In my role, I commonly visit manufacturing sites to evaluate their maintenance and reliability practices for improvement opportunities. As maintenance planning is core to work execution, I’ll interview the planners and dive into their CMMS utilization.
Often, planners are in their role without much education other than tribal knowledge and management’s suggestion to read a book on the subject. In my interviews and data analysis, I search for standard job plans or packages for repetitive maintenance work, especially planned corrective activities resulting from PM inspections and activities frequently repeated on outages. I am often disappointed with the lack of a standard job plan library. It seems that we constantly reinvent the wheel on every outage.
Realize that the planner and the technicians both benefit from standard work packages. For the technician, I look for a job plan to provide specifications that enable the individual to perform their work to a standardized level of precision. Think gaps, clearances, fits, belt tension, and so on. While there are many highly qualified technicians in the workforce, for many organizations, you would have to be under a rock not to notice that groups can’t find the same level of expertise to replace the people leaving through attrition. In many sites, the average skill levels have declined significantly over the last ten years. The standard job packages are training tools as well.
When I dig deeper, I’ll inevitably hear from a planner: “I’m not going to tell a journeyman mechanic how to do their job with a listing of task steps.” Yet, planners tend to be unaware that self-induced failures, including human error, are the most significant contributors to equipment downtime and higher costs.
The next planner rebuttal is that they can look up history and drill into past purchase orders on a work order to see the parts used. And the bill of materials (BOM) provides the parts. Why not just use historical data over investing in creating a standard job plan library?
It's a fair question. With a treasure trove of historical data at our fingertips, why invest additional resources in crafting reusable job plans? Digging deeper, there's a compelling case for developing these strategic tools.
- Consistency ensures quality. Historical data is valuable but can be inconsistent if different technicians use their own approaches. Following a reusable job plan establishes a benchmark for high-quality precision that is often not conveyed in the work order itself. This standardized system ensures that every job is completed to a precise specification when followed and provides an audit mechanism.
- Efficiency in planning. Referencing historical data for each planning task is time-consuming. Reviewing old work orders and adapting them to current circumstances takes valuable time. Reusable job plans are like well-oiled machines, ready to go quickly, even for breakdown work. This saves planners valuable time and allows them to focus on other essential responsibilities.
- Enhanced safety. Ad-hoc planning and relying solely on historical data can pose risks. A well-crafted job plan considers safety precautions and protocols, reducing these risks. This is especially important as safety standards and equipment conditions continue to evolve.
- Training and onboarding efficiency. Introducing a new technician to your team can be a lengthy process. However, with a standardized job plan library, they can quickly get up to speed without relying solely on others' knowledge. These job plans serve as a comprehensive training manual, facilitating efficient onboarding.
- Continuous improvement. Reusable job plans are not static but rather evolve with each feedback loop. They capture lessons learned, best practices, and innovations. The organization can constantly improve and adapt to new challenges by periodically reviewing and refining these plans as the work occurs.
- Reducing cognitive load. Sifting through historical data can be mentally taxing and prone to errors. A job plan simplifies the process, allowing planners to focus on other value-added tasks. We can optimize efficiency and accuracy by eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel each time.
- Resource optimization. Clear guidelines on required resources, people, tools, and parts are crucial for optimal resource allocation. Reusable job plans provide this clarity, minimizing last-minute scrambles and maximizing operational efficiency.
Unlock the true potential of historical data by transforming it into an efficient and reusable job plan via a feedback loop. Though it may require an upfront investment, the long-term benefits of quality, efficiency, safety, and continuous improvement make it worthwhile in a world where time and quality matter; recognize that reusable job plans are essential for maintenance planners.