Inspectioneering Journal

The Role of Operations in Shutdown and Startup Best Practices

By Lee Williamson, Manager at T.A. Cook Consultants, Inc. This article appears in the September/October 2017 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


The first 48 hours of any shutdown can make or break its success. During such an event, every hour a production unit is offline is very costly. From the perspective of lost revenue to the manpower cost associated with the turnaround work, avoiding delays is paramount. Properly detailed operations planning and scheduling is an essential part of an effective turnaround and too often overlooked or minimized. Frequently, operations personnel prefer to manage the plant shutdowns and start-ups independently, outside the turnaround schedule. Sometimes, the only thing the operations department contributes to the event’s schedule is the start date. This problem is exacerbated considering one of the biggest contributors to delays or lost time during a major maintenance overhaul event is the unavailability of equipment.

When a site develops their fully integrated turnaround schedule, it is important that it has a strong foundation, is reviewed by all stakeholders and optimized. Precautions should be taken beforehand in preparation for possible delays or slippages. Waiting until the initial phase of the project is too late. By the first day, all members on-site need to be fully available to hit the ground running. The operations experts are obligated to resolve any issues that may negatively impact shutdown and cause delays. This article will highlight some essential practices that the Operations department must adhere to in order for the mechanics of the event’s execution to go smoothly.

Clearly Explain Tasks

Instructions that are open to interpretation or have a double meaning are not conducive to effectively executing critical procedures. For example, instructions that read “after sufficient time…” could be relative to the individual performing the operation.

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