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Some CMMS vendors have integrated a full-fledged scheduling tool with their product. Further, some add-on providers have provided strong graphical front ends using drag and drop technology for day-of-the-week scheduling. But even with this technology, the overall process is still too complex for many organizations. Additionally, there seems to be some misunderstanding of the day-to-day requirements for a regular, old maintenance planner. Consequently, the CMMS scheduling solution has high click count activity and requires more staff (or man-hours) then companies have to operate the software.

How many man-hours should it take to generate one weekly schedule? If you have a lot of staff, you can probably make any system work. But is that really efficient? And what about the thousands of smaller organizations that bought the CMMS? Couldn’t an easy-to-use scheduling solution be provided? Scheduling is supposed to add efficiency – not complexity.


  1. A weekly schedule is an industry best practice – and an advanced process. The schedule should be properly loaded so it has just the right amount of work by craft and therefore, optimizes backlog reduction. A weekly schedule consists of a ‘set of work’ which, if summed up, would not exceed the weekly craft limits for availability.
  2. Aweekly schedule meeting is a set time to review the schedule (hopefully computer-generated) prepared by the planner/scheduler and make corrections, e.g., opportunistic scheduling.
  3. A daily schedule is created from the weekly. It is established by the supervisor or lead prior to the start of each day, taking into account prior day updates and plant dynamics. It is quite possible that emergency/urgent work may occur midweek and has to be added to the daily schedule.
  4. A planned work order, at a minimum, has actions/steps, craft codes, number of staff (to do this work, by craft) and estimated hours. This data forms the maintenance backlog and can be labeled as ready for scheduling.
  5. Resource leveling is a complex and time-consuming process if done manually, but if automated, can be a huge time-saver. Not all work in the backlog can be done at the same time. Some work is more important than others and is prioritized accordingly.
  6. Subjective selection occurs when maintenance supervisors bypass any formal leveling process and manually select work for the next week. This is a bad practice and often results in under-scheduling.

Business Rules

  1. All new work should be properly reviewed and coded as to online maintenance, shortoutage, or majoroutage work. Note: Some work skips formal planning and goes straight to execution, e.g., emergency/urgent.
  2. A maintenance backlog exists, which is planned and prioritized.
  3. A weekly schedule should be generated by the planner/scheduler prior to the weekly schedule meeting, which is resource leveled. After review/approval, this schedule should be stored for compliance analysis.
  4. Maintenance organizations can have many roles, e.g., maintenance manager, planners, planner/schedulers, maintenance supervisors, or maintenance leads. One of these individuals, however, should be responsible for generating the weekly schedule.
  5. Regular backlog reviews should be conducted to establish/verify accuracy.

A Quick Word on Process

A significant percentage of new work is routine, online maintenance, which means this work can be performed while the plant/facility is running. This incoming work is given a priority and planned.Seldom are there any logic ties between work orders. The resource pool, consisting of craft availabilities, is also stored (or should be) in the CMMS. Because the dynamics of plant/facility operations change, daily schedules might change midway through the week due to changing priorities or work slippage. The best approach is to (1) create the set of work balanced for the week and (2) let the maintenance supervisor create the daily schedule as the week progresses.

Note: Maintenance planners also may be involved in outage scheduling and project schedule builds. But for day-to-day maintenance planning, there are generally no logic ties. The planner/scheduler simply reviews the prioritized backlog and plans work accordingly. The goal is to create a schedule for next week. This schedule is a listing of work that has been resource-leveled, e.g., balanced. The work order is linked to a week start date, meaning it should be started in that week. Some work may be given specific start dates as required by operations, contractors, or preventive maintenance (PM generation). These dates would have been confirmed in the weekly schedule meeting (if there was one). The other work can be done anywhere in the week.

Daily - from Weekly

Once the weekly schedule work set is identified, the maintenance supervisor can then choose work for the daily schedule. Since conditions often change daily, it is more logical for the maintenance supervisor to control daily scheduling during the preceding shift, when all in-progress work, permitting requests and plant conditions can be ascertained. At this point, the maintenance supervisor can build a pen-on-paper document, use a drag and drop tool, or link work to labor using an assignment manager [as provided by some products].The planner/scheduler should manage the CMMS data and not get caught up in data rework, e.g., moving work order dates around.

Organization Size Should Not Be a Limitation

The organization’s size and budget determine the number and type of work management staffing. But just because you don’t have a planner or scheduler doesn’t mean you can’t generate a weekly schedule. Imagine how many organizations could be generating schedules if this technology existed. A middleware solution could be created that tailors to day-to-day maintenance.

Table 1: Key Positions Involved with Work Management

Middleware Design


With this design, the only prerequisites are to:

  1. Maintain availability,
  2. Plan the work.
Figure 1: The middleware performs the “heavy lifting” and balances work against availability.

This program only needs to deduct planned hours (as estimated on the work order) from craft availability. When the value reaches zero, no more work can be scheduled for this craft.

Step 1 is to calculate the available hours by craft.

Step 2 is to select the “ready to schedule” work orders based on priority and other conditions. This work set is then used to be considered for scheduling in the next step.

Step 3 is to read each work order (craft estimates) and subtract from the available hours.Store work order in the weekly schedule if craft availability for the week is not depleted.



If the selected work order does not cause negative craft availability, then it isadded to the weekly schedule work set and given a week start date. This is the complete program. There is no need to evaluate logic ties, calculate critical path (total float), create bar charts, or derive a day of the week, all of which adds complexity to the programming and drives up product cost.

Note: Some work may be given specific start dates as required by operations, contractors, or PM generation.

Real-World Impediments

Because many organizations are small to midsize, they are limited by staff man-hours as to the time they can spend creating a maintenance schedule. And as with many advanced processes, there can be multiple challenges. For an automated process to work there needs to be accurate data (e.g. the maintenance backlog). With that, there has to be a willingness to accept the computer generated results. Figure 2 is intended to point out the variety of impediments (data, process and culture) an organization might encounter. If you had 10,000 organizations, 10 percent of these organizations might have no planned estimates in the maintenance backlog.


Figure 2: There are many variations of industry staffing and how they plan/schedule work.

As Figure 2 shows, only a small percentage of the total sites use a formal scheduling tool with automatic balancing capability. The key point being the others could benefit from this feature if they had an easy to use tool.

Table 2 - Common Problems Relating to Schedule Generation

Lost Opportunities Mean Added Costs

Unfortunately, many organizations shy away from doing any form of scheduling because they know it is too labor intensive, e.g., a lot of setup and clicking. Or if they do perform scheduling, it is mostly subjective selection and even that process takes time. In a reactive environment, the maintenance craft may feel they are being ‘jerked around’ when a schedule does not exist. Without a weekly schedule, maintenance organizations are usually not performing as much maintenance as they could. This inefficiency occurs because of poor coordination (between craft or departments), unplanned delays and mistakes (errors affecting equipment or personnel). Often times, it is these mistakes that also lead to major incidents or lack of public trust. All of the above affects quality, safety, and job satisfaction (buy-in to process). Lastly, these missed opportunities add significant costs to the maintenance organization.


Thousands of organizations have always wanted to do automatic scheduling within their CMMS. Because the definition for work scheduling is so loosely defined, there is often confusion by vendors and organizations as to what exactly weekly maintenance scheduling is. Couple that problem with logistics in that smaller organizations are only able to apply maybe an hour a week to creating this output. But with the right middleware and if the above concepts are accepted, it is possible for one person to manage a large work order backlog and generate a resource-leveled weekly schedule, single-handedly.   

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