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Planning or Scheduling?

September 21, 2021

Most operations have a position within their maintenance department known as a “Maintenance Planner”.

The role of this Maintenance Planner is to ensure that each identified task (within the CMMS) is sufficiently planned with the correct resources, materials, and documentation. (To ensure the task is carried out in a safe and efficient manner.)

The Maintenance Planner is also expected to produce a weekly work schedule (Maintenance Scheduling) from the “planned” task listing.

​After discussions with the “Client” and Maintenance Department supervision, the Maintenance Planner builds the work schedule, considering resource availability and access to the equipment, loads the schedule to around 80% of available man hours to create a plan for the next period.

After the “Client” and Maintenance Supervision have reviewed and signed off on the plan, the Maintenance Planner then releases the work within the CMMS, prints out all work orders complete with the necessary attachments and produces a workbook for the following period along with a backlog report.

Sounds like a fair bit of work for one week and possibly one person, doesn’t it?

Well unfortunately a lot of maintenance planners do not plan the task, but instead plan the work…. confused?

Well planning the task includes resources, material and documentation, planning the work is just putting an estimated start date on the task, putting the task into a weekly plan and “winging it”.

You know, I visited one site and asked the Maintenance Planer “Do you plan all your work”…… he said, “Yes”, well I was thinking, “I do not see a cape on your back nor your underpants on the outside of your pants”, but I went along with his statement. So, then I asked the question …. ”What do you call planned work”, shouldn’t have asked, should I? “Well, when dispatch calls up and states the truck has failed, we “Plan to fix it“, I’ll leave you to digest that comment ………

Let’s face it, not all work can be sufficiently planned, mainly tasks where you don’t know what the work involves until you inspect the equipment, but surely, we can plan most of our known work?

So why can’t we plan our work? What’s the adage, “If you don’t plan your work, then you are planning to fail”, I’d say this is pretty much true, wouldn’t you?

Too many times, I have asked the resident planner why he can’t plan the task, the main response is “I don’t have the time”. But when you consider why the Maintenance Planner doesn’t have time, it’s because he / she is carrying out tasks that should be done by other roles, lets name a few tasks:

  • Creating Work Request for non- maintenance personnel
  • Approving Work Requests
  • Creating Work Orders for maintenance personnel… including the Superintendent!
  • Completing Work Orders
  • Expediting material
  • Maintenance clerical duties
  • Project work,
  • Building assets within the CMMS, bills of material, critical spares listing, preventative maintenance tasks

Sound familiar?

So, let’s have a look at who should be doing what ………
 
Creating Work Request for non- maintenance personnel

Non-maintenance personnel should be trained in the use of the work request system and all work requests created should be routed through their supervisor before being forwarded to the maintenance department responsible supervisor.
 
Approving a Work Request

The Maintenance Planner should not look at work requests, these requests need to be viewed, vetted, and approved by the responsible Maintenance Supervisor, converting to a work order and if the work is deemed as being required to be completed within the already planned working week, then it is the Maintenance Supervisors responsibility to manage this task, not the Maintenance Planner. 

If the work can be carried out in the next planning period, then it is the Maintenance Planners responsibility.
 
Completing Work Orders

So, who is responsible for this? Well surely the person who physically completes the work would know what has been done, can identify the root cause of the failure, complete fault / failure codes and work order history? So common sense would state that the work order is completed by the person carrying out the task, this obviously means that maintenance personnel need training in the use of the CMMS.
 
Expediting Material

Good operations have a “Material” report which identifies when the item ordered is to be delivered, however not all operations have an effective expediting process. A lot of the maintenance departments that I have spoken to, they always complain about the effectiveness of the “Stores” department to expedite parts, comments I have been given include:

  • “Expediting” is not part of the stores job
  • “Expediting is only conducted when we approach the stores to ask where our parts are?

So, Maintenance is their own worst enemy, that is, they will ring up the supplier, either to ask where the parts are or to arrange a quote for parts… Isn’t that the purchasing department’s function?

So, if we got the expediting and quoting process correct and gave maintenance the confidence that the process was being managed effectively, then wouldn’t that also free up the Maintenance Planner to plan the task?

Here’s an idea: how about we get the purchasing department to attend maintenance department weekly planning meetings, maybe provide an update on expected delivery times for parts ordered?

Maintenance Clerical Duties

The Planner seems to be the “catch all” person to go to for anything clerical:

  • The Maintenance Supervisor comes in and asks for the planner’s help to source parts and create purchase requisitions for “break in” work.
  • Creating work orders for “on the fly” work needing to be done today!
  • Work that the supervisor should be managing.
  • Trade personnel asking for material requisitions to be created for the store off the back of work orders…. Yep the Supervisor’s job!

Project Work

When a maintenance department is created and resourced, the resourcing is or should be based on the maintenance effort required to maintain the known assets within the responsible department. 

The key word here is “maintenance”, unfortunately more times than not, the maintenance department is asked to complete projects for the operation. Now I am not saying that minor engineering modifications should not be completed by the Maintenance Department, but there must be a line drawn in the sand as to when an EPC is engaged for the works. 

We must remember that while the maintenance department is engaged in project work, they do not have their eye on the “maintenance ball”.

So, who should be managing project work, well that is for each site to decide depending on their resources, but for me an EPC should be engaged for anything other than minor modifications.

Building asset within the CMMS, BOM’s, Critical Spares, PM Tasks

I can hear you now, “the Maintenance Planner” should be doing this work”, well I would agree for ad hoc additions to the CMMS, but not when the project work is deemed big enough to be managed by an EPC. 

The development of critical spares listing should be part of the EPC, while BOM’s and PM Tasks should be developed by external resources.

Planner or Scheduler?

So now that we have looked at the role requirements for the Maintenance Planner and the tasks that the Planner shouldn’t be carrying out, ask yourself, “Does my Maintenance Planner actually have the time to plan the task or is he / she acting more like a scheduler”.

If the answer is “Scheduler”, then there is an opportunity to improve your planning and scheduling processes by introducing effective maintenance work processes, which will effectively be freeing up the Maintenance Planner to “plan” the work before scheduling.

Of course, there are many benefits derived from effective work management process:

Improved Labour Productivity

  • Online access to work order, asset history, documentation and drawings
  • Reduced overtime and contractor expenses
  • Reduced delays waiting for asset availability, appropriate resources, parts and instructions
  • Reduced management reporting and decision support time

Enhanced Quality and Service

  • Proper people, tools and materials to do the job
  • Reduced asset downtime and plant shutdowns
  • Improved communications, knowledge transfer and expectation setting

Increased Asset Capacity

  • Reduced downtime through co-ordinated and accurate job planning
  • Enhanced supplier selection
  • Better repair vs replacement decisions

Improved job Planning​

  • Automated repetitive planning and scheduling
  • Feedback mechanism to enhance management control
  • Documented maintenance control and safety procedures

If you would like to discuss any opportunities to improve your maintenance processes, then contact us today!

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