Applying PMBOK to Manage Shutdowns, Turnarounds and Outages


Project Scope Management


One of the greatest challenges in a turnaround is scope management. This is true for virtually all phases of scope management as outlined by the PMBOK: Scope Planning, Scope Definition, Scope Verification and Scope Change Control.

Scope Planning, Definition and Verification

Unlike EPC projects which usually have a well defined scope established with a long lead times before the project execution phase, it is common for turnaround scopes to be changing up to the last minute before project execution. There are a number of factors contributing to this:

  • Market conditions (plant profitability) can cause variability in considerations for the budget (requiring scope adjustments), window (squeezing or relaxing the timeframe available to execute the project) and start date (which may affect the decisions on what scope to include, the ability to plan the work, or material availability).
  • Planning input is usually derived with input from Operations, Inspection, Safety, etc. Operations may continue to identify potential scope for the turnaround until the last minute.
  • The availability of specialized tools, materials, equipment and/or resources may affect decisions on how to approach portions of the scope (ie. plans may need adjusting to accommodate a different method/scenario to accomplish the same goal).

One result of this situation is that turnaround budgets are rarely based upon a complete, detailed plan. Turnaround budgets are often based upon conceptual estimates, extrapolations of past turnarounds, or on incomplete planned scopes that are compensated with a large contingency. Because of this situation, it is necessary to review the cost estimate for the final approved scope and make sure it is covered by the approved budget (AFE). If not, either the scope should be culled where possible (or failure to meet the budget will be predetermined) or the budget should be adjusted to reflect the plan (not always politically viable).

Scope Change Control

In a turnaround, the scope will change - sometimes dramatically. As equipment is opened, cleaned and inspected, the extent of required repairs can be determined, planned, costed and either approved or tabled for a future window of opportunity. Every add-on to the schedule should be processed with a defined procedure for evaluation/approval.

An additional challenge is presented in companies where the existing culture allows operators to direct work crews (or get supervisors to direct work crews) to perform work that for one reason or another were not included in the approved project scope. The only solution is to change the culture to respect the defined procedure for add-on approval. Operators and Supervisors /Superintendents must buy in to the add-on approval procedure and field hands must be directed to work only on approved scope as directed by their Supervisors. Where this is not possible (or "a work in progress"), it is imperative to at least document and account for these unapproved jobs where performed so that progress tracking (earned value) may give a meaningful impression of the productivity of the field work.

Management needs to excercise care when evaluating add-on repair scope to ensure that existing resources, productivity and time can accommodate the work (where the repair scope is not operationally/safety critical). Management can end up in a position of balancing the impact of add-on repair work against the culling of original scope where resources become constrained on non-critical (both time and operation/safety) work.

It is desirable to classify scheduled/progressed activities according to two main criteria:

  • Approved Scope
  • Unapproved Scope
  • Cancelled Scope
  • Original Scope
  • Add-On Scope

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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.