Question: Jeff, we have a group of four planners. I rarely see them leaving the office other than going to the storeroom to check on materials. How much time should a planner scheduler spend in the field on average?
Tom, maintenance supervisor, TN
Answer: Tom, when we hire planner-schedulers, the ideal candidates possess craft skills specific to the crafts for which they are expected to plan. They may have performed particular jobs many times. Hence, they tend to plan those jobs from the desk. Is that the right answer? As a rule, it’s not.
In a recent site visit, I was coaching planner-schedulers. One of the planner-schedulers shared a corrective job plan on an asset and asked for my feedback. On review, I questioned whether he had walked down the job or planned it from his desk. He responded that he had done the work many times as a technician and no, he had not walked it down. Seizing the opportunity, I suggested that we walk it down together. He and the other planner-schedulers agreed, and off we went to the job site.
The asset location ended up being at a high height and distant from the shop areas. Reviewing the plan, it quickly became evident that the individual had forgotten to list some tools and materials that would require a return trip to the shop area. While he captured most (though not all) of the main task steps, he had not routed them well. The route he chose from memory involved many wasted steps moving around the asset and then returning later to the same areas previously worked. Upon review of the job activities, we identified opportunities to complete all tasks in the specific area of the asset before moving to another portion of the asset. Together, we added steps that were necessary but that were missed because the job was planned at a desk.
Long story short: The exercise highlighted the need for the planner-scheduler to visit the job site and step through the work execution when building the job plan. Ideally, to accomplish this, we target the planner-scheduler spending one-third of his or her day in the field. When visiting the job, a planner-scheduler needs to consider safety, material needs, task steps, specialized equipment or tools, crafts required, and estimated job duration. There may be other considerations, as well.
What insights would you add? Please share your feedback.
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Jeff Shiver, CMRP
If you have problems in the fields of maintenance, reliability, planning and scheduling, MRO storerooms, or leadership, please contact Jeff Shiver with your question(s) here.