For those of you who have participated in a turnaround (TAR) or shutdown, how many times have you regretted a decision and wished you could get a do-over? More often than not, the answer is too many to count. This is why T.A. Cook has created a proprietary TARfighter program that encourages you to use up your mistakes before any real-life planning actually begins.


by Jennifer Layer

TARfighter is a unique turnaround and shutdown management simulation tool developed by T.A. Cook’s STO (shutdowns, turnarounds and outages) team to help TAR teams learn from their mistakes in a safe and fun workshop environment. It is a computer-based simulation that allows participants to review, optimize and track progress through the phases of a turnaround, from conception through lessons learned. Participants from various companies are split into teams and compete against each other based on dynamic KPIs, primarily safety, quality, duration and cost. The program is centred around a network diagram, and through optimization phases, decision making, and event and situation management, the teams deliver a turnaround, ideally within the goals set by the course leader. The beauty of the simulation is participants can make and learn from their mistakes without worrying about the safety, quality or cost implications associated with a real-life even.

Between each simulation, the teams come together to review their current KPI standing, the reasoning behind their decisions, their strategy challenges and, of course, how they intend to move forward. Also contained within these group sessions are planned presentations, exercises and discussions on the phases, processes and organization of each main turnaround phase. The focus of these mini-seminars is to ensure participants are aware of good practice, pitfalls and resolutions, and have the opportunity to discuss problems and share experiences from their respective backgrounds. To help break up the intense working sessions and increase the team-building experience, there are several energizing activities peppered throughout the workshop for added competition and fun between the teams.  

"It was a very valuable preparation for me and my team to master our upcoming Shutdowns"

Head of Global Turnaround Management, Bayer MaterialScience

This past December, various companies sent their best and brightest TAR-focused employees to join T.A. Cook experts during Houston’s TARfighter program. Although TARfighter is all about STO, it was not created exclusively for seasoned TAR team members. In fact, this past TARfighter saw not only a combination of new and experienced team members but also a mixture of titles, from operations to capital projects employees. Experience has shown representatives from TAR management, planning and operations teams have all realized the advantages of working together through a turnaround program simulation.

Additionally, the mix of experience levels provides an invaluable learning and team-building opportunity.
Many say you do not grow until you fail, and TARs are not a place failure is acceptable, no matter how common it may be. What TARfighter does that no amount of planning can do is remove the real-life risk from the decisions. One refinery operations liaison claimed, “TARfigher is not just for TAR team members. It helped me gain a new perspective and appreciation for the right way to establish scope and the detail that must go into proper planning,” further emphasizing TARfighter is the place to make your mistakes and learn from them before the real TAR planning begins. That way, instead of having your mistakes affect your entire company and career, they will merely affect how you plan your future TARs.




If the idea of TARfighter excites you or you feel it could help a new team develop or an experienced team try new tricks, the simulation workshop can be tailored for in-house workshops and delivered to a specific site or group of sites within a corporation. This is particularly beneficial for an upcoming shutdown in the development of knowledge, confidence and team-building. It is even more valuable if scheduled to coincide with the kick-off of the front-end loading, whereby the team can take maximum advantage of starting off in a positive and assured manner, knowing their processes and organization are primed and set up for effective delivery.

For more information about the TARfighter workshop click here.