What does schedule compliance measure?

Feb. 9, 2021
Doc Palmer says if you’re using it to measure supervisor performance, think again – this is a management metric.

The weekly schedule compliance KPI continues to bedevil us. Most folks use it to measure supervisors when, in fact, it is a measure of management. If the plant is burning down, wouldn’t we want the maintenance supervisor to redeploy the entire crew to put out the fire and forget about the schedule? Of course we would. But in practice, we tie supervisor pay to schedule compliance and force supervisors to choose between helping the plant (survival-wise) and helping their family (pay-wise). That’s awful! Shouldn’t management find and remedy underlying causes of the plant fire to avoid future schedule breaks? Of course we should, and that’s why scheduled compliance is a great score of management performance (i.e., why did we have a fire?).

About the Author: Doc Palmer

By definition, a KPI is a Key Performance Indicator. KPI’s should encourage us to do the right behaviors and also tell us how well we are doing. Weekly schedule compliance can be measured different ways. I like using sheer number of work orders. Example: A schedule gives a supervisor 100 work orders. Of those work orders, the crew completes 60, but also completes another 140 work orders for a total of 200 work orders completed. Schedule compliance is 60/100 = 60% (not 60/200 = 30% and not 200/100 = 200%).

The two main behaviors we want to encourage are supervisors trying to use the schedule, and management fully loading the schedule. (Both of these behaviors lead to better-than-normal crew productivity, one of our main objectives in the first place.) A score less than 40% usually means that the supervisor ignored the schedule. The schedule should be a welcome backlog research service that helps supervisors avoid having to pick through the backlog to select and bundle work orders themselves. A score above 90% usually means that management did not give the supervisor enough work to defeat Parkinson’s Law: The amount of work assigned expands to fill the time available.

But beyond the crew productivity itself, John Crossan points out that “schedule compliance is the ultimate measure of proactive maintenance” (from the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Annual Conference 1997). Many of our plants have 50% reactive work (work that cannot wait until next week) and so by definition, the best schedule compliance, trying to complete a fully loaded schedule, would be 50%. Considering that even a pretty good plant still has about 20% reactive work, it’s not really practical to mandate that supervisors achieve schedule compliance above 80%.

So, accepting that schedule compliance at most of our plants should be between 40% and 90%, consider a plant with a crew schedule compliance of 60%. Here is the proper management inquiry: “I see schedule compliance was 60%. That’s great. Good job. Even with that score, though, what would you say was our biggest challenge?”

Let’s “score” the following typical challenges a supervisor might mention with an “S” for the supervisor or “M” for management of who has the most responsibility for it.

We had new reactive work break the schedule. We don’t do a good job with lubrication (M&S). We don’t have a predictive maintenance group giving us early warning (M). We need to optimize our PM program (M). We never authorize overtime to complete PM (M). We had some reactive work from the previous week that was not put on the new schedule (M). We need more training in maintenance techniques (M). Operators need more training to operate equipment properly (M). We don’t do root cause analysis to know what to fix (M). We don’t replace inherently unreliable assets (M). Originators might have declared overly urgent priorities (M).

We had low priority work break the schedule. That’s the way our process is: If someone calls us, we’re supposed to go ahead and take care of them (M). Supervisors get tasked with so much administrative work and meetings, they cannot get out into the field to better protect the schedule (M).

We had job problems. Poor job plans (recognizing that no plan is perfect and we are improving them over time) identified the wrong equipment, the wrong scope or procedure, the wrong craft, the wrong number of persons, the wrong parts, the wrong tools, and/or the wrong clearance (M). (Critical Note: This is the way the planning system is supposed to work in not insisting on perfect plans, but improvement over time via the Deming Cycle.) We had job problems because of not having any job plan because the planners were busy making a few plans “perfect” at the expense of not planning many other jobs at all (M).

We had support problems. The parts inventory did not have the right parts (M). The tool room did not have the right tools (M). Operations would not let us have the equipment for maintenance (M). We had craftsperson problems regarding availability (M), skills (M), and/or motivation (M&S).

The schedule had more work than we could do. The planned estimates were generally too low (M). The labor capacity estimate was too high (S). The schedule did not match the labor capacity with the planned estimates (M).

We see in the above typical instances, there are twenty-two M-Management opportunities and only three S-Supervisor opportunities that allow us to go beyond merely using the schedule compliance score to improve maintenance productivity. Stop mandating that supervisors deliver 90% schedule compliance and accept the score for what it is. The schedule compliance KPI is a great management score for taking advantage of management opportunities to make our plants truly great in every way.

Palmer's Planning Corner

This article is part of our monthly Palmer's Planning Corner column. Read more from Doc Palmer.

About the Author

Doc Palmer | PE, MBA, CMRP

Doc Palmer, PE, MBA, CMRP is the author of McGraw-Hill’s Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook and as managing partner of Richard Palmer and Associates helps companies worldwide with planning and scheduling success. For more information including online help and currently scheduled public workshops, visit or email Doc at [email protected]. Also visit and subscribe to

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