How to Optimise Shutdowns and Turnarounds

Shutdowns/Turnarounds are essential projects for asset intensive operations. Every year, mining and oil and gas companies spend large budgets on the complex operations and compressed time windows of planned shutdowns/turnarounds.

Improving shutdowns/turnarounds can mean a better understanding of your costs, scheduling, risk and the management scope you need to execute these projects more effectively. And while the goals of your shut/turnaround can vary, there are typically 5 key areas to look at for improvements: operations and compressed time windows of planned shutdowns/turnarounds.

  • Safety
  • Scheduling
  • Budgeting
  • Logistics
  • Evaluation

This insight looks at how you can review and improve safety, scheduling and budgeting. It touches on how better processes and management of shutdowns and turnarounds can result in saving you time and budget and it provides you suggestions to think about when looking to get more out of a planned shutdown/turnaround.

1. Safety is paramount in any shutdown

If you cannot keep your workers in the right places at the right time, or cannot ensure that only qualified or certified workers access restricted areas, you are putting your workers at risk. The risk of injury or fatality is real and any incident can cause immense emotional, financial and reputational damage.

Mitigating this risk is the number one priority for any shutdown.

Your operation during a shutdown or turnaround is very different than normal operating periods. The combination of work that requires unusually high risk, unfamiliar equipment, movement of large pieces of equipment, a large number of contract workers on-site and time pressures makes safety management extremely important.

Before undertaking shutdowns or turnarounds, you need to perform risk assessments that entail answering the following key questions:

  • Have you reviewed your procedures?
  • Do you know where your people, including contractors, will be at all times?
  • Have all personnel received training for the tasks they are performing?
  • Can you monitor personnel and ensure they are in safe locations, and the right locations with correct permissions at the right times?
  • Are only qualified or certified workers, including contractors, able to enter restricted areas?
  • Have work permits and permitting systems been put in place?
  • Have you made appropriate personal protection equipment available?

2. Scheduling - minimising the duration of a shutdown

Completing shutdown and turnaround exercises in tight time-frames is essential in minimising cost and operational disruption. To adhere to set timelines, implement comprehensive real-time monitoring and reporting that extends across progress and completion. At all times during a turnaround or shutdown, look to answer the following questions:

  • Do you have visibility of the real-time status of shutdown tasks?
  • Do you understand the progress of tasks against where those tasks need to be, at any point in time?
  • Have you scheduled or rescheduled work in acceptable time-frames?
  • Have you scheduled or triggered maintenance work correctly?
  • Is there a process for creating and monitoring punch lists?
  • Have you scheduled and completed key tasks prior to startup?
  • Can you provide real-time monitoring of tasks and activities?

3. Budgeting - reducing the cost of a shutdown

Because operations either stop or are substantially reduced during a shutdown or turnaround, you can incur considerable expense to their operational budgets. Previously hidden issues can also appear during shutdowns and turnarounds and resolving these can add to the cost and time of the exercise. As a result, tracking and budgeting can be difficult and imprecise. Accurate budgeting is central to the success of a shutdown or turnaround exercise. In times of tight budgets, the real-time monitoring and reporting used to manage timing needs to extend to tracking cost versus budgets. This monitoring and reporting should allow you to answer β€˜yes’ to questions such as:

  • Can you manage time-keeping across employees, contractors and subcontractors?
  • Are you collating and integrating time sheet information for visibility and reporting?
  • Are you completing time sheeting in a timely and efficient way?
  • Can you crosscheck contractor and employee invoices against time sheets and plans?
  • Can you monitor the progress and costs of shutdowns in near real-time?


Planned shutdown/turnaround exercises are key to effective maintenance regimes and essential to successful long term business operations.

Whether the exercise entails maintenance, replacement or re-purposing, shutdown/turnaround need careful planning and assessment of all aspects of the project.

The ability to feed in lessons learnt from the last shutdown quickly - in time to plan for the next shutdown is invaluable.

This planning should be realistic and align with operational, budget and broader business objectives. Ultimately, key decision-makers should make a call on whether the project plan – which should include contingencies for unexpected developments or issues – is achievable.