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Scheduling as a service for supervisors

Nov. 11, 2020
Doc Palmer says use this script to convince crew supervisors that planning and scheduling will work in their favor.

You see that the crew supervisors in today’s meeting with operations aren’t smiling. They are not happy with you.

About the Author: Doc Palmer

You are the change agent or leader implementing planning and scheduling. Today is the first time that you are giving each maintenance crew supervisor a full weekly schedule loaded with enough work orders to match their entire labor capacity.

You had some preliminary conversations and training in the past weeks, and you sent them an email with the list of work earlier this morning. But today is the end-of-the-week scheduling meeting with the maintenance crew supervisors and operations to agree on the list of work for next week.

Later, a supervisor approaches you after work in the parking lot as you open your car door:

Crew Supervisor: Why are you giving us so much work for next week?!?

You: What do you mean?

CS: There is no way we can do all the work orders on that list. It’s way too much!

You: Why do you say it’s too much? You said all ten mechanics would be here next week and no one had any vacation or training. So I gave you 400 hours of work.

CS: Well, you know what I mean. How are we supposed to take care of new breakdowns next week?

You: Just put people on the breakdowns like you always do.

CS: But that means we can’t do all the scheduled work.

You: That’s okay.

CS: I’m not saying we might have to break the schedule. I’m saying we will! There is always new breakdown work.

You: I’m not expecting that you won’t break the schedule. I know you will.

CS: But that doesn’t make any sense. Why would you give us more work than you know we can do? Why don’t you just give us the amount that we normally do? You also know about how much reactive work we normally get. Leave room for that!

You: Well, don’t look at the schedule as a mandate. It’s just a good practice to have a full list to start off the week with to keep ourselves busy.

CS: I know how to keep people busy. Why can’t we simply take care of operations like we’ve always done, and otherwise keep everyone on the crew busy? I pretty much know what to assign people to.

You: You’ve been doing a great job. I’m not saying anyone hasn’t been doing a great job. But look at the scheduling as a service for supervisors. I don’t want you trapped in your office digging through the backlog looking for work to assign. I’d rather have the planner/scheduler do office work so you can be out in the field. I also want the planner/scheduler to “bundle” work orders. If it looks like we might do a particular job next week, is there any other work on the same asset or in the same area we could bundle together with it to do at the same time? I want the planner/scheduler digging around for that stuff. Wouldn’t that help some?

CS: Well, that might help, but I don’t think you should put so much work on the schedule. There is no way we can finish all that work.

You: It is weird that we’re intentionally putting together enough work as if nothing will break next week. But honestly, it’s a better practice starting off with a perfect list knowing we’ll bust it to pieces rather than just listing out the work we know that we can do for sure. It just helps us be a little more productive having that full list.

CS: Are you saying we are not as productive as we should be??

You: Look, I’m not saying we’re not working hard and getting a lot done. We just want to start off each crew with a full list of bundled work every week to be a bit better.

CS: What’s going to happen when we don’t get it all done?

You: That’s okay. It’s honestly okay. Our objective is not to complete all the work, but to be as productive as possible. Having a full list and not getting it all done is just a bit more productive than just taking care of operations and keeping everyone busy. It’s also more productive than simply having a list of the work you know you’ll get done anyway.

CS: I think we’ll look bad if we don’t get it all done.

You: Well, you shouldn’t. Management is really onboard with this. In fact, if we routinely get more than 90% of the scheduled work done, that doesn’t mean we are doing well. It probably means we aren’t scheduling enough work because we all know we do have reactive work. I’m thinking we should be getting only about 60% or 70% done. Think of a bowling score: 200 out of 300 would only be 67%, but that would be a good bowling score.

CS: This is definitely strange and doesn’t feel right.

You: It’s definitely different for sure, but it is the right thing to do. But please, please speak up as we go along. We’ll hit some potholes I’m sure with everything like this that we do that’s new. No, don’t ever hesitate to give me advice. I want it. See you Monday.

The 100% scheduling is one of the hardest concepts to accept for yourself, and so it only makes sense that it’s hard to bring others onboard. But therein lies the great opportunity for productivity others have missed. Not completing a fully-loaded schedule is better than completing a lightly-loaded schedule because we care about productivity more than schedule compliance.

Encourage these conversations with your maintenance family so we can build a stronger program.

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 www.palmerplanning.com or email Doc at [email protected]. Also visit and subscribe to www.YouTube.com/@docpalmerplanning.

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