Many organizations either have the need for or have implemented the role of the Maintenance Planner Scheduler. This is an important role in proactive maintenance cultures and properly utilized, can deliver a significant return on investment. Yet, there are many reasons that we fail to maximize the return on this investment. Studies have shown that only about 10% of all Planner Schedulers are utilized properly. To ensure that maximum investment, we should audit and benchmark the Planner Scheduler function along with individuals holding the role.
Step by Step – Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Components
All of the items below are key components to an effective maintenance planning and scheduling effort.
Now the challenge is to mold them into a single focus, the assessment to determine the gaps and to develop a strategy for improvement.
Taking each of the component areas, one can develop specific criteria or questions to enable an objective evaluation. For those physically attending the presentation a sample assessment will be provided. In the sample assessment, averages are provided from years of working with clients in the maintenance planning and scheduling arena to enable you to benchmark your organizations efforts. If your organization spans multiple sites, then you are also able to benchmark across your organization with your own database of scores. With any type of assessment, it’s best to assess about every 18 months using the same criteria. While an assessment does help you identify the gaps, the real benefit is the development of a strategic plan that addresses the gaps found. With the plan, now there is an actionable roadmap that enables improvement.
To ensure success, we need to identify specific functional areas critical to the Maintenance Planning and Scheduling role. They are listed in order of action, a proactive reliability centered vision, management support, education, work management processes, roles and responsibilities, tools such as the CMMS/ EAM, criticality, priority; job planning, materials management, backlog, scheduling, coordination, auditing, and metrics.
Proactive Reliability Centered Vision
For an organization to become effective at and ultimately sustain a maintenance planning and scheduling function, there has to be a collaborative vision of the end state, a proactive reliability centered culture. The organization must strive for and maintain that vision.
Management Support – Organizational Alignment
A strong level of management support is required to ensure that organizational roles are aligned with proactive maintenance practices. In addition to the roles, management philosophies can make or break planning and scheduling. Management must ensure equipment availability for maintenance practices. Partnerships must exist between the various functional departments and roles if planning and scheduling is to be successful as well.
A proactive reliability centered culture begins with education. Planning and Scheduling is no different. I was recently at a site were the planner schedulers have been in the role for 7 years without understanding the job they were needed to fill. They were never given a book on Planning and Scheduling or attended a course for the 7 year duration. In addition, the rest of the organization was never educated on the role of Planning and Scheduling either. As one technician told me when I was doing a 2 hour Planning and Scheduling orientation class, “we set the Planner Schedulers up to fail”.
Work Management Processes
All too often an organization does not have documented business processes relative to work management or Planning and Scheduling. Ideally, work management workflows, RASI, and definition documents are completed prior to the implementation of a CMMS. These business processes give a method to standardize the work and ensure that all do it the same way. Once these processes and documents are developed, everyone is trained on the correct methods and processes. Finally, audits occur to ensure that everyone is following the process and bad habits are not common practice.
Roles and Responsibilities
Not only does the role for the Planner Scheduler have to be defined, so do the roles of the Maintenance Supervisor or Foreman, the Materials Management or Storeroom personnel, and Maintenance Engineer as examples. The Supervisors must remain tactical or “today, this week”. The Planner Schedulers must be strategic or “next week and beyond”. The Planner Schedulers can’t get involved in reactive work or attend daily production meetings which pull them into this week.
Work Management Tools – CMMS, Criticality, Priority, and requested by dates
With the processes developed and the roles understood, we need some additional tools to help us bring all of this together. Obviously, the computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) gives us the repository to capture and manage the work. Criticality rankings inside the tool on the physical assets help us to determine the level of maintenance required. When combined with criticality, priority and requested by dates help the organization determine what to work on first. I always encourage groups to dedicate 10-15% of the crew size to lower priority work so that items don’t disappear into the black hole of maintenance when realistic priorities are employed. This lower priority work is typically given to the reactive shift technicians to work on between reactive jobs.
Managing the Backlog
Ideally we schedule 100% of the available crew hours. Therefore, the Planner must be planning at least 100% of the available hours each week or we will quickly run out of work to place on the schedule. Ultimately, we need to build a backlog of planned work where the materials are on site and the jobs are awaiting scheduling. The Scheduler pulls from this bucket (backlog) of work and places it on the schedule based on work priority and requested by date. Typical proactive organizations run with about 2-4 weeks of ready to schedule backlog.
