Maintenance Planning is a concept and practice that has evolved in various industries over the years. I have seen Planning Departments function in modes anywhere from just being clerks…. to being responsible for all aspects of the maintenance function. The truth is that planners should be responsible for all aspects of planned work. This includes quite a bit of responsibility for the planner and as a result, they can be quite a benefit for the organization if utilized properly.
Unfortunately, many companies have drifted away from this concept. As I indicated, there are many variations to the planning processes that Best Practice dictates.
What I would like to present today are the basics of good Planning Practices. What processes should be in place and what activities a planner should be responsible for versus what the crews and the crew supervisors should be responsible for.
The most important aspect of maintenance planning is management support. This support must be “top down” and has to include more than just mere lip-service. Upper management must ensure that Maintenance Planning will become a part of the normal operating procedures and management levels below that must ensure adherence to these principles. This adherence needs to be on a consistent basis or the process will not be successful.
This is not only for maintenance management but all departments since they will all have some interaction with the process at some point in time, especially production/operations.
Production and maintenance planning can work together to develop a PM/PD schedule that works for all, and on an as-needed basis for corrective work. We will explore this more when we discuss Identifying Work.
Basic Components of a Planning Program
There needs to be a process in place to identify and prioritize requests for planned work. Production can facilitate this process by establishing a liaison to review and help prioritize work requests generated in their areas. Depending on the size of the facility, there could be one or more of these persons required. There is no rule of thumb as to how many you have but perhaps one for each major area or even one for a small plant should be enough. It all depends on the volume of work requests being processed. Training personnel to include complete and accurate information, makes the work of the liaison much easier. This is an important step in the process since a clear, concise request eliminates any mistakes in interpretation. A daily meeting between the planner, crew supervisor(s) and the production liaison will help in facilitating this process. The liaison should have the authority to approve the work and agree to potential schedule times. A weekly meeting with the same participants should take place to approve the weekly schedule for the following week. If the plant conditions are very fluid, then a part of the daily meeting should be to confirm the following day’s scheduled work.
Planning work is more than just jotting down a few quick comments and then scheduling the work. Jobs are not planned from the desk. Any new or complex jobs require that the planner go visit the job site to develop a scope of work and identify any additional requirements that need to be addressed. These may be staging, special permits, drawings, schematics, special equipment, safety considerations and shutdown requirements. The planner should have the tools required to perform this work. For example, having a digital camera available can be very helpful when describing work in the job plan.
The scope of work can be reviewed with a specific crew member if the planner’s primary craft is different than the job requirements. This also helps the tradesperson develop a sense of ownership in the job and instills in the person a greater sense of acceptance into the planning process itself. It has been my experience that many tradespersons do not readily accept the concept of a planner telling them what has to be done in order to execute a specific job. “I have been doing this work for 20 years and I do not need someone to tell me how it’s done!” is the usual comment I hear. Practically speaking however, if you ask five (5) tradespersons how they would accomplish a task, you will most likely get five (5) different methods presented to you. The planner’s responsibility is to present the most effective, efficient and safest way to perform the work, and to ensure that all of the material and equipment is there to perform it. Another very important aspect of the planning process is to specify Safety requirements for the job. Incorporation of Safety into a Job Plan makes a Safety program real … and can provide some legal defense in the event of an accident.
Many common repair jobs can be pre-planned so that there is very little to do relative to the planning activity. These pre-planned procedures can be stored. If you are using a manual system, then you can photocopy multiple copies and just assign the specific details at the time the work is required. These details would be dates, the specific asset and account numbers and anything specific to the work location. If you are using an EAM or CMMS system, most have a way to store these job procedures electronically. Having a significant number of job plans in your library will reduce the work load of the planner and allow them to concentrate on other activities such as failure analysis, Preventive and Predictive Maintenance management, ensuring any changes to equipment are documented in the schematics and drawings and any other activities that can contribute to the reliability of your equipment.
