Turnarounds are going digital

Investing in digitally transformed turnarounds today can hugely impact a company’s bottom line for years to come.

By John Sanders for Chemical Processing

Digitization and the adoption of automation technologies based on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) have allowed chemical and petrochemical manufacturers to make strides in improving operational performance that were impossible just five or six years ago. Now, those same developments are starting to change the way processors plan and execute turnarounds, which are the cornerstone of any plant’s maintenance strategy.

Today, many processors are striving to extend the time between turnarounds; such events now usually occur every two to five years. Discrete batch operations typically shut down for 14 to 17 days between batches; turnarounds in continuous process plants can last anywhere from 20 to 40 days.

Turnarounds are costly, risky and complex projects that involve coordinating large amounts of resources in a limited timeframe. They not only are critical for ensuring safety and regulatory compliance but also can have far reaching impact on capital and operating budgets as well as plant performance.

However, as important as they are to profitability, most turnaround projects fail. According to global research consulting firm Independent Project Analysis, Ashburn, Va., 25% of turnarounds run over budget and half don’t finish on schedule. A delay in a post-turnaround startup can easily cause a loss of operating profits that exceeds the cost of the project itself. That’s why removing even an incremental amount of uncertainty from turnarounds can translate into millions of dollars in savings. Digital approaches like predictive analytics, on-site service centers, digital worker tools and location awareness technologies, in concert with expert consulting, can help ensure the right work is done on the right assets at the right time, increasing labor effectiveness and giving companies confidence that turnarounds will be completed safely, on schedule and on budget.

To learn more, read "Asset Management: Transform Your Turnarounds" from Chemical Processing.