Why Turnarounds Remain Unpredictable

When the world’s greatest athlete left basketball and pursued baseball, some wondered, “What in the world is he thinking?” Others confidently assumed his competitive nature would propel him to fame in baseball as well. With the right determination, coaching and training, one can excel at anything, right? After a full year of 6 a.m. batting lessons, Michael Jordan had improved, but only enough to describe himself as “the worst player on the team.” Fortunately, he returned to the sport he was born to play and achieved three additional championships! Companies born to produce petrochemicals often assume they will also excel at delivering first quartile turnarounds. Because a few sites do turnarounds well, it seems to prove anybody can do it well. Despite substantial investments in the management of their own turnarounds, most companies are not happy with the results they are getting. Greater than fifty percent of turnarounds do not achieve their stated KPIs.

So, what’s the answer? Let contractors manage the turnarounds since they execute turnarounds all the time? Not quite! Being good at executing is not the same as being good at managing. Here is a proven 3-component solution: 1) Have the site do the estimating so they can be confident in the value of the turnaround, 2) Have qualified contractors execute the turnaround and 3) Have a well-experienced project controls company professionally manage the total lifecycle of the turnaround––this is what they were born to do. They are up-to-date on the latest turnaround strategies, great at assessing turnaround readiness, experts at sniffing out risk and exist as the elites at planning and scheduling. 

But is outsourcing the management of turnarounds logical? It is just as logical as outsourcing valve work. Could a site rebuild its own valves or pumps? Likely, yes. But if outsourcing valves and pumps optimize time, cost and quality, why would they not? Many sites would do well to remember one of the most important rules of success is ‘focus on your strengths, not on fixing your weaknesses.’ 

Tom Rath, in his book Strengthsfinder 2.0, shares compelling insights: “If you focus on developing your weaknesses, you’re actually working towards being more mediocre.” He asserts, “…we had discovered that people have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.” Turnarounds will become a great deal more predictable when more sites begin focusing on their strengths (production) and outsourcing the professional management of their turnarounds.

A leading reason turnarounds remain unpredictable is that many sites have significant gaps in their ability to manage turnarounds. Turnarounds are unique and require a specialized team of individuals who possess a keen understanding as well as a high appreciation for turnarounds. Gallup conducted an extensive poll using the statement: “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.” The result? Among a thousand people surveyed who said they were not allowed to work at what they were best at, not even one was emotionally engaged in his/her work. Many turnarounds are managed by people who are just paying the required dues to move to the next level of management before their career is sidetracked by a failed turnaround. They may view turnarounds as a necessary evil rather than as an event to be celebrated. Why the attitude of celebration? Turnarounds are great! The reason we have a job in our refinery today is because past turnarounds extended the lives of the units on which we now depend. Turnarounds increase the reliability, profitability and safety of the units. When we participate in a turnaround, we literally build a bridge to the future. 

Turnarounds are not unpredictable everywhere! Balance is achieved when an expert third party can keep the site entrenched in best practices while at the same time holding the contractors accountable for executing the scope assigned, in the time allotted, for the cost agreed. 

For more information on Onpoint Industrial Services, visit www.onpoint-us.com/ or call 866-463-3308.

By |2020-06-26T20:26:48+00:0004/17/2020|0 Comments

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