The author of McGraw-Hill’s Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook, Doc Palmer, shows how maintenance planning makes an essential contribution to maintenance success. This article illustrates the business case to explain why companies ought to do planning. It describes the essence of what planning is and calculates its specific benefits. These benefits include definite help to everyone in a plant, including crafts persons, supervisors, operators, managers and the company overall. Palmer also shows real-world examples of success.
The Purposes of Maintenance Planning and Scheduling
The purpose of planning and the purpose of scheduling are both greatly misunderstood in industry. Both maintenance planning and scheduling have great potential to tremendously improve plant performance. But most plants implement them improperly. They miss the opportunities they would otherwise provide to help good plants become great plants. Understanding the purpose of both strategies is critical to their success.
Lewis Carroll in his story Alice in Wonderland wonderfully expressed the importance of understanding the purpose of an activity. When Alice was lost, she came to a fork in the road. She asked the Cheshire Cat which way she should go and the Cheshire Cat asked where she wanted to end up. When Alice said she did not know, the Cat replied that then it did not matter which road she took. We must understand the purposes of both maintenance planning and scheduling to receive benefits from them.
Many plants think that the purpose of maintenance planning is to have planners create job plans so that crafts persons have fewer problems on jobs. This thinking is correct, but not complete. Most plants misapply this idea of planning. They tell their crafts persons that they will encounter fewer problems on jobs because the planners will figure out everything they need before they start the jobs. But what happens in real life is that crafts persons complain to the planners when jobs have problems as if it were the planners’ fault. So first, the planners abandon their planning activities to help jobs already in-progress that are having problems.
And second, when the planners do have a chance to return to planning activities, they spend too much time trying to make each plan perfect to avoid future complaints about bad job plans. This situation ultimately leads to planners simply not being able to plan all the work. Consequently, even more jobs are put into progress without any prior planning and crafts persons demand that planners help on more jobs already in-progress (and complain about planners not providing enough job plans).
These plants have missed the mark. Instead, best planning practices are about running a Deming PDCA Cycle for maintenance work. Dr. W. Edwards Deming approached American companies in the 1950s and told them that if they would recognize they were not perfect, they could improve. But American companies laughed at him and he went to Japan where companies embraced his ideas. After subsequent great success, Deming was credited with “… inspiring and guiding the spectacular rise of Japanese industry after World War II …” Dr. Deming “… changed the way we think about quality, management and leadership.” https://www.deming.org/theman/overview
The true purpose of planning is to institutionalize maintenance learning about everything we work on. Yes, planners provide job plans. But crafts persons must recognize these plans are head starts based on what we have learned previously. We want to position planners as “craft historians” to collect feedback where crafts persons tell us good ideas for next time we work on the same equipment. Yes, we want to have planners with great craft backgrounds to leverage their skills, but no planner will ever be as skilled as the cumulative wisdom and experience of 20 to 30 crafts persons working over 20 to 30 years. We want the planners to put this knowledge into plant files and continually improve existing job plans. So the best practice is that crafts persons not complain about imperfect job plans, but continually help the planner improve them over the years.
Implementing maintenance planning and scheduling where planners plan the best plans they can while also planning all the new work without having to help problems of work already in progress is what we want. Management must adopt the Deming philosophy of continual improvement and avoid the desire to “shoot the messenger” when problems do arise. Insisting that problems are not acceptable only means that crafts persons hide, rather than report, mistakes. Obviously, this philosophy is easier to say than to do.
Not only is proper planning about running a cycle of improvement, planning also supports scheduling by providing craft skills and estimated hours. Unfortunately, scheduling also runs into problems at most plants that misunderstand the purpose of scheduling.
There are various timeframes in scheduling. Most are well understood. Very roughly and very simply, let me give my opinion on annual, monthly, and daily schedules of which there is probably general agreement. (But if there is not, I still do not want to otherwise discuss them in this presentation.) The annual schedule is about budgeting, the monthly scheduling is about keeping up with PM work, and the daily schedule is about assigning the work to individual crafts persons. It is the weekly schedule that gives us problems.
Many plants end up in an unstated philosophy where the purpose of the weekly schedule is to accomplish the schedule. Compounding this problem is their thought that the best schedules are the most detailed schedules. These plants reason that if the weekly schedule shows exact hours and personnel assignments in advance, there will be better coordination with operations and therefore better productivity. Unfortunately, this approach ultimately leads to scheduling less work than could be done in order to achieve management-mandated-schedule-compliance and actually lowers productivity.
