The value of planning reactive work

March 6, 2018
Doc Palmer says don’t let reactive work wreck the success of your planning and scheduling program.

Reactive work often ruins a planning and scheduling program. Although companies want to plan most of their work, they often allow reactive work to bypass planning and scheduling altogether. The problem is that a company usually has enough reactive work that bypassing planning greatly diminishes the potential benefits of both planning and scheduling. However, there is a way to handle reactive work that makes the entire planning and scheduling program impressively effective.

Join Doc Palmer and Plant Services Editor-in-Chief Thomas Wilk at the Reliable Plant 2018 Conference and Exhibition April 16–19 in Indianapolis! Doc will be presenting at the following times and sessions:

M April 16: Preconference workshop, “Achieving Better Maintenance Management with Proven Leadership Tactics”
Learn and understand key concepts and develop essential skills that will help make your plant’s maintenance program more successful. Different organizational styles will be covered, as will change management tactics and personality issues.

Tu April 17: Case-study presentation, “Key Principles of Maintenance Planning and Scheduling”
Learn the steps that the Jacksonville Electric Authority took to turn around its maintenance planning department. Find out how crews were able to work down their entire backlog, free up time to perform proactive work, replace contract labor, and assist other stations.

When something breaks, maintenance crew supervisors hate to wait on maintenance planning. Many repairs are obvious fixes, and quickly restoring service brings praise from both operations and management. It is easy to say, “Proper maintenance should be about preventing breakdowns,” but most companies do have breakdowns. A common company target might be to have 20% (or less) reactive work, of which 3% is emergency and 17% is otherwise urgent and should not wait until next week. Why shouldn’t companies allow this 20% of the work to bypass planning and scheduling? Wouldn’t planning and scheduling the other 80% of the work constitute an effective program?

Unfortunately, such a philosophy of allowing work to bypass planning misses the significant opportunity to help craftspersons with lessons learned on past jobs. An easy route for bypassing planning also encourages more and more work to bypass planning, regardless of that work’s urgency. In addition, not fully loading weekly schedules with 100% of the available labor capacity greatly diminishes the goal-setting aspect of scheduling and its potential for dramatic productivity gains.

About the Author: Doc Palmer
Doc Palmer is the author of McGraw-Hill’s Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook and helps companies worldwide with planning and scheduling success. Visit or email [email protected].

A proper planning and scheduling program where planners quickly plan a good portion of the reactive work will help the scheduler create the most-credible schedules. The scheduler can actually include reactive work in next week’s schedule if it is planned but still waiting to be started at the end of the week, so the known work that would have broken the schedule is now in the schedule to begin with. Including such waiting reactive work greatly increases the schedule’s credibility. The 100% loaded schedule is a key factor in high productivity, and it can be as credible as possible if planners have been aggressively planning throughout the week the new reactive work that did not start right away.

Don’t let reactive work wreck your planning and scheduling program. Quickly plan some of the reactive work, knowing that plans are helpful even if they are not perfect. But never, ever tell supervisors to wait!

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