7 Ways Scope Selection Can Make or Break a Turnaround


Shutdown support workers enter a tower | North Gas Company

In highly competitive, industrial manufacturing industries, turnaround can generate a significant competitive advantage. If well-designed & well-executed, they can improve tight margins, reduce the risk of safety and environmental consequences, and bolster customer & supplier relationships. (more on that here!)


Still, more than two-thirds of turnarounds exceed their planned cost and schedule by 10 percent.

While some of the overruns are uncontrollable, one thing that can be controlled is the approach to scope selection.


Why is scope selection important?


Turnaround planning and scoping is a critical phase of any turnaround, shutdown, or outage. The work scope ultimately decides which equipment gets a boost in life and performance, so optimizing this scope is crucial.


Recently, industry players are lengthening turnaround cycles and deferring work to decrease the costs of these critical events. With data-driven decision-making, turnaround teams actively look for ways to remove the unnecessary, discretionary scope and optimize for improved turnaround time, cost, and performance.


What could be the impact of better scope selection?


Based on research from Asset Performance Networks, the average industry turnaround experiences 7-10% scope growth between scope freeze (the date at which scope changes require an increased level of approvals) and turnaround execution. The range can vary depending on the size and complexity of the turnaround.

How Scope Growth can affect Turnaround Performance
AP Networks - Turnaround Database

While there will always be some scope growth after scope selection, improving the scope selection process can reduce this growth by 5-7%, and, in turn, lower the costs associated with late-stage scope growth.


So, how can you improve your scope selection process?

While many practices improve scope selection, we believe seven make the difference between a successful turnaround and one that falls short of expectations.

  • Establish alignment with management early on – Defined, clear scope boundaries and qualification criteria should be agreed upon with management before scope selection. This alignment creates consistent guidance throughout the scope selection process.

  • Commit to timelines based on best practices - To incentivize timely scope evaluation, widely communicate deadlines, especially “scope freeze.” For sufficient turnaround preparation time, scope freeze typically occurs between 8-18 months prior to turnaround execution. Best practice scope freeze occurs 18 months before execution for large, complex turnarounds.

  • Include a wide variety of key stakeholders – Important scope originates from both core members and their support team. Encourage support teams to weigh in and identify potential scope early in the process. Each team should have also an established typical scope evaluation list requiring sign-off before the end of the scope selection phase. For example, the process engineering support team should evaluate all heater performances for potential scope within a defined turnaround area. This serves as guidance and ensures the necessary work scope evaluations took place.

  • Infuse data into scope qualification criteria – Build data-based criteria into each justification category: HSE (e.g., healthy, safety, environmental compliance requirements), reliability (e.g., benefit to cost ratio (BCR) as part of the risk-based inspection (RBI) methodology), financial (e.g., return on investment (ROI)), etc.

  • Challenge assumptions – Scope optimization meeting(s) with a core team of stakeholders should occur to review scope and challenge assumptions made during scope justification. Often, scope can slip through the evaluation process to maintain the status quo. However, just because “it has always been done this way," isn’t necessarily a reason to let it pass without due consideration. Instead, take the extra steps to assess whether the added scope is appropriate. This may require gathering historic data of previous or similar installations or performing pre-turnaround inspections.

  • Eliminate discretionary scope – Work that can be performed “routine”, or outside of a turnaround during normal operation, with manageable risk, should be. This scrutiny can come at the sub-work scope level for a particular piece of equipment. For example, if an asset’s rebuild can occur during normal operation with some isolation valves that are installed during the turnaround, then solely focus on the valves during turnaround and defer the rebuild for normal operations.

  • Centralized digital platform – A formal turnaround work scope approval process gives turnaround teams the ability to manage scope through its lifecycle, including scope proposition, review, approval, and changes. Digital, centralized means of collecting work scope details such as justification, creates a data source that can be used for further process improvement & analytics. Accessible and transparent data leads to more effective decision-making and visibility throughout the organization, increasing overall coordination and organizational competence.

What else can help reduce bloating in scope selection? Let us know what you think!