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Improve Turnaround Practice Management

By Marcus Evans

Jun 16, 2013

Interview with Sam Harkreader, Maintenance/Reliability/Engineering Improvement Lead at the Chocolate Bayou Plant with Ascend Performance Materials         




As a result of record low natural gas and feedstock prices the Chemical, Petrochemical, and Refining Industries are operating at increasingly higher levels of production. This means more maintenance; personnel and contractors are required to operate efficiently and effectively.


The effect on shutdowns and turnarounds means that maintenance, reliability, planning, turnaround, and similar personnel have to modify and improve their efforts managing scope, detailing maintenance activities, balancing work orders, capital project integration, contractor management, post turnaround analysis and much more.

Sam Harkreader, previously Turnaround Lead, now serves as the Maintenance, Reliability, and Engineering Improvement Lead at the  


Chocolate Bayou Plant with Ascend Performance Materials.  He also acts as the Functional Standards Lead for Turnaround Practices company-wide. 


He will be speaking at the 5th Annual Chem / Petrochem & Refinery Shutdowns and Turnarounds Conference, August 6-8, 2013 at the Westin Dallas Park
Central in Dallas.  Below, Sam

answers a series of questions written by marcus evans before the upcoming conference.

In your session, you will be discussing best practices for improving turnaround practice management. Can you tell us a little bit more about how Ascend Performance Materials has improved the turnaround process?


Sam Harkreader: During a critique of our last turnaround, we selected three key issues to improve upon during the next turnaround. The three issues included were:


  • Permit process improvements

  • Confined space work process improvements

  • Orientation improvements

For the permit process improvement, we decentralized lock boxes to eliminate congestion in the permitting area and modified the schedule with consideration given to permitting requirements. We also engaged a 3rd party Safety Contractor on a seven day project to collect data about our current process and propose changes for improvement. As it turns out, all three actions yielded positive results.



What best practices should other chemical, petrochemical or refinery professionals be practicing, if they aren’t already?


SH: For every turnaround, no matter the industry, it is vital to engage key stakeholders early in the process to develop a sense of co-ownership of the results of the turnaround. This will enable better alignment of objectives, which should also be aligned with site, business and corporate objectives.

With shared objectives, it becomes easier to evaluate each proposed scope item against agreed upon risk factors in order to make in/out decisions. Various contracting strategies should be explored, with particular interest in those that leverage the best talent in the marketplace.



In your opinion, how can plants enhance the efficiency of a turnaround?


SH: Successful turnaround execution requires thorough planning and effective communication across many work groups and at various stages in the planning and execution process. Enabling effective collaboration among these work groups is essential to understanding not only the requirements of each work group, but also the strengths and weaknesses.

Effective team building throughout the life of the turnaround encourages and rewards innovation that results in improvements in efficiency, safety, and morale.



Are there any new technologies that other industry professionals should be aware of?


SH: Knowledge management and collaboration technologies have developed dramatically over recent years and can enable breakthrough performance in turnaround planning. Knowledge management systems can simplify the capture and re-use of proven practices.

Collaboration systems help leverage the diverse experiences of your talent pool to capture knowledge and build new knowledge by making it easier for turnaround resources to communicate and share new ideas. We also see a constant evolution of technologies in the field, including more efficient chemical cleaning solutions and less intrusive evaluation methods.

The key is to periodically scan the marketplace for recent, or at least proven, innovations that may benefit your upcoming turnaround.


What do you feel attendees will gain from attending the 5th Annual Chem/Petrochem & Refinery Shutdowns & Turnarounds Conference?


SH: I was a speaker at the 2012 conference where I met many other industry representatives and shared common challenges and solutions. I also discussed specific challenges that were met by fresh ideas.

In fact, since permit process improvement was one of the key focuses for improvement for our next turnaround, I discussed permitting practices with several participants, and returned home with new ideas to test. I also met many vendors within the industry, some of which shared new technologies. Finally, I had a great time, and met many like-minded people.



Sam has a B.S. Industrial Technology from Lamar University. He earned a certificate in Integrated Supply Chain Management from MIT, a Project Management Professional certificate from Project Management Institute, and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt from HewlettPackard.


For more information please contact Michele Westergaard, Senior Marketing Manager, Media & PR, marcus evans at 312-540-3000 ext. 6625 or



About marcus evans

marcus evans conferences annually produce over 2,000 high quality events designed to provide key strategic business information, best practice and networking opportunities for senior industry decision-makers. Our global reach is utilized to attract over 30,000 speakers annually, ensuring niche focused subject matter presented directly by practitioners and a diversity of information to assist our clients in adopting best practice in all business disciplines.


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