Once the scope of work is developed, then the estimates should be built. Labor and craft requirements need to be documented and any spare parts (inventory or non-stock) should be specified. Special additions to the work package also need to be identified such as schematics, drawings, asset BOM, special tools and equipment and any assistance from other crafts that is required. If any outside services are required to assist in the work, requisitions and purchase orders should be created for those.
Many times, more than one craft or crew may be required to perform work. If this is the case, then that need should be communicated by the planner so that the support craft or crew can be coordinated. A clear description of what work is required should be presented to them. The mechanics of the process do not matter, what is important is that the participating crews/crafts coordinate and communicate to execute the required work in a cost efficient and safe manner. Inform the other crews/crafts in plenty of time for them to plan the work and ensure that all resources are in place when needed.
Scheduling is usually performed by the planner, however in some environments it is performed by a completely separate group (i.e. Crew supervisor). Generally, it may depend on the volume of work or there may be a separation of duties in a specific environment that is normal for that organization. Outage scheduling is normally performed by a separate group but for our purposes here, we are speaking strictly of weekly scheduling of preventive, predictive and corrective work.
The key pieces of information required for good scheduling are the priority, asset availability, spare parts availability and labor availability. The last component can always be supplemented by contractors, which happens often. Large projects, like major outages, also utilize Task Sequences to develop the schedule.
Asset availability is something that planners, schedulers (may be the same person) and production must work at to develop an atmosphere of trust and cooperation. Having accurate job duration information, and adhering to those durations, helps develop that trust. The priority goes back to when the work is initially identified, although any deteriorating asset conditions may push that priority to a more urgent status. This is why it is so beneficial to have all of the requests for work go through a production liaison that can review and prioritize with an appreciation of the larger picture. Not everything can, nor is, the highest priority.
Along those same lines, related to priority, the lower priorities must be addressed at some point in time. If they consistently fall to the bottom of the list, you will have trouble getting the users to indicate lower priorities when they enter their requests. Before long, all jobs will go back to being high priority. The credibility of the planning and scheduling process is at risk here. Those lower priority jobs can be addressed during the off-shifts when there are no other pressing jobs for maintenance to perform. If low priority jobs never get done, that is a significant indicator that the labor force is too small or is not being utilized effectively.
One important fact to remember when scheduling work with the operations/production groups is that if you agree to start a job at a specific time, and be there for a specific amount of time, ensure that you do everything possible to stick to the schedule. If you wish to have production cooperate with maintenance and schedule downtime for their equipment then you ensure that you are there at the designated time. On the other side of the coin, if production agrees to shut down the equipment at that time, then it should be ready when maintenance arrives. Both groups lose time, hence money, when one or the other, or both, do not stick to the schedule.
Another fact to consider is how much to schedule on a daily and weekly basis. There are two theories presented relative to this.
The first is to schedule the amount of planned work that you feel your crew can handle. If a crew historically has to dedicate 20% of their time to emergency work, then you should only schedule 80% of their time. Keep some “Fill-In Work” handy in the event the emergencies do not occur. These jobs should be the sort that will allow the tradesperson to walk away from them in the event of a high priority problem in the operating area. Rebuilding spare parts are ideal for this type of work. These jobs would be already planned and the known spare parts ordered and received. Using this method minimizes the amount of rescheduling that has to occur when the day is over and requires that you have accurate figures for the amount of planned work versus emergency work so that you can make correct assessments.
The second theory is to over-schedule the crew to about 125%. The rationale here is that if any of the jobs fall through for some reason, there is work to fall back on that is already scheduled. This method can be used but there will probably be some rescheduling that would have to occur on almost a daily basis. It would be wise to not schedule many jobs that are contingent on production releasing equipment for maintenance purposes. If for any reason maintenance cannot make it to that job, then we go back to the credibility issues that need attention. The safest bet is to actually schedule those “Fill-In” jobs that do not require any interaction with other departments.
Work Completion and Follow Up
The final step in the loop for planning and scheduling work is the completion and follow-up activities which should occur once the work is complete. This is one of the most important steps in the process as this is the way feedback is sent back to the planner. Unfortunately, it is also one of the steps that many ignore.
