Question: What advice would you give to a small maintenance department of only four or five people who just cannot justify a dedicated planner? What would be the best way to plan the work? Could all team members have half a day each week set aside to plan their own work for the following week – i.e., make all of them part-time planners?
Richard, national lead, U.K.
Answer: Thank you for the question, Richard. In small operations, people tend to wear many hats as teams believe they cannot afford to dedicate full-time positions to roles such as planner-scheduler. Even when it's not a full-time position, there are benefits to carving out a portion of one person’s time to plan and schedule work. We know that every hour of planning can save three to five hours in execution. This is because of the elimination of avoidable delays that technicians encounter every day. These include looking for the information needed to do the work, chasing materials, waiting for equipment to become available, and last, incorrectly prioritizing the work performed.
Most organizations have a 25%–35% wrench time, referencing the time spent performing the work, not traveling to the storeroom looking for parts, etc. Contrast that with a best-in-class performance of 55%–65% wrench times. At 55% wrench time, this yields a 57% increase in productivity, as my good friend Doc Palmer demonstrates in his book. So if you can take one of your five technicians and have him or her spend a portion of the day planning and scheduling work for the others, you can increase the team's overall efficiency by the equivalent of two technicians.
Here is the math: 4 techs x 1.57 increase from 35% to 55% wrench time = 6.28 technicians. With the ratio of one planner scheduler for 15–30 technicians, planning and scheduling for four techs would not be a full-time job, so we have that resource that we can leverage in other ways – for example, in coordinating storeroom activities.
Remember that our goal is to provide the technicians a head start rather than a perfect plan in the beginning. Improvements come with time through collaboration. In a setting such as this, the challenge is to ensure that the primary focus of the designated individual is actually planning and scheduling to drive overall craft effectiveness. Starting out in a reactive environment is more challenging, because it’s easy for that individual to get pulled into today’s or this week’s focus versus strategically planning for next week and beyond. For that reason, I am not a fan of having each of technician perform his or her own planning and scheduling. In addition, this would produce a lack of consistency, as some technicians would be better at the task than others. Carving out time for one individual to work on planning and scheduling will make it much easier to understand and measure the effectiveness of planning and scheduling activities and identify opportunities for improvement.
As a group, do you agree with this concept or have differing thoughts? Please post your comments so everyone can all learn.
Jeff Shiver, CMRP
If you have problems in the fields of maintenance, reliability, planning and scheduling, MRO storerooms, or leadership as examples, please contact Jeff Shiver with your question(s) here.