How to handle carryover work

April 2, 2020
Doc Palmer says scheduling overtime is one solution, but at least four other good options are available to you.

Handling carryover work is a great place to apply the principle of “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Carryover work is work that has actually started this week, but it looks like it won’t finish this week and the remaining work will be “carried over” into next week.

About the Author: Doc Palmer

There are different ways to deal with scheduling carryover work, but one of the easiest ways is probably just as good, if not better, than most ways it can be done.

Carryover controversy appears primarily with the weekly schedule and not daily schedules. Supervisors coordinate daily work with operators very well. If daily work won’t start or finish by quitting time, supervisors might direct the use of overtime, hand the work over to another shift, or simply wait until tomorrow. No one gets too concerned with exactly how to handle the daily carryover. But scheduling weekly carryover presents a number of perplexing options.

Before we start, let’s not define carryover work as work that was on the weekly schedule, but never started. One might think that if a job was important enough to be scheduled for this week but not started, certainly the next week’s schedule should include it. But that is not necessarily so. Higher priority work may have arisen that precludes the job in question from being important enough to reschedule right away. Just because a job is scheduled for this week, does not mean it should stay on the schedules for subsequent weeks until it starts.

Let’s define carryover work as work that, at the time of creating the weekly schedule for the next week, has actually started (or is anticipated to start this week), but it looks like it won’t be finished this week. For example, a supervisor anticipates that a 20-hour welding job already in progress won’t be finished this week and the supervisor also anticipates a mechanic will start a 10-hour job later today that probably won’t be finished this week. In each of these examples, the question is how to handle the carryover work in the next week’s schedule.

Different options for handing carryover work include writing a new work order for the remaining hours, rescheduling hours left in the original estimate, rescheduling a new estimate for hours remaining, automatically authorizing overtime for remaining hours, and subtracting out estimated carryover hours from the next week’s labor forecast.

Do not close out any unfinished work order for hours spent and write a new work order for any remaining hours. This common practice totally confuses later failure analysis. It makes it look like the plant had two failures on an asset instead of just one. It also complicates schedule analysis by inflating schedule compliance, suggesting the plant is more in control than it actually is.

Rescheduling the same work order for the next week with the hours left on the work order is a better option. For example, the large welding job example above was originally estimated to take 20 hours. The welder will spend 15 hours on it this week, so the scheduler might schedule the same work order for 5 hours the next week.

Unfortunately, original time estimates are only planner judgments. There is never any guarantee of perfect planner knowledge of the job itself or the exact person to be assigned in terms of knowledge, skill, or speed. There is a wide variance of real life planned versus actual labor once a job starts. The welder might spend 15 hours on the 20-hour job this week, but there might be 2 or 20 hours left.

So it follows that an even better option would be to have the supervisor who is in contact with the jobs-in-progress to suggest a time estimate for the remaining hours. “I talked to the welder. Let’s schedule the welding job for another 10 hours next week. On the mechanic job that we’ll start this afternoon, let’s plan on doing 5 hours this week and 5 hours next week.”

An easier option would be simply to authorize overtime for any unfinished work so that next week’s schedule could always start fresh and full. The welding job and mechanic job would both finish on overtime before the next week starts. The management emphasis would be to keep an eye on overtime so the automatic authorization does not encourage crafts to slow down and not finish jobs on regular time.

Another option is almost as easy as simply authorizing overtime, but less rewarding of slower work. It is also very effective for the purpose of scheduling itself. This preferred method is to take the sum of the all supervisor-estimated carryover hours and subtract it from the next week’s labor forecast. Then don’t schedule the carryover work at all!

The supervisor has the labor next week to finish the carryover work, but the schedule does not show that work at all. So the crew that would have had 200 hours available might forecast only 185 hours available after subtracting out the carryover 10 welding hours and 5 mechanic hours. The resulting schedule has 185 hours of new work orders for the next week.

Experience shows that such a schedule encourages trying to complete enough work while lessening the trouble of keeping track of partial work orders on the schedule. As long as the carryover hours do not routinely exceed 30 or 40% of the total available hours, the encouragement purpose of the schedule seems to stay intact.

And do not forget that the primary purpose of the schedule is to encourage the crew to complete more work than it would normally complete without the schedule. (Many persons errantly presume the purpose of the schedule is to “complete the schedule” and consequently do not schedule enough work to challenge the crew.)

The “win-win” is that one of the simplest ways to handle the carryover work is probably the most effective. Just leave out the carryover work orders in the next week’s schedule. Save yourself the trouble of keeping track of that carryover work. Leave the supervisor enough hours to handle it outside the formal weekly schedule.

Don’t sweat the small stuff, and don’t lose track of the purpose of scheduling itself: to increase productivity. Such simple schedules do help supervisors accomplish that purpose.

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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