Understanding the pillars of maintenance planning

Apply these 12 planning and scheduling principles and watch your productivity climb.

By Doc Palmer, PE, CMRP, Richard Palmer and Associates

Back in September (“How to Make Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Work for You”), I laid out major precepts of making planning and scheduling successful. In my column last month, “Plan-It Fitness: The Great Value of Maintenance Planning,” I more fully explained why there was an opportunity for crews to complete more proactive work through planning and scheduling and the value of that work. This month, I’m taking a closer look at the principles within those overall precepts. We’ll explore each in greater detail in coming months.

To begin, there are six principles involved in planning as a Deming cycle of improvement:

  1. First, management must protect planners from having too many other duties. Planners also should not be under the direction of crew supervisors.
  2. Second, planners should be working on “future work” – work that has not yet been assigned to craftspersons. Craftspersons must accept that plans are not perfect, and they should continually provide feedback on individual work orders for areas of recommended improvement.
  3. Third, planners must save plans and job feedback in component-level files. Large files holding all the work orders in an entire system don’t allow for quick retrieval. Associated concerns include equipment numbering and tagging, types of feedback, and even planner qualifications.
  4. Fourth, planners must quickly estimate times for job plans. They cannot become bogged down in creating “perfect” time estimates such that it keeps them from planning enough of the work to run the improvement cycle.
  5. Next, planners, too, must quickly plan job details. Planners should enter only as much detail for jobs as will allow them to be able to plan nearly all the work.
  6. Finally, the concept of wrench time gives the opportunity to complete more work, but management doesn’t have to measure wrench time if it can maturely accept that nearly all workforces are at 35% wrench time without proper planning and scheduling, and near 50% or 55% with it. Nevertheless, any measurements of wrench time should be made with a statistical sampling technique.

Similarly, there are six principles involved in starting crews with a full batch of work each week as a goal to defeat Parkinson’s Law (“work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”). First, jobs must have plans in the backlog to provide estimated labor hours and craft skills required. Second, the plant must have a credible priority system. This system will let personnel know when breaking the schedule is appropriate. The priority system can’t be too simple or too complex.

Third, crew supervisors must provide a forecast of labor capacity available for the next week. The week period is long enough to allow for smoothing of generally inaccurate time estimates and to permit grouping jobs for convenience. It’s also short enough to provide a reasonable goal for motivation and to protect the schedule against some interruptions.

Fourth, the schedule must be fully loaded to account for 100% of the available crew capacity. (Other schools of thought, such as scheduling 120% or 80%, merit discussion.) The scheduler will deliver a batch of work mostly without specifying days on which tasks will be accomplished.
Fifth, maintenance is so dynamic on a daily basis, with jobs taking longer or shorter than expected and team members dealing with interruptions, that daily scheduling should be left to the crew supervisor. Sixth, managers must measure the success of the schedule. Routine scores over 90% usually indicate that schedules aren’t being adequately loaded.

Finally, consider two other issues in addressing reactive maintenance. First, because plants do not operate in a perfect world, management must freely allow breaking of the weekly schedule. Second, all plants have some urgent work that isn’t emergency in nature and doesn’t have to be started immediately. Recognizing that plans do not have to be “perfect,” planners can provide quick plans for this work.

Properly considering these principles will let you use planning and scheduling to greatly accelerate maintenance productivity.

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