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During the period of the pandemic, management in asset intensive businesses have had to make major decisions with regards to their STO events - should they be postponed; continue as planned; and/or split up and spread across several years? For STO Managers who have a planned event coming up in the next 6-12 months, the challenge is to focus and get back on track with their preparation, whilst considering added pandemic protocols that have an uncertain end date and remain in place at a local, regional and global level. The following 5 key recommendations will help you  to prepare differently and more efficiently in a restricted environment.


By David Fleming


1.    Track and Trace

The uncertainty of the pandemic puts further strains on the progress of preparation for any STO. Project transparency and increased communication is vital, as any deviation could further impact the preparation. With this in mind, micromanagement of key tasks and their deliverables is recommended by tracking progress using a countdown schedule of these tasks. Uncertainty increases the level of risk, not only with the threat of new risks, but also regarding common deliverables such as availability of resources and services, on-time material deliveries, and travel and transportation. Therefore frequent workshops to identify risks and trace impact of mitigations implemented are strongly advised.


2.    Re-assess STO Activities

Based on our experience 1000 daily workers as a maximum during STO execution is the recommended optimum. Any higher and you increase complexity and start to impact productivity, safety and invite greater risk. With the addition of pandemic protocols that optimal capacity will most likely reduce. Therefore, in these circumstances, we advise that scope is reduced accordingly. Scope deferral or delay where possible is recommended. One useful tip is to prepare STO specific work that can be picked-up and executed in a short period of time, to take advantage of any unplanned stops. 


3.    Identify the Impact of Social Distancing

It is evident that social distancing and other health and safety precautions will have an impact on the development of your plans. It is strongly recommended you re-assess your approach for the following elements, and consider these carefully - from organization structure; work planning and resource mobilization to logistics, developing your training plan and, in particular, how you develop and optimize the schedule. By not doing this, turnaround duration and costs will likely escalate.


4.    Think Local

With travel limited; rules varying between countries; the prospect of future waves of the virus; and a potential inflation factor to cover higher travelling costs agreeing contracts with companies that are not local could increase the risk to your STO. We advise you to consider increasing the proportion of contracts issued with more localized service providers, or appoint more of the work to day to day maintenance frame contracts. If this is not possible, include clauses in your contracts to ensure a large percentage of staff is sourced locally. This may result in smaller packs of work being assigned to individual contractors, so be prepared for it leading to an increase in number of vendors you work with.


5.    Secure Availability of Specialists

We expect high demands for specialist trades and services over the next 6-12 months as businesses ramp up their maintenance and project requirements. Add in the factors highlighted before with regards to contracts in general, we advise that pre-contracts are initiated for specialists as quickly as possible to ringfence your resource and service requirements. Detailed contracts can be finalized as you get closer to the start of the event.   



COVID-19 induced protocols, and uncertainty about the future bring additional risk and forced changes to established processes and ways-of-working. What might have worked in the past will have to be quickly re-assessed. Elements such as scope, organization structure and resourcing, planning and scheduling, contractor selection and logistical plans of the STO may now look different in preparation than before. Tighter control, micromanagement between now and start of your STO is therefore essential. Identifying and mitigating risks as well as securing local resources is paramount to success. Project transparency and communication is always important but it now becomes vital to avoid any deviation that could further impact the preparation.
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David Fleming

David Fleming, Senior Manager at T.A. Cook, has over 30 years of industry experience and is familiar with challenges of successfully incorporating change into organizations. Throughout his career he has managed improvement projects that deliver cost benefit savings for clients from asset intensive industries. In his role as expert leader he specializes in all aspects Turnaround practices.