4 must-have maintenance roles: Part II

June 12, 2012
David Berger explains how well-defined roles and responsibilities can help to get the most from your CMMS software.

In last month’s column, four guiding principles were discussed for ensuring maintenance roles and responsibilities are meaningful, well understood and effective, in order to get the most out of your CMMS. Three key roles were introduced including maintainer, supervisor and admin roles. This month’s column continues to explore key maintenance roles and how to deal effectively with multiple roles, especially in smaller maintenance shops and across multiple shifts in larger companies.

Key maintenance roles

Planner role: Many companies have yet to realize the tremendous value the planner role brings, regardless of the size of maintenance operations. For smaller companies with, say, fewer than 10 maintainers on a single shift for a single plant, the head of maintenance might also take on the role of planner, scheduler, and coordinator, in addition to supervisory duties. For larger companies, with, say, more than 50 maintainers on multiple shifts and possibly multiple plants, there is typically ample justification for hiring one or more full-time positions to assume the role of planner, or a combined planner/scheduler or planner/scheduler/coordinator.

The larger and more dispersed the maintenance operations, the more likely that planning is more effective as a stand-alone and even centralized function. For maintenance operations that fall somewhere in between 10 and 50 maintainers, there may or may not be justification of a dedicated maintenance planner, however, the role always is required.


The primary responsibility of the maintenance-planner role is to ensure adequate labor skills, materials, tools, facilities, or contracted services for the long-term optimization of asset availability, performance, reliability, quality of output and cost, throughout the entire lifecycle of all operating assets. Typically the planning horizon extends from the expected life of a given asset in the long term to an annual maintenance program in the medium term, down to next month’s planned activities in the short term.

The planner role develops and constantly updates the maintenance program which ensures that all work done by the maintenance department is 100% planned. This may surprise some people because how can maintainers know, for example, which equipment will fail today? Achieving 100% planned work is a worthy target because all work done by maintainers can be classified as one of five possible categories.

  1. fail-based maintenance — run to failure
  2. use-based maintenance — maintenance triggered by time, meter, or event
  3. condition-based maintenance — maintenance triggered by a measure exceeding a control limit or acceptable trend
  4. non-maintenance — capital project or other demand work
  5. contracted work.

For every asset or component, starting with the most critical, the maintenance planner systematically weighs the cost/benefit of each maintenance policy — items 1-3 above — against the consequence of failure, in order to determine the optimal maintenance program. Non-maintenance work — Item 4 — is planned based on actual and historical demand, subject to constraints such as resource availability, relative priority, cost, and the skills required. Contracted work — Item 5 — is typically used for work requiring specialized skills or for offsetting busy demand periods.

Other key responsibilities of the maintenance planner role are to:

  • develop job plans starting with the most critical assets (this includes standard operating procedures, standards for performance and quality, standard parts and tools required for executing the maintenance program)
  • balance the maintenance program with a capacity plan (do we have the skills, parts, tools, and facilities to do the work for next year or the next month, and what percent should be contracted?)
  • plan shutdowns
  • liaise with other roles such as the reliability specialist and scheduler, as well as engineering and operations
  • track the ratio of work that is fail-based vs. use-based vs. condition-based vs. non-maintenance
  • track standard vs. actual variances
  • analyze data for improvements to the maintenance program.
David Berger, a Certified Management Consultant (C.M.C.) registered in Ontario, Canada, is a Principal of Western Management Consultants, based in the Toronto office. David has written more than 200 articles on a variety of topics such as maintenance management, operations management, information technology, e-commerce, organizational design, and strategy. In Plant Services magazine, he has written a monthly column on maintenance management in the United States, as well as three very extensive reviews of maintenance management systems available in North America. David has done extensive work in the areas of strategy, information technology and business process re-engineering. He can be reached at [email protected].
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Note that the attributes of a good planner are good people skills, computer skills, analytical capability, good technical knowledge of the business, and at least the same seniority as the maintenance supervisor. This goes contrary to two of the most popular mistakes made when establishing a maintenance planning function — that is, assigning the maintenance planner role to a senior maintainer that is close to retirement and has no people or computer skills or to a young tech or admin staff that has insufficient seniority or technical knowledge of the business.

Scheduler role: Based on the CMMS-based maintenance plan, the scheduler role begins with calendaring activities for no further out than the end of next month. For example, as of May 1, work is scheduled to the end of June, based on the maintenance program updated monthly by the planner. The scheduler role is responsible for ensuring that on any scheduled date within the planning horizon, the following is accomplished:

  • the equipment will be available from operations
  • parts and special tools will be available and kitted by the storeskeeper role before the maintainer ever receives a work order
  • labor skills are available and matched to the job, with minimal overtime
  • any maintenance facilities required, such as a paint booth within a garage, are appropriate and available
  • where appropriate, contracted labor and material are available and matched to the job.

The scheduler role meets on a regular basis with maintenance planners, outside contractors, operations, storeskeepers and maintenance supervisors, in order to review and update the schedule based on feedback. For smaller maintenance shops, the scheduler role is often assumed by a planner/scheduler or a maintenance supervisor.

Coordinator role: This role is rarely a stand-alone position any more, except for very large maintenance operations. The coordinator role assists the maintenance supervisor and scheduler roles to coordinate activities such as screening work requests and reviewing with operations, ensuring parts availability, providing assistance to outside contractors and assuring their quality and performance, organizing training sessions, dealing with external regulatory and internal health and safety tasks and documentation, reviewing maintainer/contractor documentation to ensure data integrity and completeness, and generating and analyzing CMMS reports.

Storeskeeper role: The storeskeeper role oversees the physical storage areas for spare parts, shop supplies, uniforms, safety equipment, and tools. The main stores area should be caged and locked at all times to improve CMMS data accuracy, ensure stock rotation, and reduce pilferage. The storeskeeper role is responsible for:

  • receipt, inspection, stocking, kitting, issuance, transfer, and return of parts and materials
  • setting and monitoring all inventory levels, min/max, lead times, reorder points and order quantities for stocked items on the CMMS
  • handling non-stocked items
  • cycle counts
  • external repairs and handling contractor materials
  • liaising with purchasing and external vendors, as well as all maintenance roles.
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For smaller shops that cannot cost-justify a full-time storeskeeper position on one or more shifts, it is critical that the guiding principles outlined in Part I be followed closely. For example, maintainers or supervisors that remove parts from stores must properly document the transaction, since they are assuming the stockkeeper role.

Reliability specialist role: This role is instrumental in setting achievable targets, and championing improvements to key measures, such as reliability, availability, utilization, performance, quality of output, and total cost of ownership, throughout the asset lifecycle. CMMS-based tools available to support this role are Pareto analysis on the top problems, failure analysis, root cause analysis (RCA), and reliability-centred maintenance (RCM). A full-time reliability specialist is typically an engineer or technologist, who supports planners in optimizing the maintenance program. Also, the reliability specialist assists supervisors to optimize execution of realistic job plans and gather sufficient failure data.