Planning and Scheduling / Predictive Maintenance / Digitalization

PdM and maintenance planning: A tale of two trends

Thomas Wilk says the digital revolution is well underway, but what about…

By Thomas Wilk, editor in chief

Every now and then you can sense when the industry conversation is changing.

Five years ago, when I joined Plant Services, the conversation was heating up on two topics: how to keep up with the rapid acceleration of digital transformation, and the question of what to do about all of the Boomer maintenance professionals who were just starting to retire.

A few years later and here we are, talking less about what to do and more about how to do it. Most organizations have a strategy in place for when and how to embrace one or more digital technologies to drive their reliability goals. It could be work instructions stored in the cloud and pulled up on AR/VR headsets; it could be a new handheld data collector; it could be something in between, but chances are that you and/or your teams are part of the digital change.

On the workforce side, we’ve focused our coverage on two emerging trends. The first trend was uncovered in our PdM survey series, which for the past three years has shown our industry’s increasing acceptance of bringing on third-party consultants and partners to help fill any skills or knowledge gaps.

The second trend is less easy to quantify but much easier to hear in general conversation. About three years ago the conversation grew a lot more urgent on how to achieve the benefits that effective planning and scheduling can deliver to an organization. In a way it’s easy to understand why this trend is happening: The more difficult it is to find experienced full-time replacements for retiring workers, the more crucial it is for organizations to rethink their processes and get the most out of the professionals they do have.

Of course, if everyone knew how to do it, the conversation wouldn’t be as noisy. In this regard, Doc Palmer has led our coverage of planning and scheduling for close to three years, starting with a feature story in September 2016 on how to make planning and scheduling work for you and then launching his monthly Palmer’s Planning Corner column in January 2017.

Doc’s first dozen columns outlined his 12 principles of planning and scheduling, and in this month’s cover story he shows how each of those principles was applied in a real-life setting at the Gwinnett County Department of Water Resources. The bottom line is that, after overhauling its planning and scheduling program in 2014, the DWR maintenance team increased its productivity in completing work orders from 34,000 per year to more than 58,000 per year – while using fewer overall labor hours.

Now, it may be true that, as motivational speaker Claire Cook puts it, “If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters – 204 if you’re in Japan.” Check out this month’s cover story to find out how Doc and the DWR did it, and I look forward to hearing your own stories of planning and scheduling success.