Igniting passion (and working smarter) in the pursuit of excellence

Dec. 20, 2017
It’s not about planning and scheduling more work; it’s about eliminating the need to do the work in the first place.
Question: We struggle with schedule success during the week when equipment is running. The planning group doesn’t have the work orders in the system to schedule, yet the craftspeople seems to fill their time cards with breakdown work orders every day. Only 10% of our backlog is running work. What percentage should we shoot for? We have more down work than we can accomplish in our biweekly scheduled shutdowns, but that’s a common problem. My thoughts include adjusting people’s schedules to have them here on the weekends when the equipment is down or to adjust the production schedule so that we are down during the week and run over the weekends. Any thoughts on this?

Brian, engineer, CO

Answer: Hello, Brian. Consider starting with a deeper dive to understand why the crafts spend their day on breakdown work. Understand the failure modes and ensure that the maintenance strategies that you have in your PM and PdM activities address those. You may need to conduct "day-in-the-life of" studies as opposed to a wrench-time sampling study on the activities being executed to get a better understanding of where time is spent. You may find that some of the breakdown work could be planned and scheduled for later, which is why the planning group has so few work orders.

Assuming that the PM and PdM activities are correctly designed, determine whether those are being deferred because of the amount of corrective work required. At the same time, look for tasks that can be executed while running – in your email, you mention having seen success with a vibration monitoring effort. You also mentioned introducing thermal imaging, which points to opportunities to do more in a running state from a proactive and prescriptive maintenance perspective.

Leverage any breakdown windows to execute corrective work and even PMs by shifting resources to accommodate it from other lines or areas. Have a list of prioritized "ready" work that the crafts can pull forward when unexpected downtime occurs. Look for opportunities to gain on the upcoming work from a prework perspective. What can the crafts be doing during the running time to set themselves up for greater success during the scheduled down windows? Are we leveraging the production workers as the first line of defense from a running PM perspective with basic operator care?

The "which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" question pops into mind with regard to shifting schedules to address more corrective work on the scheduled downtime. Shifting resources without addressing the items from the top will leave you exposed from a production downtime perspective. Similarly, to reduce the corrective work backlog, you will need to add resources, either from contract or overtime for starters, which you have identified the need to do. The percentages of running work possible can vary based on the physical equipment and the likely failure modes by industry vertical. Re-evaluating your maintenance strategies will give you the opportunity to improve that number – possibly significantly.

There are two things that people have a lot of passion around: One is their pay, and the other is their work schedule – specifically how changes affect their personal lives. Clearly, we must be available to execute work when the business requires it. Usually shifting production workers' schedules involves more people that shifting the craft workers. Shifting the production schedule to where the scheduled downtime falls during the week as opposed to the weekend is an option to lessen impacts. I have shifted both personnel and production schedules. There are many factors to consider, such as culture, business needs, customer demand patterns, etc. It’s easier when you can minimize the effects on family life to maintain that balance. People are creatures of habit. Any change will make some people happy and others not so as everyone’s personal situation varies.

Evaluate opportunities for more-effective planning and scheduling to optimize corrective work activities so that you have the potential to accomplish more during scheduled downtime. Enlist the craftspeople and operators to help in defect elimination activities. It will require a mindset shift with respect to how they approach their work. It’s not about planning and scheduling more work; it’s about eliminating the need to do the work in the first place.

What other insights might you have on this topic that did I not mention? Email me at the address below and I will respond or place your questions with my answers here.

Please post your comments so everyone can learn.

Talk soon,

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.

About the Author

Jeff Shiver | Founder and managing principal at People and Processes, Inc.

Jeff Shiver CMRP is a founder and managing principal at People and Processes, Inc. Jeff guides people to achieve success in maintenance and reliability practices using common sense approaches. Visit or email [email protected].

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