Why do maintenance departments need to “invest wisely” when hiring for a maintenance planner position? Consider this: A skilled maintenance planner will save three hours in time and/or materials for every hour of effective planning he or she does. Having the right person in this position can mean the difference between an efficient planning and scheduling process and one that wastes time and money.
In my 30-plus years in the heavy chemical industry and in my time later as a consultant, I’ve identified six primary attributes to look for in an applicant:
- Good communication skills: Your candidate must be a good communicator. The planning role touches many work streams. Your planner-to-be must be able to express himself or herself verbally and in writing to be effective in all of those touch points. The planner must be able to put down a coherent, appropriately detailed job plan on the work order. Failure to do so will cause delays and could even result in a technician missing vital safety information and getting injured.
- Logical thinking: You can use logic puzzles in the hiring process to determine whether the person thinks in a logical progression. Whether it is an unfolded shape puzzle or another logic puzzle, this will reveal how much logic or “thinking in steps” a person possesses. Even a simple test, such as building a job plan for cutting the grass, may reveal this necessary trait.
- Computer literacy: The planner will likely be the facility’s super-user of the CMMS (computerized maintenance management system), so he or she will need to quickly become an expert user and teacher to be effective. Familiarity and experience working with spreadsheets and software programs like the Microsoft Office suite will help the planner prepare the detailed reports that will be required as a part of the position.
- Organizational skills: It has often been said that you can tell a lot about a person by looking at his or her desk or workspace. Organizational skills are as important as any other trait. I have seen planners whose desks are a disorganized jumble of papers. In this situation, things may get overlooked or delayed because documentation, records, and notes get lost in the mess. This, again, can cause delays or worse.
- Attention to detail: When I was in the armed forces, I learned in a very real way what attention to detail really means: To me, it means the ability to finish. In the planning world, detail can be a tricky thing. Too much detail can seem to the tradesperson like someone is telling him or her how to perform tasks. By contrast, I have always thought of planning as creating a checklist to help remind the craftsperson what comes next. I would never presume to tell a skilled craftsperson how to use his or her tools. At the other end of the spectru, too little detail may cause a job delay or even cause someone to be injured because the planner left out an important safety note.
- Ability to visualize: This is a planner competency that might not come naturally. What’s required is the ability to visualize, in one’s mind’s eye, the best way to perform the requested maintenance task. Experience gained through repetition and siphoning knowledge from experienced craftspeople are the only tools I know of to develop this competency.
While these are not the only attributes to look for when making a hiring decision, I believe they are very important. Having these planner competencies will not guarantee that the candidate will be a successful employee, but not having them will almost certainly guarantee a rough road ahead.