So these plants have missed the mark as well. Instead, consider that the true purpose of weekly scheduling is to improve productivity. Similar to Dr. Deming, Dr. Peter Drucker started the concept of MBO or Management by Objectives in the 1950s. Closely aligned with this concept is the concept of goal setting. Rather than a goal being to accomplish a certain schedule, the proper goal for weekly maintenance should be to accomplish more work than normal (that is, without a schedule). Furthermore, in goal setting, if a goal is either too high or too low, the goal does not affect performance. What the purpose of weekly scheduling? It is to improve productivity.
It turns out that if a maintenance crew starts out with a simple batch of work that matches its “expected” labor hours for the next week, the crew will generally complete more work, but only if it is “OK” to break the schedule. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? But that is how goal setting works. A person that is commanded to meet a certain goal will invariably make the goal too low so it can always be achieved. On the other hand, to a certain extent, we do not care if the schedule is met if it means that we accomplish more work than we would normally do. We will discuss why this goal setting works the way it does a bit later.
The Leverage of Maintenance Planning and Scheduling
Why do we care about completing more work? It is because there is an inherent ability to complete more work at good plants that already have good maintenance forces.
Most plants consider that their maintenance forces already work consistently and “take care” of operations to such a degree that no one is slacking off and everyone has an assignment. While this thought is actually true, studies show that the average “wrench time” of available maintenance personnel at these plants is only about 35 percent. This percentage means that on an average day, a typical maintenance force only spends about 3 1/2 hours out of 10 actually moving jobs forward to completion.
The rest of the time is spent is “non-productive” activities such as gathering parts, being in brief meetings, being on breaks, traveling, or some similar activity that while being part of the normal day is not being physically on a job site working on assets. Counting troubleshooting, confined space watching, and even standing at a job site thinking about the job as productive or wrench time still only produces about 35 percent at most good plants. Yes, that is for good plants with good overall operational success.
Yet, simply starting off maintenance crews with a batch of work that matches their forecasted hours as goal setting can move these crews from 35-percent wrench time to as much as 55-percent wrench time. The “leverage” of this improvement is more than a 20-percent (55 minus 35) improvement in work completion. It is a 57-percent (55 divided by 35) improvement. This means that a 30-person maintenance force would accomplish the work of a 47-person crew (a 57-percent improvement) simply by starting off with a batch of work each week.
The Value of Maintenance Planning and Scheduling
Again, why do we care about completing more work? It is because any “extra” work that a crew completes is valuable proactive work.
If we continue with our previous idea that existing maintenance forces at good plants are already “taking care” of operations, then any “extra” work the crew could accomplish is “proactive” work. The 1:10 rule of industry wisdom says that every extra dollar spent on proactive work saves a company $10 on the bottom line. So because a plant that pays for 30 persons could have the effect of 47 persons, it could have the effect of 17 new persons doing new proactive work. And that is how a good company becomes a great company.
Becoming a great company with superior performance is really our entire objective anyway. We are not just interested in doing maintenance planning and scheduling for the sake of doing them. We want a superior plant running at optimum cost for the long term. Completing more proactive work reduces reactive work snowballing into even less reactive work being replaced by even more proactive work. But this improvement only happens when we actively manage ourselves to go beyond the inherent existing 35-percent productivity of an existing good maintenance force at an existing good plant.
The Culture from Planning and Scheduling
How does the weekly batch of work translate into more work completion? Part of the answer is in how goal setting works, but the weekly batch approach also affects plant culture in a positive, contributing way.
In goal setting, we have to be careful to set an appropriate goal. A goal should be “RUMBA,” Reasonable, Understandable, Measurable, Believable and Achievable. Giving a crew a batch of a work that matches its forecasted labor capacity at the beginning of a week meets most of these requirements. It begs the question and answer: “How much work should we be able to accomplish with 400 hours of labor?” “Well, how about 400 hours’ worth?”
And because of the real-life “churn” that starts the first minute of the new week where jobs do run both longer and shorter than anticipated and where operations does find new urgent work, we create the schedule as a simple batch without setting exact days (as much as possible) allowing the crew supervisor to juggle jobs around and not having to complete every job if it is not possible. On the other hand, a weekly schedule made up of five advance daily schedules is NOT reasonable, believable or achievable. (There is too much churn in the week with semi-accurate estimates and new urgent work.)
Weekly schedule compliance at most plants should be comparable to bowling or batting averages. A bowling score of 200 (only 67 percent) or batting average of .400 (only 40 percent) would both be great. Setting any target for schedule compliance of between 40 and 90 percent for a fully loaded schedule is appropriate.
