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5 minutes with Gerhard FischerManaging Director and Refinery Manager, Gunvor Raffinerie Ingolstadt

What are the most frequently asked questions you receive from your team of Process and Maintenance engineers in the plant?

Work process optimisation, problem solving, troubleshooting and ways to extend knowledge around the various technology areas are frequently asked questions, both in terms of how best to approach issues and structured methods to find a solution.

Can you tell me a little about your career in this industry?

I started many years ago as Process Engineer in Esso refinery Karlsruhe and learned on-the-job different task areas including problem solving, troubleshooting, plant optimisation, design, operations and planning. Since then I have held various management positions in Technology, Logistics & Supply, Product Quality & Management Systems. In 2007 I became Ingolstadt Refinery Managing Director, and went with the entire refinery team through insolvency in 2012, which was the hardest time in my career. Currently, I am working for Gunvor as Refinery Manager & Managing Director.

What did your most recent turnaround entail? How often does this happen and what does it mean for everyday jobs?

Such turnarounds are legally driven, the cycle and scope can vary and as such the event requires a refinery organisation to work completely different than during normal operations. Everybody in the refinery is involved in the turnaround in one or the other way and the daily routine during execution is very different. Usually there are about 10 times more contractor personnel on site compared to normal operations depending on refinery size and turnaround scope.

The turnaround planning and preparation starts usually well ahead of the execution phase (about 1 ½ to 2 years), at the beginning a small team is involved and this team grows over time.

Are you going through a digitalisation process in your refinery?

Digitalisation started in our refinery many years ago. There are process control systems with applied computer model simulations, which help the console operators to monitor and optimise the plant operations.  At the same time we have also implemented easier and better devices in the field to track and monitor the performance of our equipment. There is more to come and I believe you cannot buy digitalisation or industry 4.0 as a package solution, suppliers will provide concepts and strategies but you have to work it yourself and adjust it to your respective environment.

If you had any tips for young process and maintenance engineers starting out today what would they be?

Well, listen carefully to experienced colleagues and use things you learned at university such as logical thinking and structured scientific work approaches. Apply this knowledge in the best way to your new work environment and be always open to new developments. Respect your co-workers and colleagues and treat them as you would like to be treated. Be disciplined and always learn, learn, learn.

Finally, I believe there are no problems but rather challenges and challenges have to be taken on.

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