People, Process or Tools?

In the TAR business, we often have repetitive discussions in regard to preparation for and executing turnarounds and outages. It appears much of the conversation surrounds supporting software packages and tools. Everyone is looking for the “silver bullet.” Processes and tools that support preparation and execution are very important, but any way you slice the pie, it boils down to a proven process with people and organizations that are aligned.

Having a comprehensive turnaround process that guides people on how to plug into their jobs is paramount. When we have a consistent, comprehensive process, everyone knows how it works and how they fit. This makes it much easier and less disruptive when changing out leadership positions and moving people in and out of the organization. When turnarounds fail, the first place we should turn is to our processes. If required, we need to change the process. Having the right process is half the battle. There is also a need for interval training programs that keep our teams current in the process.

The Tools

We also need software packages for scope development, estimating, scheduling, risk management and cost forecasting. These tools need to support the process. Often, people and organizations become slaves to software packages and don’t focus on the process and the basics. In some cases, the fundamentals of turnaround management, scheduling and cost reporting are not understood because people rely on the tools to do all the thinking. This is not conducive to turnaround success.

The People

When you have a process and software packages that support that process, it becomes easier to staff the organization. Your focus becomes hiring people who have the skills and knowledge to work in the process using the applicable software packages. You also need to consider soft skills and how an individual will fit into the culture of the organization. To quote Jim Collins, “Get the right people on the bus in the right seats.”

To be successful on the people side, we need a clearly defined organizational structure and position descriptions with key performance indicators allowing each person to self-govern. People want and need to know where they are going and how to get there. In regard to turnarounds and outages, it’s important all involved understand a turnaround or outage is not just a maintenance event, but a plant-wide event. Again, continuous improvement and training lead to a strong, skilled and focused organization.

We are always pressured and searching for ways to reduce scope, cost and schedule—ways to be more efficient with support services, managing materials cost, inspections and outside shop repairs. There are more environmental and safety considerations than we’ve had in the past. With this being said, we often stray from the basics.

The Process

What are the fundamental focus and actions required to be successful? They can be broken down into six basic functions: pre-planning, scheduling, detailed planning, cost estimating and forecasting, material management and controls execution. When you have a process, tools and an organization to support these functions, you can consistently deliver a more predictable outcome.

In summary, successful, predictable turnarounds and outages have a well-defined process and software packages that support that process. The management team and organization are trained in the process, with each individual understanding his or her role and how to measure their performance. The goal is to have proven processes people can plug into and know what to do.

As said before, having proven processes in place you can effectively plug people into brings the greatest opportunity for success. It’s about the process and the people.

For more information, contact us at 1-800-630-1347 or visit our website at

By |2019-09-13T16:44:23+00:0005/01/2019|0 Comments

Leave A Comment