Job planning really consists of the initial scoping, job research, detailed job planning, and job package development. The initial scoping enables the Planner to understand what the requestor wants accomplished, if the job is already in the CMMS, and if the correct information is present in the work request, i.e. asset, location, priority. In the job research phase, the planner is determining the level of maintenance planning required, and if a job plan is required, does one already exist in the system? Also the planner is determining if the work is excessively repetitive. If a job plan is required, the Planner visits the job site to determine the task and material requirements. Once that information is determined, the Planner returns to their desk to perform detailed job planning. If the job plan already exists or once developed, the job package is assembled.
One partnership that is especially critical for planning and scheduling effectiveness the one between Maintenance and the Materials Management/ Storeroom groups. Ideally as part of the work management process, the Storeroom handles the procurement of materials, staging and kitting, and even delivery to the job site based on the work schedule.
Many organizations fail to develop a comprehensive schedule based on priority and requested by dates. Remember that the backlog should contain roughly 2-4 weeks of “schedule ready” work to pull from. The Scheduler should be working with the operations and maintenance stakeholders to put the proper work on the schedule. One of the first items on the schedule should be the preventive and condition based maintenance tasks since these are intended to reduce or minimize the level of reactivity. This is provided those tasks are value added. In some schedules, I have seen the PM/ PdM’s take a lower priority over projects and corrective work. Sites with those schedules tend to be overwhelmed with reactive repairs and there is little if any proactive culture.
Work Order Feedback/ Job Closeout
An area that is often overlooked is the Work Order Feedback and Job Closeout areas. The better maintenance planning organizations utilize Work Order Feedback Forms to provide technician feedback on job plans and to help identify additional areas for future corrective actions. Job closeout starts with the Technician, with the content being reviewed by supervision, and the final closeout being done by the planner scheduler. The Planner Scheduler is considered a guardian of the CMMS data and is the final stop prior to the WO being archived off to history. It’s also a last chance to ensure failure codes/ modes are present and keywords are used to facilitate the mining of equipment history by the Maintenance or Reliability Engineering function.
With any process, the challenge is to ensure the defined work processes, and physical activities are standardized and proactive. To ensure that we are “doing what we said we would do”, the organization must employ a level of auditing. Stakeholders with the Maintenance Planning and Scheduling processes include the technicians, the planner schedulers, supervision, maintenance engineers, and storeroom personnel. Every audit period, 3 completed work orders should be pulled and the jobs walked down. The audit is about the business processes of work management and not about the technician. However, if it’s clear the technician improperly performed the work, then it becomes a supervisory matter. I encourage you to take managers, even the plant manager on these audits occasionally.
As a Plant Manager once told me, “we measure what we treasure”. If we treasure the planning and schedule realm, then it’s important that we provide metrics and key measures to ensure we are achieving the results that we want. There are a number of metrics that are either directly or indirectly driven by an effective planning and scheduling front. From a weekly scheduling perspective, we use schedule compliance, PM compliance, and the number of break-in jobs from the prior week’s scheduled work. But simply having the metrics is not enough, the goal is to improve on the scores.
I often ask Maintenance Managers about their improvement initiatives and how they are communicated to the people who have to buy-in to the processes. Interestingly, they quickly tell me how they have done the assessments and they are working on improvement steps. I ask to see their strategic roadmap or plan. Most of the time, there is not one. From assessment processes, most organizations have many opportunities for improvement. Matter of fact, for a full blown Maintenance function assessment, it’s not unusual to find 250 or more tasks. It becomes an elephant that we have to eat one bite at a time. To accomplish this, you need a Microsoft Project plan or something similar. You should identify the what (tasks), who will execute them, and set an expectation for when they are completed. The challenge is to provide stretch goals but keep them realistic. The strategic plan now becomes the communication tool that helps everyone understand where the organization is headed. The plan allows people to buy-in so you can bring them along with you on the journey.
If you will approach the assessment and the strategic plan from a step by step holistic perspective, your organization can identify items that work well and those needing improvement. Take the time to understand each of the components from a Best Practices perspective. If you don’t, become educated so that you don’t encourage the organization to encounter miss-steps that frustrate the direction you are ultimately trying to go with the assessment process. On implementing the changes, set a pace that allows you to bring all of the people along. You can go too fast and lose people.
This article was previously published in the Reliable Plant 2014 Conference Proceedings.
By Jeff Shiver, People and Processes, Inc.
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