How to build the perfect job plan

March 10, 2020
What should I include? How detailed should I get? Where do I send the spare parts?

My last article focused on what to strive for when taking your current planning and scheduling process from good to great. This article takes a closer look at one element of that process: writing a top-notch job plan.

The basics

The first way to a great job plan is to write it into a Master Job Form complete with company letterhead – it looks really nice, and gives a sense of pride and accomplishment when you are done (think continuous improvement). Make sure to save the Master Job Form on your master drive, and do not be afraid to update it as time goes along, as you can always go backwards as needed (learning is evolutionary: some days good, some days bad). Save it as a Word and PDF using the KISS theory; for me, that’s “Keep It Simple, Steve-O”.

Title/Description of the Job Plan. Add as much detail as you need. It could be as simple as “Pump Job” (4 pages, including crafts, rough time guesstimate +/- 10% , non-marked blueprints for crafts to reference, and first estimate on parts) to as complexly detailed as “Remove/Repair Adjustment Drive Trucks in Mill 2/3, section A/B, with detail on Manual/Automatic Grease Points and Updated Wear Liners from Engineering” (80+ pages, written for best practices to your plant, revised 7 times, personally time-studied in real-time on the floor followed by a lot of editing).

Also, it really helps to categorize here when you are in an expedited time crunch to get something looked up, printed out, and sent out with a planned/scheduled/pre-kitted parts kit (P/S/K).

Duration Block. Recommends single-based labor-hours that this job should require, barring any “shoulder taps” and interruptions.

Equipment Number/Equipment Area. This is a great way to place the physical job location into Cartesian coordinates (think the board game Battleship), especially if you have numbered/lettered beams in the plant. Ideally, this location also is where your spare parts are delivered before the job starts, shrink/plastic wrapped on a pallet with the Job Plan/Work Order Number attached as well. Doing it this way shows that no one “borrowed” from your proactive preplanned/scheduled job kit scheduled for Repair Turn as well. I personally request a location 10 feet from the job site, with centralized rolling/aerial lift barrels as needed for waste.

Planner. This is where you put your name.

Creation Date. This is the date when you launch the first version of the job plan.

Revision/Change Date. This is the date of the last time you personally reviewed and updated the job plan. For example, you can make reference to the six changes in the first year of this job based on real-time learning from “eyes-on observation” during Repair Turn on the job floor. In my plant, we were fortunate to have 1x/every Wednesday, Thursday, or Saturday up to 16.0 hours uninterrupted of every week.

Final Approver. The name of the person who asked for the job plan goes here. Usually this is the Maintenance Supervisor, Maintenance Manager, or Reliability Engineer.

Purpose and Scope of Work. This section briefly describes why you’re doing the work, and should include a quick reminder about safety.

LOTO/TO. This section identifies how to lock out, tag out, and try out the equipment in general before work starts. This work could include automatic grease lines, water service, hydraulics, pneumatics, pressurized oil, and anything else that is not at my plant but which you have at yours. I also like referencing the blueprint/drawing numbers here for first-time users for reference as well. They can be printed out as needed or as viewed on a common computer terminal on the shop floor.

Health and Safety. All PPE is listed here, along with a visual ID picture as well; referencing the blueprint/program number helps as well. Imported artwork (i.e., clip it & snip it) has saved me a bunch of times here. At my plant, we were fortunate enough to eventually have a comprehensive “Permit Sheet” that covered everything in this plant, and that sheet saved me a lot of time when filling out this job plan section.

Environmental. This section specifies which waste/garbage goes where, usually into drums/dumpsters. This section also identifies proper procedures including labeling according to your plant, and lists the program reference number as well.

Required Resources. This is your physical man and time allotment chart. This chart includes millwrights/crane operators and helpers/electricians, as well as all other skilled trades/contractors as needed for job completion.

I prefer to call out persons required/estimated duration and total time required – this way, I know who is where and when, and for how long. As a case in point, if I estimate the job taking 12.0 man hours of mechanical repair based on a single man only, and crane work is needed with additional support as well, then I allocate up to half of the original time estimate for crane/helper work. (I like to schedule 12.0 hours of work and use a placeholder on “the wall” for this reason.)

As another case in point, if I get two millwrights for 6.0 hours each, and a crane operator and one helper for 6.0 hours each, I still block out 12.0 man hours for scheduling purposes, since a lot of the work can be done at the same time, and I have a safety margin for a “shoulder tap” as well.

