Applying PMBOK to Manage Shutdowns, Turnarounds and Outages


Project Human Resource Management


Most turnarounds involve managing a large contract work force to execute the project. The dynamics of organizational planning and staffing acquisition are usually well understood. The industry is mature enough that project roles and responsibilities are well defined. There is a mature support industry of specialty and general contractors to supply the necessary human resources.

Probably the greatest challenge that turnarounds present over EPC projects is the management of the human resource pools. This is true at a macro (overall staffing levels) and micro (delegation of work to labor pools) level.

Most turnarounds' staffing levels can be represented with a bell curve. Staffing levels for specialty skills are brought up slowly as units are blinded and vessels opened. Staffing levels are reduced as repairs are completed near the end of the turnaround. Managers should analyze staffing levels versus schedule requirements frequently (in some cases daily) to ensure that sufficient manpower is available to complete the bulk of non-time-critical work within the span of the critical path while also demobilizing excess manpower to control costs.

It is critical to the successful execution of a turnaround for field supervision / superintendents to foster a cooperative teamwork spirit with regards to managing the existing labor pool. Where supervisors / superintendents are held accountable for meeting individual schedule and progress goals, competition for (and hoarding of) skilled labor can occur and jeopardize the project success. Supervisors / superintendents should bear equal responsibility for meeting the overall schedule and progress goals.


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Authored by Bernard Ertl, Vice President, InterPlan Systems

Bernard Ertl has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and extensive field experience planning and managing turnarounds in the oil refining and petrochemical process industries.

Applying PMBOK to Manage Shutdowns, Turnarounds and Outages was also published in Maintenance and Asset Management Journal Vol 20, No 3, Autumn 2005.