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Fundamentals of Maintenance Planning Series

Planning and scheduling functions are the key deliverables of the planning role. This is where the most gains in execution have the potential to be made and acted upon. In some larger organizations these are split, allowing more adequate resources for each role.

The role of the planner needs to cover the full range of the work order system, from input into coding, prioritization and a degree of autonomy in execution. As such these roles, more and more, need to be staffed by skilled and versatile people.

The difference between planning and scheduling needs to be clear within each company. These are differing areas worthy of differing measurement and improvement initiatives.


Planning can occur at any stage during the life of a works order. An electronic indicator in the work-order systems needs to be able to identify the work-order by status of planning. In this manner works orders requiring parts, procedures, documents, skills or equipment can easily be focused upon. A work order cannot be considered planned until all of these have been considered. As well exception reporting needs to highlight:

  • No resources
  • No $ estimates
  • Incorrect coding

At this point, only, does it become a "Planned" work-order. Not all require planning; this also needs to be included in any indication.


Scheduling is the function of coordinating all of the logistical issues around the issues regarding the execution phase of the work. This can also uncover some areas of planning deficiency, which needs to be captured.

Scheduling is best performed in a capacity-scheduling manner, whereby the following takes place. Most modern systems have the capacity to output data to spreadsheets or similar. This is where the majority of scheduling work needs to occur.

  • Overhead labor hours such as safety and toolbox meetings, break times and training times are to be gathered, along with holidays and scheduled as standing works orders for future analysis of these.
  • Hours for PM completion to be deduced form data in the CMMS. This focuses on ensuring the equipment is maintained to its best levels.
  • Addition of corrective and approved improvement actions as dictated by the prioritization system and operations plan. These are to be Planned works orders only. A guide could be: Age of works orders against priority (As a measure of the priority systems effectiveness)
  • The combination of corrective, preventative and improvement work needs to total the levels set for planned / scheduled work. Although this does constitute the most effective use of labor and resources, there are advantages to planned/unscheduled works. A workable level is 70%- 80% in the initial stages.
  • For example a planned works order may be used during opportune maintenance periods due to major failure or operations reasons. In this instance the benefits of pre-planning become clear. However there does not need to be a rush to repair equipment in an opportune manner simply because it has become available. If there have been higher priority work planned then this needs to retain that focus.

Review of this by week needs to focus on executed works. In this manner re-scheduled works, while important though difficult to fully quantify, can be captured in hour's terms by omission. By setting a level of 70%, for example, you know that the schedule was forecast to that level. Planned / Scheduled work orders are to equal this.

Unplanned and unscheduled work makes up the majority of breakdown works orders generally. However modern systems do contain template work orders. Focusing of these on corrective actions can produce a "planned" breakdown work order.

Works order templates containing all planned information including parts and resources requirements. These can take a lot of the work out of the planning function so that it can be focused more on improvement. Estimation variances, additional tips or instructions, improving the safe working practices and reviewing the stores re-credits can offer areas of improving work order templates. All delivering a more efficient and accurate tool for scheduling and execution.

Templates can also be used to store trouble shooting guides for specific symptoms / fault modes. OEM data and strategy review information is best for providing the detail for these.

Like all changes to maintenance processes this needs to be embedded via a range of initiatives. These include role-specific training, targeted reports for functional purposes and integration of KPI measurement with daily routines. This can happen as part of meeting structures, signs and symbols as well as integration with the salary expectations. (Usually via bonus schemes) Although effective, the behaviors being driven need to be carefully considered.

This is by no means a total explanation of the planning and scheduling function, reporting tools and or processes. It seeks to highlight areas most neglected where immediate improvements, through application, can be easily implemented.

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