Furthermore, the “batch” idea helps improve the productivity by “focusing” the supervisor. This improvement is culture driven. Without a simple focus for the supervisors, the culture of productivity is to keep everyone busy and to quickly handle any new reactive work (take care of operations). But with the batch weekly schedule providing a focus, the culture of productivity is to compete work if possible. That simple difference improves productivity from 35-percent wrench time to as much as 55-percent wrench time.
The Added Value of Planning and Scheduling
Yet there are two additional added values from maintenance planning and scheduling in their ability to take a good plant to great performance.
First, while the added proactive work almost immediately makes a difference, eventually the institutionalized learning that planning applies to subsequent work increases the quality of work. That improved quality leads to higher MTBF (mean time between failure) so equipment runs better and longer even further reducing reactive work and freeing up maintenance forces to do more proactive work.
Second, the 1:100 rule of industry wisdom says that every dollar spent on a better engineering or purchasing decision saves a company one hundred dollars on the bottom line. The wisdom that planners collect in work order files helps engineers and purchasers make better life-cycle-cost decisions. In addition, maintenance work forces that have less reactive work can complete more projects in-house to improve plant performance.
The Results of Planning and Scheduling
The accompanying slides for this presentation show results from four plants that implemented good maintenance planning and scheduling practices.
A power plant in Florida experienced about an 80-percent increase in work order completions until it ran out of backlog. An LNG energy plant in Asia experienced a 50-percent increase in work order completions until it ran out of backlog. A wastewater plant in North America steadily increased its completion of CM (corrective maintenance) work and PM (preventive maintenance) work while watching its backlog of both CM and PM decline. At the same time, this wastewater plant saved over 4,000 overtime hours from its budget worth over $300,000 in one year. Finally, a food plant in Chicago increased its PM compliance and proactive work completion and thereby experienced a doubling of its wet mill MTBF. This last improvement is especially noteworthy. The wet mills were a key component in the overall plant capacity and provided enormously significant improvements in profits.
You might notice, that with the enhanced ability to complete proactive work, the plant must have systems in place to generate that extra proactive work.
The WIIFM of Planning and Scheduling
So let’s conclude with WIIFM, which is a common management and business term for “What’s in it for me?” If there is not a reason to do something for a particular person or group, that something is not going to be implemented. This term WIIFM embodies the purpose of this presentation. What is the value and leverage of maintenance planning: why you should do it? Why should a crafts person want to do maintenance planning and scheduling? Should a supervisor care? Why should a manager or company want to implement an extra program? And why should the operations group want the maintenance force to do maintenance planning and scheduling rather than be simply at its beck and call?
First of all, maintenance planning and scheduling produces a value for the crafts person. The planner is a craft historian working for the crafts person providing a job head start and retrieval of lessons learned, just in time as the next crafts person needs the information.
Secondly, the maintenance planning and scheduling frees up the supervisors to be with crews in the field and focus on work that is already underway. The supervisor lets the planners worry about getting jobs ready to go and cleaning up the aftermath of feedback. The supervisor lets the scheduler dig though the entire backlog for pulling out appropriate work for the next week.
Thirdly, maintenance planning and scheduling provides the manager the method for managing productivity. This method returns to the question of how much work should we be able to do with the labor that we have. As simple as it sounds, the simple batch of work provides the necessary standard for the manager.
Fourth, the company decidedly benefits from maintenance planning and scheduling because the 35-percent wrench time of a good maintenance force is a reality. This surprisingly low average shows that a company has the potential for greatly increasing its plant performance through completing more proactive work and making better engineering and purchasing decisions
And finally, operators care about maintenance planning and scheduling because they sincerely want better performing assets. A proper maintenance planning and scheduling system reduces the perception of a “black hole of maintenance” and encourages operators not to wait until something breaks before they report a symptom of a developing problem. It encourages them to write low priority, proactive requests when maintenance forces have the productivity to complete them.
So we see that the purpose of planning is to institutionalize and apply knowledge to aid craft, engineering, and purchasing decisions. It also frees supervisors from pre and post job work so they can be with crews to supervise them. And the purpose of scheduling is to increase craft productivity through goal setting. It also frees supervisors from backlog review work so they can be with crews to supervise them. Keep these concept of the purposes of maintenance planning and scheduling in mind when implementing such great programs.
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 visit www.palmerplanning.com or email Doc at email@example.com