Should the job be finished ahead of time, I use that extra time either to reallocate resources to help with the next job, or to execute complete and thorough PMs in the immediate area. There is always a list of PMs or inspections in that area that need going over.

Tools and Equipment. This is a standard list of tools by trade for almost all repairs, with special tools called out for that job. These tools are best held in a rolling lockbox of sorts that can be aerial-lifted by crane. Consider adding the following to the list: cutting torch with full tanks and spare tips; a cutting gas pressure flow chart that is laminated on the side to the torch cart or lock box for reference; and a portable welder/generator with spare sealed rods/fuel tank topped off, and a spare 5/6 gallon safety tank filled and ready to go as well.

Remember to change out your batteries on your equipment every 2.0 hours and charge them the night before. This methodology coincidences with your morning toolbox/safety talk, morning and afternoon breaks, and lunchtime as well. More often than not I have personally swapped batteries on the fly wherever possible, to reduce wasted time.

Parts and Materials. This section is pretty simple: Material description and amount, and the part numbers from the storeroom. On the larger more “critical spares” I would mark lead time to order/receive. At my plant, when a part was ordered or placed into stock as an upgrade (and there were quite a few of those entries), I called out the update time in RED for reference only.

Blueprints/Drawing Numbers. I would call out the drawing or reference number and the exact blueprint sub number/drawing so you would have two references to search from.  I would also highlight the print in bright yellow, and mark it up for the techs as well. Note: It is much easier to use 14-point bold font in caps on an off-shift or for more “seasoned eyes” at their request.

Detailed instructions

This is the advanced part. On my job plans, I include an “detailed instructions” section that always includes the most common abbreviations in the plant and a reference check for battery change-out.

For the step-by-step instructions, we use lowest common denominator as a reference for skill set and vocabulary. I started writing at collegiate level, and then wrote down to a fourth-grade reading level with supporting images, since that is what we had to draw from in that demographic area.

We color-coded the individual steps. Green was used for the lowest-risk steps, and yellow indicated a moderate amount of safety concern. Red was used for extremely hazardous steps, up to and including risk of death without proper safety. (I also used the same color-code for a general oversight of plant production as well – the executives and owners liked colors, and requested them more often than not with a five-minute overview of plant condition.)

For my “detailed instructions” area on job plans, I always include instructions for installation of new grease fittings as well as correct grease selection with amount and gun pressure/volume. (I do this because we had a major problem with lubrication at one particular plant, as well as hydraulic cylinder length/width/trunnion/bushings and pins for proper fit.)   

Blueprints were marked up in highlighter yellow for location, and then separate blueprints were marked up for individual part references. Specifically, I detailed the print down to the individual locating pin, the three-bolt pattern, and two grease-fitting reference as a root cause for incorrect install for torque and lube procedures. Quality control and reliability engineering (QC/RE) were major concerns here, which is why this statement was called out.

Reassembly from last point to starting point

When something needed to be reassembled and everything was torqued with a calibrated torque wrench per QC/RE, I made another called-out blueprint using blue ink for torque, and identified a three-step tightening pattern example, say 30/60/90 ft-pounds or equivalent in N-m (Newton-meters). I also included a visual on how to do so properly. Every fastener was degreased and prepped with a removable blue threadlocker rated for 1.500-inch or M36-sized fasteners.

To reduce bolt checks during repair, I added a “paint marker stripe” in safety orange/yellow/white across the center of the fastener both over the flat washer and to the base of the part being fastened. The reasoning for doing this is that quick visual inspection with a flashlight will verify if the paint mark has been disturbed, saving huge amounts of time on a weekly PM check. I also specified a nickel-based anti-seize lubricant for parts that needed frequent disassembly, but the parts still received the prep, proper torque, and paint mark noted above.

I convinced my engineering team to use flat washers on bolt side and nut side as a “cutting torch burn protector”. I would much rather sacrifice a 1.00-inch or M24 flat washer at $0.25 than a piece of manufacturing equipment worth many times that, simply because of a torch operator with a lack of proper training, or whose hands were shaking that day.

I also introduced a sign-off sheet on reassembly, for accountability/responsibility from the technician and the immediate supervisor. I then stepped up the level on the next sheet for quality/reliability signatures as well. All sheets were scanned into the computer archives attached to that job for accountability, and the signatures had to be legible or have the name printed below.

