Turnaround Project Planning Primer

Field Observations

During the turnaround, the planner will have the opportunity to verify the quality of his work order estimates and planning logic.

Since it is not practical, possible or worthwhile to check on every activity (or a majority of activities), field observations should be limited to certain items which fall into these categories:

  • Critical path work
  • Problem equipment (high repair history)
  • "Sampling" different types of equipment (i.e., one tower, one U-Tube heat exchanger, one floating head heat exchanger, one heater, one reactor, etc.)

The planner should prepare a special booklet containing copies of the work orders, and copies of the equipment vendor (engineering) prints, if available.

Every day, with this special book (to make field entries as necessary), the planner should make three or four rounds, observing any activity around the selected work, and soliciting information from the supervisors in charge to gain a better understanding of the events.

There are three basic things that should be noted during the observations:

  1. Are all activities as defined correct? Are activities missing? Unnecessary? Out of sequence?
  2. Are the time duration estimates adequate? Too generous? Too tight?
  3. Are the manpower estimates adequate? Too generous? The right skills? Have any support crafts been omitted?

You may obtain some of this information from the Lap Books (updated by the field supervisors), but you should not rely on that entirely as they may not be updated as scrupulously as desired.

When making daily rounds, you should also avoid alerting the workers of your intent. Otherwise, they will become self-conscious and may change their pace (or cause intentional interruptions), which will distort the performance (and affect the validity of your observations).

One way to achieve this low profile is to pretend to be interested in something else, and not stare at the work in progress or directly at the workers involved. Also, avoid writing in your book where you can be seen doing so by those you are observing. And by all means, do not let the supervisors know what you are doing, as they may try to expend an extra effort to look good at the expense of other work.

If you are suspected of spying on workers, it will affect their behavior (performance) and sabotage your effort. Keep in mind, also, that you are interested in the work - not in the individual workers, crews or supervisors involved.

In making these field observations, you will gain a better "feel" for planning and estimating work order scopes for the work having been observed. These observations will also help you in the preparation of the turnaround final report.

Additionally, the observations will increase the visibility of the planner in the field, which contributes to an improved morale and higher quality of progress reporting by the field supervisors.

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The Turnaround Project Planning Primer is an abridged version of the STO Planning Handbook.

For further reading, we also recommend Joel Levitt’s Managing Maintenance Shutdowns and Outages.