No planning without scheduling

Doc Palmer says the two go hand in hand to produce reliability – and profitability – benefits.

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

Most people want to talk about maintenance planning to the exclusion of maintenance scheduling. Industry misunderstanding of the values of planning and scheduling explains the frustration in the implementation of either. Industry understands scheduling even less than it does planning. Consequently, many plants start planning without doing any scheduling. Yet when a plant is starting out on this proactive-maintenance path, proper scheduling is much more valuable than proper planning. The first principle of scheduling is that a plant must have job plans identifying craft skills and labor hours.

This principle of scheduling does not dismiss the great value of planning itself. The goal of planning over time is to have finely tuned plans in place that help enable experienced and new craftspersons doing frequent or infrequent work to do that work to a high consistent standard. This goal compels additional learning, as of tricks of the trade and the particulars of a specific asset.

Many plants start planning and soon encounter frustration from craftspersons who resent planners trying to tell them how to perform work and supervisors who resent having to wait on planners. Presuming the plant has skilled crafts and a good storeroom, so why have a planner provide procedures and ensure the availability of parts?

The answer: Proper planning utilizes planners as “craft historians” who can catalog and analyze craftspersons’ feedback on parts and job steps. Proper planning develops better procedures over the years, and in knowing that their plans do not have to be “perfect,” planners can more quickly plan jobs. Over time, this Deming cycle of improvement results in very helpful plans that have tremendous value to craftspersons working on equipment. Nevertheless, the goal of planning immediately is to support scheduling.

As a plant begins to implement proper planning and scheduling, the immediate benefit is from the scheduling that sets goals for work completion. Scheduling as weekly goal-setting is what accelerates maintenance productivity. Surprisingly, it is not the planning that reduces delays on individual jobs. Without the scheduling component, even superbly planned jobs suffer from jobs taking longer than they should. With the scheduling piece, the plant will complete more work than normal. This increased work completion will produce an incredible boost to plant reliability, positively affecting plant profitability. The industry rule of thumb is that every dollar invested in extra proactive work yields $10 on the bottom line of profits. Considering that good plants complete most of their reactive work in a timely fashion, all extra work completed is by definition proactive.

A plant might want to start scheduling to gain this great benefit and implement planning later. However, a plant cannot start scheduling without having planned jobs. Building schedules requires labor hours and craft skill to be identified for each work order – hence, the planning must be complete.

A corollary to this principle that scheduling must have planned jobs for work hours and skills is that planners shouldn’t overskill jobs. Planners should always plan the jobs for the lowest skills required. If a plant has junior mechanic and senior mechanic classifications, the planner would designate junior mechanics for simple mechanical work and senior mechanics for more-complex jobs. This correct-skilling of jobs allows the scheduler and supervisors more flexibility when scheduling and assigning work. A job planned for a junior mechanic could be scheduled to a junior mechanic or to a senior mechanic.

Say that a crew has five senior mechanics and five junior mechanics and that the planner planned all of the work in the backlog for a junior mechanic. In that case, any of the mechanics could be scheduled or assigned work. However, if the planner had designated a senior mechanic for all of the work, only half the crew could be scheduled.

The first principle of scheduling is that job plans are required. Plan all of the work, and do not overskill the craft requirements. Get going on scheduling to gain that great initial benefit of proper planning and scheduling.

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