Lubrication on reassembly – MANUAL GREASING

Install new grease fittings, period. I am very fond of standardizing to 1/8-inch NPT or 1/4 × 28 threaded fittings, angled as needed, USA/OEM Quality, and at less than $0.60 each I feel it’s a worthwhile investment. Most of these fittings were “grease through” fittings, so nth-degree exactness was not needed. I performed a time/shot count study on the floor, and used that as a standard.

(Note: I have engineered grease fittings to a common standard before getting rid of three different styles from four different manufacturers in favor one standard fitting and its angle variations from of one manufacturer; this is another step toward world-class maintenance, but this one can take a bit of time.)

We also finally moved to standardized two-stage grease guns with cartridges, and I marked them on the side (in 40-font bold print, on a white computer label and covered with clear packing tape) that they were to be for ELECTRIC MOTOR or GENERAL LUBRICATION, and were to be used of setting #2 which was higher volume and lower pressure based on fresh batteries.

My personal experience with my 12.0V gun has been 15 shots, which is about 1.5 oz of grease at 6000 PSI. I have not measured the performance of my old lever grease gun yet, but this seems like a good time to do so. Each battery and manual grease gun is different, and the guns do provide specs in your handbook or from your Maintenance Resource supplier/s.

Lubrication on reassembly – AUTOMATIC GREASING

A good visual walk-down with a flashlight tells remarkable stories here, with busted lines and fittings that are missing while grease is pouring out all over the place, and bearings are smoking and seizing at a significant rate.

When it comes to automatic greasing, I go back to the HMI/OEM program specs and start from there, adjusting to OEM set points while locking out the controls. Make sure to reference the time intervals in minutes (360 minutes cycle time), CC’s (36.0) or grams (72.0) of grease, and the adjustment procedures on the floor as well at this time (base screw three turns out from set point and locked down with locknut). Also be sure to keep blueprints and callouts marked up in proper colors.

I also introduced a sign off sheet as well on reassembly for accountability/responsibility from the technician and the immediate supervisor. Finally, I stepped up the level on the next sheet for Quality/Reliability signatures as well – ALL check sheets were scanned into the computer archives attached to that job for accountability and the signatures had to be legible or name printed below.


  • Clear everyone out after a thorough walk down, perform LOTO, and do a trial run before returning back to production.
  • Finish your paperwork, get the signatures, add the commentary and the “as-founds” (i.e., extra work or steps that could make the job easier next time).
  • Add in the names/dates/times of who requested what and when on the historical data sheet and on the Master Sheet as well.
  • Scan check sheets, signoff sheets, as-founds, and everything found minus the main base into the job folder on the hard drive under the CMMS asset tree or separate folder for future reference. This really helps QC on independent audit days as well, as you already have everything there in a few key taps.

What have we learned today?

You will not write this comprehensively the first time through. This is a continuous improvement process. You will edit a lot and spend a lot of time on the floor getting to this level. But you will get there.

You may have to start small and get better over time. You may also have to change to get to World Class Maintenance. But resistance is futile. You will get there.

Some final thoughts:

  • Work smarter, not harder.
  • Keep your crew working on planned and scheduled work during their Repair Turn as much as possible, except for critical breakdowns. Storeroom and supervision and I personally have run parts as well to keep wrench time productive as much as possible. If the crew stops, the job stops and no one wins, except maybe the Downtime Dragon. Who wants that?
  • Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. It’s OK to be thorough. Complete the job and sign your name with pride (this is my personal methodology).
  • Plan for SAFETY, then THOROUGHNESS, and lastly SPEED.  This results in slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
  • Empower your crew to use the radio to communicate IF/WHEN the job looks like it is going to run over. I have (countless times) or your direct line supervision will get clarification or assistance and reference that commentary on the work order as well. This is not “blame the planner time” – this is reality, and sometimes as-founds will be found at the time they were not supposed to be.
  • Having hard copies of the job plan in the field is a must, along with a red Sharpie marker for editing.
  • If you don’t get commentary/feedback, it is OK to mark “No commentary / follow-up work needed”.
  • It’s also OK to mark “Additional work needed” for the next Repair Turn, as well for proactive and prescheduled turns.

By following these tips, the Downtime Dragon won’t be happy with you, but you will be happy with that paycheck with a substantial bonus. And isn’t that what we are all looking for in the end? Until next time.

About the Author: Steven J. Tuttle

Steven J. Tuttle, CMRP, is a senior maintenance planner, and most recently presented at 2019 Reliable Plant. Contact him at [email protected].

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