Shell Global Solutions recently delivered a detailed webcast on how to turn benchmarking outcomes into real business results to a global audience of refiners. In the presentation, we showed how to identify performance gaps, the benefits of holding a gap analysis workshop and how to prioritise your actions. If you missed the webcast or would like to watch it again, you can see it here.

Select a question to jump to the relevant answer:

  1. How do you convince a site that there could be gaps they are unaware of?
  2. In which area does a gap analysis workshop offer the most value?
  3. How does Shell select and prioritise the ideas from a gap analysis workshop? What criteria do you apply? Our issue is selecting which ones to implement when we have many ideas.
  4. You talked about “rapid margin projects”. From your experience, which actions typically yield a return sooner and which take a bit longer?
  5. Does Shell provide solutions to the identified gaps?
  6. Although an actionable plan as a result of a gap analysis workshop is valuable, does Shell offer further support to ensure the successful implementation of the plan?
  7. Can you explain why you recommend using the capability model if we are just introducing a new process? For a clear process, this seems to be over the top!
  8. How do you address a workforce that is reluctant to change? The typical response from staff is: “This is how we have always done it, why change?”
  9. We want to improve our production planning and scheduling business processes. What typical gaps we should look for and against which refineries should we benchmark?
  10. Could you show some practical examples of where gap identification has resulted in business benefits?
  11. How do you calculate time-on-tools?

1. How do you convince a site that there could be gaps they are unaware of?

The benchmarking report will highlight any gaps that may exist in the areas of health, safety, security and environment; maintenance; availability and reliability; utilisation; energy and loss; personnel; and costs. However, there may be other gaps that are not so obvious or visible, for example, competence gaps, inefficient processes, an unsuitable organisational structure or behavioural gaps. By using the organisation capability model, one should be able to convince the site to address these gaps (also).

2. In which area does a gap analysis workshop offer the most value?

This really depends on the gaps identified in the benchmarking results. For some sites, the focus may be on maintenance execution: high labour effort, high unplanned downtime, etc. At other sites, it might be lower plant utilisation. We do an in-depth analysis of your benchmarking data comparing it with contextual peer groups for a fair assessment. From this, we devise some hypotheses and confirm them with you. Only then, can we decide together which areas the workshop should address.

3. How does Shell select and prioritise the ideas from a gap analysis workshop? What criteria do you apply? Our issue is selecting which ones to implement when we have many ideas.

Not all initiatives have equal benefit. Management (head office or local) should prioritise current and future initiatives and focus only on those with the most beneficial outcome based on a matrix analysis of cost, timescale and complexity.

  1. Our priority list goes something like this:
  2. licence to operate
  3. criticality
  4. low effort, budget and time to implement
  5. longer-term wins.

Licence-to-operate improvements are non-negotiable; these happen first. Then the identified opportunities are ranked using various criteria, the first being criticality.

Next, we look at benefits versus resources and ease of implementation. This means that actions that require little effort and budget and can be implemented within a short period will be go to the top of our list. This also helps from a change-management perspective. Quick wins get noticed and help to stimulate support for projects that require more time or resources, or where the wins are longer term.

Avoiding initiative overload requires the leadership team to say no to some suggestions; your objective is to convert initiatives into achievable tactics. Starting all your initiatives at once will create burnout. Starting slowly will actually help you to achieve more in the end.

4. You talked about “rapid margin projects”. From your experience, which actions typically yield a return sooner and which take a bit longer?

Those actions with quicker returns typically require little or no capital investment, involve only basic operational changes and have a well thought-out implementation plan. The company will be led by a positive and supportive management team that encourages employee creativity.

Those actions for which returns are longer term typically involve medium to high investment; major feedstock, operational or technology changes; or require the unit to be shut down for an extended period or a unit turnaround. Companies that are historically slow to make change or lack robust management support will also be a factor.

5. Does Shell provide solutions to the identified gaps?

During the gap analysis workshop, we work as a team to consider all the available options to close or narrow the gaps. We continue to work together to prioritise the options and create a high-level action plan detailing the solutions for implementation.

6: Although an actionable plan as a result of a gap analysis workshop is valuable, does Shell offer further support to ensure the successful implementation of the plan?

Typically, after the gap analysis workshop, the responsibility for implementation lies with the individual site. However, we can support you by further detailing the improvement and implementation plan.

We can also offer additional services if you prefer that Shell oversees the implementation in a more hands-on capacity.

7. Can you explain why you recommend using the capability model if we are just introducing a new process? For a clear process, this seems to be over the top!

I understand your thinking, but even the smallest of changes can create uncertainty if employees do not understand why it is happening. Thus, managing change from all perspectives reduces the risk of workplace hostility. Let me explain this with an example.

A customer was trying to introduce a business performance system that used a quality scorecard with all relevant key performance indicators to measure its success. However, after they had used it for some time, they had observed no benefits or improvements. If you took this result as a measure of success, you would say the new process was not working.

By analysing the implementation rather than the change itself, and having the five areas of the capability model in mind, we discovered that management was only half-heartedly supporting the new system. It was not well communicated, roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined and the required resources were not made available. The capability model provided the prompts to address the shortcomings, and the site’s performance improved.

8. How do you address a workforce that is reluctant to change? The typical response from staff is: “This is how we have always done it, why change?”

This is not an uncommon reaction. It is important to create a case for change (also referred to as a burning platform). One has to explain the need for change, the personal and business benefits that the change will bring, and the possible consequences of ignoring it.

To maximise the likelihood of successful change initiatives, the following actions are important:

  • establishing the case for change;
  • making sure you have the right leadership support;
  • being clear on what the new improved situation will look like and its benefits;
  • communicating the “new world view” as many times as possible;
  • removing obstacles that may jeopardise the improved situation;
  • systematically planning for and creating quick wins;
  • not declaring victory too soon; and
  • anchoring changes in the company’s culture

Using the capability model to anticipate obstacles will make implementing the change smoother.

9. We want to improve our production planning and scheduling business processes. What typical gaps we should look for and against which refineries should we benchmark?

A gap analysis based on unit reliability (frequency of operational problems and outages) and number of different crudes processed is required. Successful planning and scheduling depend on process units to run smoothly and consistently, i.e., not being in a dynamic or transitive state. Unit upsets and outages make operational adherence an overwhelming challenge, so changes to the crude slate should take place no more than every four days, as a crude switch can take 8–12 hours for the unit to line out. Blending finished products on-specification first time is essential for the shipping schedule.

10. Could you show some practical examples of where gap identification has resulted in business benefits?

  1. Volume gain: Client A saw a higher than normal percentage of C3+ fuel gas being produced during refining. Recovery improved at the satellite plant and other units, and the excess C3+ material was blended and or sold.
  2. Taxes: Client B was paying tax at a higher percentage of revenue than others in its peer group were. After a third party investigation, an appeal meant the tax rate was subsequently lowered.
  3. Energy: Client C was achieving much lower unit energy efficiency than its peers. Intermediate storage between the crude and vacuum units was minimised, and the vacuum unit ejectors were modified.
  4. Unit yields: Client D had low hydrocracker yields compared with its peers. The conversion rate improved once the makeup hydrogen purity was increased, the reactor’s feedstock nitrogen content was reduced and the catalyst deactivation rate was lowered. The return surpassed the required capital investment.

11. How do you calculate time-on-tools?

The most accurate way to calculate time-on-tools is to accompany maintenance personnel and to measure the time they spend working on maintaining equipment. It is important to choose a representative group of maintenance technicians to give a fair sample. This process is labour-intensive but gives you the data on which to base your comparison.

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