Maintenance Planning and Scheduling: An Overview
Proper maintenance and scheduling, when done right, can greatly increase productivity. Below we discuss how to implement maintenance planning and scheduling and more.
Breaking Down Maintenance Planning and Scheduling
In the modern world of manufacturing, higher productivity that produces quality products at the lowest cost possible is what companies strive for to stay ahead of the competition. Maintenance planning and scheduling are two different functions that, when used together, form a maintenance program.
Maintenance planning can be defined as an end-to-end process that identifies and addresses any possible issues ahead of time. This involves identifying the parts and tools necessary for jobs and making sure they’re available and laid out in the appropriate areas, having a planner write out instructions on how to complete a job, and even determining and gathering the necessary parts and/or tools before a job is assigned. Maintenance planning also includes tasks related to parts like:
- Handling reserve parts
- Ordering nonstock parts
- Staging parts
- Illustrating parts
- Managing breakdowns and vendor lists
- Quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC)
Maintenance planning should define the “what,” “why” and “how.” This means specifying what work needs to be done with what materials, tools and equipment; why a particular action was chosen (why a valve is being replaced instead of a seat); and how the work should be completed.
Maintenance scheduling refers to the timing of planned work, when the work should be done and who should perform it. It offers details of “when” and “who.” Scheduling is meant to:
- Schedule the maximum amount of work with the available resources
- Schedule according to the highest priority work orders
- Schedule the maximum number of preventive maintenance jobs when necessary
- Minimize the use of contract and outside resources by effectively using internal labor
When implemented together, maintenance planning and scheduling should have a significant benefit in multiple areas of your organization. These can include:
- Help with budgeting by controlling resources associated with maintenance
- A reduction in equipment downtime
- A reduction in spare parts
- Improved workflow
- Improved efficiency by minimizing the movement of resources between areas
Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Principles
As discussed earlier, the purpose of maintenance planning is to determine the correct maintenance jobs and get them ready for scheduling. To do this, a designated planner develops a work plan (sometimes called a job plan) for each work request. These work plans detail everything a technician must do and use to accomplish the task. There are six maintenance planning principles to guide planning in the appropriate direction.
- Protect the planner: Planners are removed from the maintenance crews and put into separate groups to facilitate specialized planning techniques and focus on future work. By removing planners from the maintenance crew for which they plan and having them report to a different supervisor, the planning function is protected. As difficult as it may be at times, planners should never be used as field technicians to help complete work, so they can focus solely on planning for future work.
- Focus on future work: This principle states that the planning group should only focus on future work – work that hasn’t been started yet – so it can give the maintenance department at least one week of backlogged work that is already planned and ready to go. Having this backlog allows for the creation of a weekly schedule. With the exception of emergencies, job supervisors or the technicians themselves – not the planner – should resolve any problems that come up during the job.
Once a job is completed, the supervisor or lead technician should provide feedback to the planning group. Feedback should include things like problems encountered and changes in the work plan. In other words, if the crew encounters a problem, they should work it out themselves and finish the job. Once the job is completed, they can discuss issues with the planning group to offer helpful information about what went wrong to aid in planning for future work.
The reason for planners to be solely focused on future work is because it’s easy to get caught up in helping with other tasks. For example, say a planner comes into work on a Monday morning needing to plan for the coming weekend’s crew. She also needs to file work orders for a number of jobs completed last week. Two technicians come by her office to ask if she can help them run tickets to get parts out of inventory. Another technician calls her for help finding spare parts for a draft fan. Before long, she has spent most of her morning tracking down the manufacturer and getting sidetracked.
- Component-level files: The planning group should maintain a simple, secure file system based on equipment tag numbers. In other words, planners should not file on a system level but rather on an individual component level. This helps planners use the equipment data obtained from previous jobs to prepare and improve future work plans. This especially holds true with repetitive tasks, since most maintenance tasks are repetitive over an extended period of time.
When a component-level file or “mini-file” is made for each piece of equipment after the first time work is completed, data can be gathered and compared over time. Once a new piece of machinery is made available or is first worked on, planners make it a mini-file, labeling it with the same component tag number attached to the equipment in the field. Planners can use the information gathered over time to improve future processes.
- Use planner judgment for time estimates: Planners should use their experience and skills in addition to file information to determine time estimates for work orders. Time estimates should be reasonable with what a technician might require to complete a job without any issues. This means planners should have technical, communication and organizational data skills to make a reasonable estimate. This principle requires planners to be chosen from the organization’s best technicians, possibly ones with the most seniority.
For example, someone with 15 years of technician experience who accepted a planner position might notice in a previous work order file that a pump alignment took eight hours. He knows from experience that, when done by a competent mechanic, this task should only take around five hours, so he uses the five-hour estimate when creating the job plan for this task.
- Recognize the skill of the techs: Planners need to be aware of and recognize the skills of their craft technicians when determining job plans. Planners should determine the scope of the work request and plan the general strategy of the work, including a preliminary procedure if there isn’t one, around skill level. The technicians then complete the task and work together with the planner on repetitive jobs to improve procedures and checklists. A common issue with this principle is making a choice between producing highly detailed job plans for technicians with minimal skills or creating minimally detailed job plans for technicians with highly skilled technicians.
How much detail should be included in a job plan? A good rule of thumb is to develop a general strategy for 100 percent of the work hours. This will be better than a detailed plan for only 20 percent of the work hours. If there is a procedure already in the file or notes from people who have previously worked on the equipment, include those in the job plans.
Finding the best way to leverage the skills of the technicians and ensuring they are doing what they were trained to do allows planners to be confident that they will get a task done efficiently.
- Measure performance with work sampling: This principle states that wrench time is the primary measure of workforce efficiency and of planning and scheduling effectiveness. Wrench time is defined as the time in which technicians are available to work and are not being kept from working on a job site by delays such as waiting for an assignment or parts and tools, obtaining clearance, travel time, etc. Planned work decreases unnecessary delays during jobs, while scheduling work reduces delays in between jobs.