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Products and solutions, 2007-08-27, 11:00 AM

Display of discipline from German service providers

Extreme flexibility, high motivation and safety awareness were all displayed by the ThyssenKrupp Xervon team during the shutdown of a Rotterdam refinery. With plenty of determination, the team not only mastered a totally re-organized shutdown plan, but was also awarded top marks for safety by the client week after week.

The original plans, however, were entirely different. From March 12 onward, the refinery was to have suspended operation for three and a half weeks for a routine turnaround. As one of the service providers contracted to plan the shutdown and handle the turnaround, ThyssenKrupp Xervon earmarked 120 employees for this project. But even the best-laid plans go astray. Due to a plant malfunction, the schedule was turned upside-down. Not only did the shutdown have to be brought forward at short notice to the beginning of February, but it was also repeatedly extended to what was ultimately almost ten weeks.

Duplicated tasks

Xervon shutdown project manager Richard Wolfstädter had a tough challenge facing him. First of all, he had to completely re-organize his already detailed deadline planning. And then the new work schedule drawn up at lightning speed was soon overtaken by reality. "We started work on February 1. It then turned out during the shutdown that it wouldn't be possible to meet a number of repair deadlines, so we had to postpone our work several times," says Wolfstädter looking back on the huge challenge to his team's flexibility. Xervon had originally estimated an order volume of 12,000 working hours. However, due to the delays and extra work, this figure ballooned to 24,000.

The gigantic refinery had been divided into five large segments for the shutdown. One of these was entrusted to ThyssenKrupp Xervon for inspection. Multi-trade manager Richard Wolfstädter was not only in charge of the mechanical treatment of the total of ten installations of this part of the refinery. He was also responsible for the coordination of other trades such as scaffold erection, insulation and cleaning. His team handled the dismantling and re-assembly of all the apparatus and equipment such as tanks, columns, heat exchangers, filters, air coolers, etc. The project scope also extended to minor welding jobs.

Ten hours a day from Monday to Friday and another six hours on Saturdays – that was the unusually long working week – by Benelux standards – of the Xervon shutdown specialists. "Our people are very disciplined and committed when it comes to handling a shutdown," says Wolfstädter in praise of this team. As the project manager in charge, he takes good care of his men: "If I want motivated people who take responsibility for their work, I have to offer them a decent working atmosphere." This starts with suitable accommodation and also involves shielding the fitters from unnecessary pressure and hassles. The refinery expert Wolfstädter also has a keen interest in harmonious relations with the client. "The key is always good cooperation and plenty of enthusiasm, otherwise we'd never manage shutdowns like the one in Rotterdam."

At any rate, Xervon can now look back on another successfully handled inspection. All ten installations went smoothly back into operation without any leakages. The safety verdict was just as spotless: No accidents, no injuries, and not the slightest incident. This explains why Xervon was the only service provider involved in this turnaround to be given an impeccable assessment by the refinery management week after week.

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