- Trying to escape the grasp of reactive maintenance is a complex problem involving software, process, and organization.
- A proactive maintenance planner actively supports future work scheduling and reliability centered maintenance.
- There can be many reasons why the planning process is not working. And it only takes one reason to cause a real problem.
Everyone seems to talk about the importance of work planning within the enterprise asset management (EAM) system. Vendors often discuss how the software supports workforce management, work categorization, and job planning. And EAM users frequently participate in user forums, attend training classes, and talk with other peer groups in an attempt to improve work order planning. If all of this is true, why are so many sites still struggling to fully implement maintenance planning?
Although some industries have the work management planning process finely tuned, others are stuck in a self-imposed, reactive maintenance mode and are unsure how to escape. Just because they have planners doesn't mean they are fully engaged in (or supportive of) future work planning. Rather they may be actively involved in reactive maintenance support.
A proactive maintenance planner actively supports future work scheduling and reliability centered maintenance. Job Planners often assist with identification of recurring problems, faulty parts, and work order feedback. Plus, they participate in maintenance backlogs, work priority validation, job plan creation and PM library reviews.
The lack of proactive planning is illustrated in Figure 1 where Process A handles all work the same and Process B allows for proactive maintenance (Figure 1).
This means we need to start identifying work that can be planned and begin making weekly schedules. But it’s not that simple.
There can be many reasons why the planning process is not working. And it only takes one reason to cause a real problem. When it comes to work order planning, you might encounter the following:
- No formal job planner position exists. The maintenance staff sometimes performs this role but usually as a non-formal process with inconsistent results.
- The planner position exists, but has no real training in planning/scheduling fundamentals or conceptual understanding of EAM system management, such as backlog management, work prioritization, and PM program design. Planners are afraid to estimate any work.
- The planner position exists, but the planner has insufficient industry background in maintenance.
- The organization seems to do an excellent job at dispatching emergency and urgent work. Unfortunately, this is all it understands. Therein it processes all incoming work the same.
- Working-level supervision is not truly supportive of the work planning process. For example, there are many instances of self-inflicted reactive maintenance, and there is no process for weekly scheduling.
- Maintenance workers and supervisors aren’t really helping the planners in terms of feedback. Job step instructions are perceived as not needed. Maintenance staff only sees the EAM system as a work order ticket generator.
- There’s poor foundation data. No standard PM or job plan library has been established. PM work orders are created on the fly. The maintenance backlog is inaccurate and poorly categorized.
Foundation data and process
The maintenance program needs to clearly define the role of the maintenance planner. This skill set can add efficiency to the maintenance organization and is absolutely critical to reducing reactive maintenance. In order to make more informed decisions within the EAM system, it’s important to have all of the supporting elements (Figure 2).
Even though there are many books on the subject of effective planning/scheduling, no one seems to be discussing these real world problems. A conversation might go like this:
|Planner / Scheduler||We cannot perform any additional work, such as work order planning, as we are fully utilized at this moment. There is a significant amount of emergency and urgent work which requires our immediate attention. And we are the main point of coordination when it comes to the EAM system input, as well as output. If we start planning work, who will handle the daily breakdowns and urgent requests?|
|Interpretation of the above||We need more staff before we can enter any additional time for jobs such as status updates, planning/estimating of routine work, refining PM/job-plan library, attaining work-order feedback, and reviewing the maintenance backlog. But is it really just a staffing issue?|
|Management statement||We are not going to hire any more planning staff.|
Thus, an impasse. It’s sort of like a poker game — management versus the planning staff. Is it possible to come up with a solution without hiring more staff? What would you do? If there really is no time to input anything else, then this is a significant issue. This sounds like a lot of reactive maintenance. As a result of this organizational impasse, the following happens:
- Every day the maintenance backlog grows in size including the number of unplanned work orders in this backlog and poorly categorized data.
- The work orders are essentially managed at the working level, meaning individuals are performing individual actions. Multi-craft coordination is difficult. Job safety is up to the worker. Frequent trips are required to get parts, tools, and documentation, resulting in job delays.
- Since reactive maintenance costs more in terms of labor, materials, travel time, safety incidents, and overall confusion from redirects, this impacts the maintenance budget.
- Without a formal planning process, it is difficult to implement any automated scheduling techniques.