The complete shutdown of a factory is drastic and costly. Moreover, work is always done under enormous pressure. Within the tightest possible schedule, all plants are being dismantled, inspected and repaired where necessary. New parts are installed, machines are thoroughly cleaned and improvements are made. Daily business for the Sitech Services specialists. All of Sitech's knowledge and expertise come together in Turn Arounds," says Business Unit Manager Ton Verreck, who, together with Turn Around Manager Sven Ritt, explains what makes their job so special.
During a Turn Around or shut-down, a plant is completely shut down to perform maintenance or repair or inspection work. Factories are required to do this by law. A Turn Around has enormous impact and is an extremely complex project. Therefore, the work is meticulously planned long in advance so that the project can be completed in the shortest possible time frame, controlled and flawless. "Turn Arounds are big business," says Business Unit Manager Projects and Turn Arounds Ton Verreck. "It costs a lot of money to shut down a plant. Depending on the factory, it can cost as much as 10,000 to 100,000 euros per day. And those amounts do not include the sales a factory is forced to lose. In the customer's interest, the lead time of a Turn Around should therefore be as short as possible."
Pit stop in Formula 1
"You can actually best compare a Turn Around to a pit stop in Formula 1," Verreck states. "The whole team involved in running a Turn Around must be completely in tune with each other. This is the only way to guarantee the success of a Turn Around. In that respect, it's best to draw a comparison with top-class sport. All of Sitech's areas of expertise come together in our teams who put in a performance under high pressure in a predetermined time."
Focusing on the best outcome
So planning a Turn Around does not happen overnight. Size and complexity determine when preparation begins. That ranges from 2.5 to 3 years prior to a plant's shutdown, Verreck explains. "With some plants, we perform a Turn Around every 2 years, while other clients' turn comes every 6 years. It's actually like Olympic cycles in which we work. We prepare for years in order to deliver a top performance at the right time. In doing so, we always assume the tightest possible scenario. That way you know that no time is wasted anywhere. If you plan more broadly, then you know there is a significant chance that a Turn Around will also take longer."
Continuing to innovate together with customers
At Sitech, safety and efficiency are key. This is why the Turn Around specialists are constantly working on development and optimization. Turn Around Manager Sven Ritt: "We are currently trying to get a better grip on the external aspects of our equipment. For example, we are looking at failure mechanisms and investigating how we can monitor them externally. In other words, how can we see what the state of affairs is without taking an installation apart. This can be done, for example, by attaching sensors to the devices that measure vibration, flow and temperature. We can then analyze that data with mathematical models to reach conclusions for innovations. Through these technologies, we are quite capable of estimating when equipment needs to be maintained or replaced." Verreck adds: "Also for safety reasons, we want to use technology more often instead of people. Even if machines are stationary and all chemical substance has been removed from pipes or tubes, those are not pleasant places to send someone into. We are now investigating with customers whether drones can also contribute in the future. The aim remains to continually develop with our customers so that we can provide the best possible service in the safest possible way."
In the future, Sitech will continue to focus on development and innovation. There is continuous thinking about how processes can be even smarter, more efficient and safer. Verreck: "We offer a level of service that is absolutely unique. We not only want to maintain that, but also improve it. Fortunately, Sitech is a learning organization. Because so many departments and teams are involved in Turn Arounds, we also need to make steps on an organization-wide level. After all, we manage the entire process, from scope to delivery, including cost estimating, sourcing & materials supply, contractor and execution management. When a Turn Around goes well, it is a great product. When a project does not run optimally, our entire organization suffers. That's why every department understands the importance of ongoing process optimization."
Opportunities for specialists are endless
The tight employment market broke all records last year. Nevertheless, Sitech manages to retain people. Ritt: "That is of course also because we as an organization really have something to offer. We offer a core service that few others can provide at our level. In addition, we work together with a whole chain of suppliers, which enables us to achieve impressive results together." Verreck also points to the size of the organization: "We now work with about 1,000 colleagues at Sitech. The opportunity to specialize and train people in the right way is simply very large. More and more organizations outside Chemelot can benefit from this in the future. Because the expertise we hone here every day is of absolute added value for any company in the chemical or industrial sector."
A view of 2023
Verreck: "Our focus until the summer of 2023 is on the ongoing and planned Turn Arounds. All energy and attention will go towards this, after which we will refocus on innovation and development in the fall. Also in 2023 we are going to prove to our customers how strong Sitech is in these services, how much expertise and experience we bring to every project." Both gentlemen agree on one thing at least: "As an organization, we are entering the new year optimistic and confident. Our priority is with our customers and continuing to perform one of Sitech's core businesses in the best possible way: Turn Arounds."
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