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The difference between STOs and routine maintenance

Posted under Blog by VIZIYA's STO Team

July 24, 2019

The need for planning is even more critical when it comes to STOs

Shutdowns, turnarounds and outages (popularly known as STOs) are a critical part of maintenance strategies for most manufacturing and production facilities. These activities help to ensure the continuous and reliable operation of assets so that there are no unplanned stoppages in production. A production facility ceases normal operations for significant periods during these activities so efforts can be focused on preventive maintenance and repair of assets.

It is common to use the terms shutdown, turnaround and outages interchangeably but there are subtle differences between them.

For the most part, shutdowns and turnarounds mean the same thing: planned maintenance work with a clearly defined objective and work scope, start date, and significantly longer durations than day-to-day preventive maintenance work.

Outages, however, may be forced rather than planned. An outage may require only a partial shutdown of production so maintenance crews can carry out the activities required to get assets reinstated and contributing to the production flow.

Shutdowns and turnarounds differ from routine maintenance in a number of ways, often including lengthy production stoppages and a much larger scope of work.

STO Unique


STO success requires months of planning

Shutdowns and turnarounds are very different in nature from other types of maintenance in that they require extensive planning many months in advance of the actual event. It’s true that planning and prioritization of work are keys to the success of any maintenance program and done properly will lead to greater efficiency. Check out our white paper “How Johnsonville Redesigned its Maintenance Prioritization and Planning Process” for a real-life example of how one of VIZIYA’s customers found success with this approach.

However, planning is even more essential when it comes to shutdowns and turnarounds. This is so simply because it’s required to ensure that the project is delivered safely, on time, and within budget.

Effective planning and scheduling are essential parts of a successful STO project. The shutdown turnaround process will cost the company money, both in terms of the cost of the project itself and in terms of lost production. It’s up to the STO project leader and their team to make sure it costs as little as possible while still achieving the goals that have been set out.

Shutdown and turnaround at a large facility, such as an oil refinery, could easily add up to a total of 100,000 work hours. To be clear, that’s just the execution of the work itself. Preparing for a shutdown takes much longer. For example, if the shutdown will take between two and four weeks, then you can count on needing at least 18 months of planning. This is part of why it’s important to have a project team that’s focused primarily on planning and leading the shutdown operation. 

Learn more about VIZIYA WorkAlign STO


What makes STOs unique?

STO projects are inherently different from regular maintenance and other projects. This is largely due to the impact it has on the organization and its method of delivery. Outlined below are some of the factors that make shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages unique:

  1. Lengthy stoppage – STO projects vary in duration, from a few days of outage to several weeks for the major shutdown. In any case, the impact on production is much greater than regular weekly maintenance.
  2. Extensive work scope – STO projects are a great opportunity to carry out work which cannot be done under normal working conditions.
  3. Significant scope creep – This is a common problem for many projects, but for STO projects it is significantly higher, as some of the inspection work undertaken will throw up some emergent work which may have to be addressed before the plant can be returned to service.
  4. A reduction/loss in revenue and significant expenditure – Inevitably, shutdown and turnaround projects mean that production has to stop to allow work to be carried out. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of work and the complexity of the project means that a lot of money is also being spent to ensure that the project is a success. As Kevin Duffy noted in an article for Reliable Plant, “STOs can command significant capital and operating budgets. They attract the attention of shareholders and boards of directors, and impact inventory supply chains and customer relationships. They are, therefore, ‘whole business events,’ not simple function-specific ones.”

A successful STO project relies on successful planning. VIZIYA has heard the call from our customers, and we’re working on a solution that will help you to manage your own shutdown with a minimal amount of disruption. Keep an eye out for more news on this, coming soon. 


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