Effective Problem Solving in New Plant Start-Ups

There has always been a need for effective problem solving in new plant start ups. Given the huge sums currently being invested in new plant, this is very relevant right now.
There has been a surge in new plant construction in recent times, with project costs varying from tens of millions of dollars for smaller plants up to billions of dollars for large petrochemical complexes. These investments are justified due to the returns that they will create but experience has shown, that these returns will only be realised if the plants are capable of sustained operation at the highest rates. There have been many reported instances of plants failing to achieve the nameplate capacity for a variety of technical reasons. In many cases, this failure to achieve capacity has lasted for an extended period of time. This means reduced revenues as well as operational stress. It is highly frustrating for all parties concerned and can result in a lot of additional expenditure on quick-fix ‘solutions’ which ultimately do not resolve the underlying issues. In addition, the quick-fix solutions waste time as well as expenditures since each quick fix solution delays finding the real cause of the chronic problem. It is always important to focus on the problem solving capability of the operating team. The ability to identify and prioritise the problems gives a very good starting point, as not all problems can be tackled simultaneously. However, this in itself is not enough. Problems, once identified, need to be tackled using rigorous problem solving techniques so that the root causes can be identified and permanent solutions implemented. In all operating plant environments, it is desirable to have this problem solving capability. On a new plant start-up, it is absolutely essential.

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