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Turn Arounds: planned shutdowns with minimal downtime

Every factory on the Chemelot site has to undergo major maintenance from time to time. It’s a far-reaching and complex operation, usually requiring the factory in question to be shut down for a few weeks, during which time it is then cleaned, inspected, repaired and, where possible, made more sustainable, all at top speed. Hundreds or even thousands of employees at Sitech and other companies do an enormous amount of work in a short time. After all, if it's ever true that ‘time is money’, it’s during this kind of maintenance downtime (also known as a ‘shutdown’, ‘Turn Around’). Below, Leendert Kuijpers (COO) and Sven Ritt (TA Manager) from Sitech explain why every Turn Around is a unique challenge and discuss the outlook for 2020.

Sitech’s core business
Turn Arounds are complex – for Sitech, for our customers, and for our contractors. This complexity requires strong central coordination, as Leendert Kuijpers explains. “Turn Arounds are our core business, and there is always a lot to take into consideration. There’s a lot of pressure in terms of time, scope, materials and money, since during the Turn Around the factories are shut down and production is halted. We therefore don't want it to last even a single day longer than it has to! The timing of a TA is determined by the mandatory inspection period of the factory in question, which on the Chemelot site often means that multiple factories will have to shut down, because one factory delivers materials to another. So Turn Arounds are planned very precisely, following a playbook in which all the activities are described in detail. And the preparations usually begin a whole year before the actual Turn Around.”

Working together toward a single goal
When it comes to Turn Arounds, everyone at Sitech – every link in the chain – is involved. Sven Ritt: “To begin with, of course, we have indispensable knowledge of the plant and the factories. For each Turn Around, we then combine that with all the possibilities that exist within our own organization – everyone contributes and complements one another. We all work together toward a single goal: getting the most we can out of the plant by maintaining it as best we can, both during Turn Arounds and in between them.”

"The key is to focus on clear objectives, optimize the chain and hit the planning milestones!"

Ton Verreck BU manager Turn Arounds at Sitech Services

Learning from previous Turn Arounds
Although Sitech’s integrated approach has a solid foundation of many years’ expertise, Turn Arounds represent an ongoing learning process. Leendert knows from experience that every project produces new data that can be used for continuous fine-tuning. “Our experiences in 2018, when we had problems with material supply, pointed us toward structural improvements to be implemented in 2019. Last spring, we had five large Turn Arounds, and managed to complete every job thanks to the efforts of our entire team. Turn Arounds are therefore really characterized by excellent cooperation between customers, Sitech and contractors.” Lodewijk Liebrecht, AnQore Chief Operations Officer, let us know that “in terms of SHE performance, we were happy with the TA at AnQore, although it took rather longer than planned. For the future, beginning preparations earlier and sticking to the agreed milestones would therefore be the most important points for improvement.”

On track for long-term success
The ultimate aim of all these efforts is to establish a higher quality standard, a Sitech quality standard, for Turn Arounds. “We're still not quite where we need to be, but we’re working hard on getting there together with the whole team,” says Leendert. “Strengthening our organizational structure and translating our best practices into permanent improvements creates room for flexibility without compromising safety or results. That’s the sustainable solution for Sitech, our customers and our contractors.” Sven adds: “Establishing smaller teams that are dedicated to working in particular plants allows us to optimize the process for each stakeholder and maintain oversight of the entire chain. That then means we don't have to work from TA to TA, but can work at continually improving and maintaining the factory – you're always in the right place, and you can share your knowledge of the plant and work in a structured manner.”

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