An excellent method for enabling these efforts is through effective planning and scheduling. Qualified Planner/Schedulers in a proactive, mature, structured, and disciplined maintenance organization can greatly impact the success of meeting these challenges. It has been stated and well documented by many companies that every hour of effective planning pays back three to five hours in maintenance technician time saved or the equivalent savings in materials and/or operational downtime.
However, many maintenance organizations fail to realize this payback from their planner groups. Why is this so? There are many contributing factors to this. The first is the lack of support from the entire organization to the role of planning and scheduling. This lack of support can be manifested in various ways.
1. Planning and scheduling is not accepted as one of the three core functions of maintenance.
2. The planning and scheduling function is to low in the maintenance organization resulting in little support when key decisions are required.
3. The role is not staffed as a management position, and compensation is just above that of a day shift maintenance technician.
4. The planner function is viewed as a fill-in position for supervisors or when additional maintenance labor is needed for peak times or shutdowns.
5. The planner function is used as a parts expediter, an emergency procurement gofer.
6. Any other responsibility management doesn't have a clear fit for.
In order for planning groups to be effective, contribute to the overall success, and impact capacity, the role and importance of the planning function has to be communicated and supported by the management.
The second factor is the quality/caliber of the individual performing the planner/scheduler function. The person has to have the technical background of maintenance and a proactive maintenance mind set. Reactive, "fire fighter", "drop everything to save the day" attitudes do not work in an effective planning group. True planner/schedulers work in the "Next Week" and beyond time frame. Effective planners are passionate for their role as well as structured and methodical in their thought and work processes. The selection process for the right planner/scheduler should be as detailed and comprehensive as for any managerial position. The selection should not be solely by seniority and definitely not a dumping spot for someone that doesn't fit anywhere else in the organization.
The third factor is the type and amount of training planner/schedulers receive. Newly hired planners that have met the basic requirements of the position can become unmotivated quickly if left to fend for themselves. Bad habits and work practices will become part of their routines as well. Training on the roles and responsibilities of planners, the CMMS, purchase requisitions, and workflow have to be conducted as part of new planner orientation. Instilling "Best Practices" in each area is essential to the success of the planner group. Continuing education and training is required in order to maintain proficiencies in their technical/trade backgrounds as well as staying up to date on latest technology to support the organization.
As maintenance organizations evaluate their ability to provide the operational capacity, they should not fail to evaluate how well the planning function is being supported. Do they have the full support and commitment to focus specifically on planning and scheduling? Are the planner/schedulers the best qualified for the position, and are they sufficiently trained to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently?
How well is your planner/scheduler group functioning?