Solutions with Impact: Turnarounds Need Well-Defined Scope and Control

2 min read

When I was a young turnaround leader, a grizzled old veteran who taught me a lot about the turnaround business told me one day that you only had to get three things right for a successful turnaround. Those things were: scope, scope, and scope. Of course, there are a lot of other things that have to be attended to but getting the scope right is of paramount importance - it increases the chance of success immensely. It is important that the entire site is involved in the scope selection process, considering all the equipment that must be maintained in order to meet the run premise reliably. Scope that does not require a turnaround to be executed should be not be in the turnaround; it is common knowledge in the industry that scope done in a turnaround typically costs about twice as much to perform as it does in routine maintenance due to the excess overheads, per diems, overtime and craft workers not familiar with the site (to name a few). The extra work also brings more complexity to the turnaround event, in turn decreasing the chance for success. The point is to get the turnaround done as quickly as possible to get the units back up and making money.

The Turnaround Premise document should provide the guidance necessary to properly scope the turnaround. It should address the expected run length and reliability of the units. It should define what scope is mandatory and therefore doesn’t need to be challenged. It should establish the acceptable risk tolerance for the discretionary work and the challenge process. (Note that it is always better to be in a position to justify work on versus challenging it off.) The scope control process should be laid out and include an escalating hurdle rate for late scope and new scope that surfaces late in the process. It should also specify the team, usually a subset of the Steering Team, that will be responsible for reviewing and determining whether or not to accept it. During execution, this team should meet daily to go over any changes and be able to make timely decisions to keep things moving in the field.

Scope definition should begin at the end of the last turnaround, while memories are still fresh. This is commonly referred to as the 80/20 scoping process. It establishes the baseline for the next turnaround scope and helps get the jump on the planning and estimating. The scope freeze date should be set well in advance of the turnaround, typically a year or more in advance to allow the Planning Team adequate time to do the planning and procure the materials and services that will be needed. The freeze date must be widely advertised and strictly adhered to. A well-defined scope is one that can be planned – it’s as simple as that. Think of the Planning Team as a contractor you are bringing in to build a house. You, as the customer, have to be able to describe to the builder exactly what you want him to build for you. It’s the same with turnaround scope. Each scope item must be clearly defined so the Planning Team can give you exactly what you want. Everything that can be provided to pinpoint the job is helpful; marked up P&IDs, area drawings, equipment drawings, and pictures are all needed and helpful.

To summarize, getting the right scope at the right time is of utmost importance. The scope management process from gathering to managing growth/change must be managed tightly; it is the biggest lever in achieving your desired turnaround results.

As part of our desire to be our clients’ ready for maintenance partner, we offer solutions for every phase of a turnaround. One of those solutions is our turnaround consulting partner CruzAlta. To learn more about our experienced turnaround consulting partners at CruzAlta, visit