Turnaround done down to the dime

Sept. 19, 2006
Valero Energy Corp., the largest U.S. refining company, utilized synchronization to get credible, timely information during a refinery shutdown.

Valero Energy Corp., based in San Antonio, Texas, is the largest U.S. refining company with a throughput capacity of approximately 3.3 million barrels per day, 22,000 employees, and annual revenue of $70 billion. Its St. Charles, La. refinery is Valero’s largest refining operation, with a throughput capacity of more than 245,000 barrels per day.

A major shutdown of the St. Charles refinery was planned for February 2005. The plan called for a $39 million, 29-day shutdown with 1,800 contractors working around the clock for a total of 600,000  labor-hours, 40% of which were planned overtime hours. The plan required 175 SAP Materials Management purchase orders and 1,341 SAP Plant Maintenance work orders.

As it was preparing for this major shutdown, Valero faced a number of challenges including data synchronization across multiple information systems  that manage the project. Such systems often produced dissimilar data views, thus leading to a lack of confidence in the accuracy and integrity of information.

As the master system of record and management at Valero, SAP is used for the majority of business processes, including work order management and budgeting, cost accounting and reporting Earned Value. Project planning and scheduling are accomplished using Primavera software, while time tracking is done in TrackSoftware.

“I needed to make sure that when management looked at turnaround reports, the data really matched everything in the field, especially with today’s increased auditing requirements,” says Kirk Blanchard, turnaround manager at the refinery. “Since SAP was our system of record, all the reporting in SAP must match what someone would see in Primavera.”

Manual data updatesfrom one system to the other were not only costly and time-consuming, but also became quickly outdated, frequently compromising decision-makers’ ability to react to new information in a timely manner.

Valero sought a solution that would facilitate data consolidation in SAP, enable data transfer both to and from Primavera and TrackSoftware, and be upwardly compatible with future SAP and Primavera versions — without having to alter the applications themselves. Impress for EPM (www.impress.com), a packaged integration application certified and supported by SAP, proved able to address Valero’s requirements.

An initial set of work orders was defined in SAP in preparation for the February 2005 turnaround. Impress for EPM transferred the information to Primavera, including constraints and dependencies among tasks. Furthermore, activities and material components associated with the plant maintenance work orders in SAP were made accessible from the Primavera project plan.

In parallel, work order information was extracted from SAP to establish a project in TrackSoftware. As the turnaround moved into the execution phase, data from swipe card readers was collected in TrackSoftware and fed into the project plans in both SAP and Primavera.

The systems were synchronized twice a day, providing a real-time view of work progress, change management and cost control.  System performance was great and synchronization run-times were negligible, according to Blanchard.

Incidental work orders to handle unexpected situations were immediately entered into SAP and scheduled in Primavera, allowing near-zero latency in reaction time. Most important, senior management decisions were based on accurate, timely and actionable cost information.

“The integration worked well because everything from material cost to work orders was done first in SAP so we could all see what the plan was, what was currently going on with the work, and where things were going,” Blanchard says.

The Impress for EPM solution offered Blanchard and his management timely information that provided the level of credibility they sought. The integration made it possible to transfer daily contractor time and cost information from TrackSoftware so SAP could calculate the costs. Furthermore, it was now possible to reconcile planned costs with actual costs and address any adjustments to scheduling or material requirements daily.

The integration also enabled Blanchard to reduce his staff from 30 to 11, and the ease of data handling saved hundreds of hours of manual work.

Blanchard estimates that it costs Valero between $1.2 million and $3 million for each day a turnaround runs over schedule. The improved planning and scheduling allowed the refinery to complete more work than originally planned for the turnaround within the allocated time and budget.

”The bottom line,” says Blanchard, “is the solution worked for us; and while it was important for us to use a packaged product, Impress was there to make sure the application met our specific requirements.”

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