To begin with, for major jobs and jobs that have been planned for the first time, the planner should go out and visit the job-site during the actual execution of the work. This enables you to get a first hand view of the work that you planned. Talk with the tradespersons and get as much feedback as you can. This information can then be used to fine tune your job plan in the library we mentioned earlier. It also gives you an indication of issues that come up once the covers of components have been removed and the equipment breakdown is exposed. Getting out of the office and discussing the job plan with the people who are trying to execute it will create another level of credibility between the planner and the trades. You cannot do this for all the jobs you plan, so select your visits wisely.
As a routine, the planner and crew supervisor should meet at least once if not twice a day. The afternoon visit should be used to deliver the next day’s work packages for the crew and the morning meeting should be used for the supervisor to deliver the previous day’s work packages. Then you should both sit down and reconcile the packages. This meeting should not take any longer than 20 – 30 minutes.
The supervisor should provide comments on each of the jobs worked. Feedback from the trades should be reviewed. If there is no feedback, and it is obvious that there should be, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to contact the tradesperson and get that information. You would want to do that pretty quickly so that the information is not forgotten. This is your only communication channel from the job to the planner and should be considered a priority. Whether electronic or hand-written, they should be reviewed, and the final notes should be in a format so that if someone else comes back to this work order two years from now, they will understand the content. This is no place to insert cryptic comments that will not mean anything in 24 hours, let alone two years later.
The type of information that you should see coming back on the work order is:
Comments on the accuracy of the job plan – validating that the hours were accurate, the correct parts were ordered and in the proper quantities, the special equipment required was in place and ready and the job procedure accurately portrayed the scope of work. Any comments that would enable you to fine tune that job plan will be valuable. The better your job estimates are the more accurate your schedules will be.
Failure Analysis – for any corrective-type work, you should be receiving some failure-related information from the field. If you do not, either try and obtain that information from the tradesperson who executed the job or work with the supervisor in trying to determine exactly what the root cause for the failure is. This will be used to increase the reliability of your assets.
There are several actions which could take place as a result of this information.
Preventive and Predictive Maintenance tasks could be created or modified
Preventive and Predictive schedules may be adjusted
Changes in the specified spare parts may be required
Modifications to the equipment itself
Operator training may be considered
Tradesperson training may be considered
Obviously, it will take more than one incident to trigger most of these actions, but in order to build a trend, the data must be available.
Emergent Work – there may be other corrective or predictive work that emerges as a result of the comments that come back from the field. These jobs should be discussed with the supervisor and planned. The purpose of preventive maintenance is to identify equipment problems prior to them becoming breakdowns. It is much less costly to replace components prior to failure than after.
Spare Parts – depending on the feedback, there may be reasons identified for increasing, decreasing, adding or deleting spare parts in your inventory. There is a great deal of pressure on the storerooms to minimize the amount of material that they carry for obvious financial reasons. The bottom line is that maintenance and stores should work together to determine what the optimum quantities should be. Maintenance has part of that responsibility in not only recommending realistic quantities but also to reduce or even eliminate these quantities when they have modified equipment to use different parts. In order to make this process a bit simpler for all, keep accurate Asset Bills of Material and Where Used files. This will make it easier to determine where a specific part is being used so that items do not get deleted inadvertently. We are all aware that maintaining a high level of planned work will allow companies to reduce the quantities that they keep on the shelf.
There are some activities that should be addressed by the crew supervisor, team leads or even the trades. This will free up the planner to address the areas they are responsible for. These include dealing with and addressing emergency work, securing asset downtime for emergency work, securing spare parts for those jobs and additional parts for scheduled jobs and other standard supervisor responsibilities.
The Planning function can provide significant dividends to the organization if utilized properly and not abused. It is a full time position, and with the software tools available today, information can be processed and analyzed quickly to help make intelligent decisions that will directly affect the reliability of your plant equipment. Planners should be trained to perform their function correctly and efficiently while maintaining a safe working environment for the trades. Just the amount of resource hours that will be saved by implementing a planned work environment will more than pay for the costs. Add the increased reliability of your operating equipment and the numbers become impressive.