job.

– Project definition
Projects are normally initiated by an agency external to the shutdown organization, however, as they will impact the shutdown schedule, they need to be integrated and interface issues resolved. First, we set a final approval date by which time all proposed projects must be approved. This also triggers a date by which all technical information (and documents) will be available to the planners and finally a date by which the project will be integrated into the plan. If any of the above dates cannot be fulfilled, the project does not go ahead during the shutdown.

– Worklist control
We need to understand fully what is required for each job (especially major jobs) so the first part of control is clarifying the requirements. The second part, which provides the discipline in the system, requires the worklist to be formally closed on a particular date. This then becomes the agreed work scope for the planning of the shutdown. Any work requested by anyone is applied for using a late work authorization form that must be approved by the highest-ranking manager onsite and will be placed on a late work-costing list in the shutdown cost-estimate.

– Planning/validation
Each job is planned and a work package is prepared for those jobs that require it. The work package contains the job method and all supporting documents required to allow the job to be done. Once the packages are prepared, the requesters validate them and, in particular, the method of doing the job is approved or amended.

– Pre-shutdown work
There is normally a great deal of work that has to be completed before the event starts such as scaffolding, insulation removal, placement of equipment, etc. The requirements for pre-shutdown work are extracted from the planning work packages and organized into a schedule for pre-shutdown work. This is then executed to the schedule to ensure it is completed by the required date. The planning for pre-shutdown work requires the same care and attention as the planning for the scheduled shutdown work.

– Schedule optimization
The schedule is built up over time from the networks of individual jobs. The timescale of the event is determined by the critical path activity or activities. The job networks are integrated and manipulated to give the best usage of time and resources. Modern planning employs software packages such as Primavera and Microsoft Project. While these are powerful tools, it should not be forgotten that it is human beings who plan, not computers.

– Schedule updating
To ensure that the schedule is to be a live tool for controlling progress during the event, an updating routine is created which specifies the critical activities to be measured for updating. Identify the people who will be accountable for the updating and issue a program indicating when updating will be required (usually on a daily basis).

– Schedule adjustment
The schedule may be affected during the event by emergent work, changes of intent due to changing circumstances and unforeseen events. A routine is created for responding to any and all of these possibilities to ensure that the schedule remains a control document and is not just a decorative wall-covering.

The contractor options are explored and issues such as the use of competitive tenders versus the use of a term contractor, or the use of agency labour are given consideration in order to base selection on the contract strategy most suited to the company’s needs.

– Contractor packages
The total work scope is broken down into packages that can be tendered against by contractors and sub-contractors. This brings up one of the critical elements in contracting out work: the level of specification of work required to enable the contractor to perform the work adequately. This leads to the question of contractor competence — i.e. their track record on similar work.

– Subcontractors
It is very rare that a main contracting company will carry all of the special skills needed to complete and shutdown. Therefore, a sub-contractor engagement plan is formulated, either by the client or the contractor. This specifies what work is to be carried out by sub contractors and what companies will be invited to tender for the work.

– Incentive schemes
Consider incentive schemes for the purpose of encouraging the contractor to focus on the client’s objectives. The use of such schemes must be justified (i.e. they must have a clear measurable benefit for the client). The scope of such scheme may be narrow and focused on a single key indicator such as duration or they may be broad based and include such things as man-hour savings, safety performance and quality compliance. The best kind of incentive scheme is one that requires a mutual level of risk from the client and the contractor.

– Evaluation/selection
If competitive tendering is to be used, criteria are set for evaluation and selection. The shutdown manager is involved in setting these to ensure focus on the shutdown. As far as is possible, the issues of how the client and contractor will fit together into a single shutdown organization are taken into account. When this is established, an evaluation and selection procedure is drawn up that reflects the particular needs of the shutdown.

– Contractor mobilization
To promote the aim of having the right people on the shutdown at the time they are needed, a contractor mobilization plan is drawn up. Contractor briefing and familiarization requirements are taken into account in the program, as is the necessity to check the qualifications of key contractor personnel and scarce resources.

– Contractor monitoring
Working on the principle that you must "inspect what you expect", a routine is drawn up for monitoring the contractors’ progress towards completion of the event, safety performance, and compliance with quality requirements. This is done on an ongoing basis and for triggering timely remedial action if problems should arise.

– Demobilization plan
A plan is drawn up to detail the timing and other requirements for contractor demobilization when any particular area of work is completed. This involves a system for recognizing when work is actually complete and should embody a mechanism for debriefing key contractor personnel before the disappear from site. The watchword is earliest demobilization commensurate with the effective termination of the event.

Tom Lenahan is an acknowledged expert in the field of plant shutdowns and turnarounds. Based out of the UK, Tom has worked and consulted internationally. His 1999 book, Turnaround Management, published by Butterworth Heinemann shows the maintenance manager or project leader how to get the job done correctly. He can be reached at