Planning and Scheduling

Just the facts for planning and scheduling

Doc Palmer says don’t get dragged into debates. Here’s the straight talk about planning and scheduling.

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

In the TV show “Dragnet,” Officer Friday is famous for asking witnesses for “Just the facts, ma’am.” Here is a straight rundown of just the facts for planning and scheduling without much attempt to defend or explain them: the actions, if not the motives, of the audacious crime of not wanting to be merely normal in maintenance productivity.

Statistical studies show that wrench time at normal companies is typically only 35%. Proper planning and scheduling boosts wrench time to 55%. The resulting workforce gets a 57% bump in its work order completion rate. Because normal plants increase or decrease staff size over the years, mostly to satisfy screaming operators and do enough PM to be merely a normal plant, the workforce is sized to cover all reactive maintenance. Therefore, by definition, all of an extra 50% increase in work orders completed is proactive work and worth 10 times its value in plant profit.

The facts about planning. The fact is that management must protect planners from extra duties that are not planning at all that keep them from planning the new work coming in. Management must protect planners from helping too many jobs-in-progress at the expense of planning the new work. Management must also convince craftspersons to take ownership of jobs once received and give planners feedback facts to help each job “the next time it comes up.”

Planners should function as craft historians giving head starts to skilled craftspersons based on previous learning (a Deming Cycle of continuous improvement). Planners must save facts learned in ever-improving job plans registered or filed by individual assets. The fact is also that planners cannot make perfect time estimates and perfect job plans right off the bat. Planners can swiftly make “good-enough” time estimates that allow work control and should only plan the amount of detail in each plan that allows them to plan nearly all the work. Confusing facts? If a planner is not swiftly planning enough work, there is insufficient work with time controls and an insufficient number of job plans are growing over time to become great job plans.

The facts about scheduling. The fact is that job plans are a prerequisite of scheduling because schedules require estimates of labor hours. A plant must also have a credible priority system of at least 4 levels (5 is better), and that’s a fact. The plant must be able to distinguish between what has to be done immediately and what can wait until later in the week. It must also know what can wait until next week or perhaps longer. Weekly scheduling is the key to productivity. The yearly schedule is about budgets, the monthly schedule is about PM compliance, and the daily schedule is about assigning work in the ongoing churn. But the fact is, the weekly schedule is about productivity. As a simple batch of work matching 100% of available hours, it replaces the culture of taking care of operations and keeping people busy (35% wrench time) with the culture of having a sense of mission (55% wrench time). That fact makes it work. But the fact is, supervisors must be able to break the schedule and that’s why 40%-90% schedule compliance is where to be.

The facts about reactive work. Most plants let reactive work bypass planning and go straight to the crews. But the fact is that because the Deming Cycle doesn’t require perfection, planners can actually plan some of the reactive work, but only as long they check with the supervisor first. They should only plan the ones the supervisor is not about to start and never, ever tell a supervisor to wait on planning. And if they check the facts, plants usually find that some of the reactive work doesn’t get started the week it is written after all. So by planning reactive work that did not start immediately, that reactive work could be put into the schedule for next week. That makes the next weekly schedule all the more credible and provides the sense of mission that increases productivity. And that’s a fact.

“Just the facts, Ma’am.” Run planning as a Deming Cycle without requiring planners to be perfect. Fully load schedules without requiring supervisors to have perfect schedule compliance. Plan some of the reactive work, but never tell supervisors to wait. Those are the facts.