What is an STO (Shutdown, Turnaround, and Outage)?

When it comes to shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages (STOs), it is crucial that everyone is on the same page about what they mean.  

In some industries, the connotation of a shutdown or outage may be related to a safety concern. For others, it may be a commonly used term for a routine maintenance project that cannot be executed on a running plant or unit.  

Understanding what STOs are and being on the same page enables maintenance departments to quickly perform emergency maintenance.  

In this article, we will cover what shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages are and how you can manage them more effectively and efficiently.  

The Definition of a Shutdown, Turnaround, and Outage (STO)

A shutdown, turnaround, or outage (STO) is a maintenance event that may be planned or unplanned. A shutdown, turnaround, or outage will usually require an asset, unit or a whole plant to suspend operations until the maintenance activity is complete and any safety and start-up checks are signed off.

For most industries, the longer the duration of the STO, the more money that is lost (since they could have been producing products if the system was online). This makes it crucial for STOs to be managed effectively from start to finish. This typically requires a sustained period focusing on preparation, planning and scheduling to ensure that we are in a confident position entering the execution phase.

Each term within the STO can mean something different depending on which industry you are talking about. However, shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages each have a general definition that most people will recognize.

What is a Shutdown in Maintenance?

A shutdown is when maintenance takes one or multiple assets out of commission to perform maintenance. This can affect a portion of production but does not usually prevent all production from continuing like in turnarounds and outages.  

A shutdown is generally planned and has a time frame of around a few days, sometimes up to 2-3 weeks. Shutdowns that only take out a portion of a plant’s assets allow a minimum level of production to be sustained while maintenance is carried out.  

Some industries will use the term “shutdown” interchangeably with the term “outage.”  

What Is a Turnaround in Maintenance?

A turnaround is a planned maintenance event that requires a plant, or an entire portion of a plant to go completely offline for maintenance. Production is not able to resume until the turnaround is completed and checked for potential errors.

When these types of events occur, it is paramount that they are well planned and stick to the schedule. If a turnaround takes longer than expected, it can cost the facility hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue due to delayed production.  

Turnarounds are planned 18-24 months) in advance and generally last around 3-12 weeks.

What Is an Outage in Maintenance?

An outage is generally unplanned and involves a partial or complete stoppage of your plant. Since it is unplanned, this type of maintenance event can pose more of a risk to the production and safety of your site.  

When outages occur, maintenance should have the tools necessary to identify the issues and fix it as quickly as possible to get the facility up and running again.  

Outages can take weeks, months, or even years, depending on the severity of the problem, the industry, the organization, and scale of the outage.  

How You Can Manage STO’s Efficiently and Effectively  

Whether you are dealing with a planned or unplanned STO, you will want to have a handle on your resources, inventory, and regular maintenance schedule.  

If you do not, sudden STOs or even planned STOs can throw a wrench in your maintenance routine. They can also take longer than necessary if you do not keep the correct spare parts stocked and ready.

For some industries, if their STO takes even a day longer than anticipated, it can lead to hundreds of thousands or even millions in lost production.  

STO management software is a great way to stay ahead of your shutdown, turnaround, or outage. By keeping things organized, you can be prepared for planned or unplanned STOs and minimize the time it takes.

It is important for your STO management software to integrate with your ERP, EAM, or CMMS system to ensure that data is not lost and every detail of your STO is communicated effectively.

Gain Control of Your Shutdowns, Turnarounds, and Outages With Our STO Suite

As a maintenance manager, knowing the difference between shutdowns, turnarounds, and outages and what they entail is important. Once you have that down, then you need to make sure you manage your STO efficiently.  

Fortunately, there is a tool that integrates with your ERP, EAM, or CMMS system to make your planned and unplanned outages run smoothly and stay on track – our STO Suite.  

If you are interested in finding out more about how you can manage your STOs successfully with the Prometheus STO Suite, reach out to us today.