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6 Maintenance Planning Principles for Success in Planning & Scheduling

by Matt Midas on July 14, 2016

Based on years of experience in maintenance and operations, including the maintenance and overhaul of conventional (steam and diesel) and nuclear propulsion plants, I’d like to share some basic principles to ensure that your maintenance planning efforts are built on sound foundations.

These 6 ‘foundational pillars’ of maintenance planning include having a separate department for planners, focusing on future work, maintaining component level files, estimating based on the planners expertise and relying on historical data, recognizing the skill of the crafts, and measuring performance with work samplings.

When all 6 of these foundational aspects are implemented and combined correctly, maintenance planning can attain greater efficiencies. All this leads to important asset related data and information being shared across the plant, and even across multiple plants.

Free White Paper - Planning & Scheduling Best Practices

Imagine identifying an issue with a recently failed pump. Now what if you have 50 of these pumps across multiple plants? You can notify the other plants of the issue and address the problem before another failure.

So let’s move on to a detailed look at the 6 Maintenance Planning Principles that bring about these afore mentioned efficiencies.

1. A Separate Department for Planners:

  • Planners are organized into a separate department from the craft maintenance crews. This facilitates specialization in planning and scheduling techniques as well as focus on future work.
    • Planners should not be members of the craft crew for which they plan.
  • Planners should report to a different supervisor than the craft crews–a key best practices indicator. This avoids reassigning a planner to a toolbox.
  • Planners plan work. The crews execute the planned work.

2. Focus on Future Work:

  • Planners should concentrate on future work- the work yet to start. They should provide maintenance for at least one week (3-4 is better) of a backlog that is planned, approved, and ready to execute.
  • The one-week backlog will allow crews to work primarily on planned work.
  • Crew supervisors should handle the current day’s work and problems. The craft technicians or supervisors should resolve any problems that arise after any job begins.
  • Follow the two “Rules of Repetitive Maintenance”

“The 50% Rule–if a piece of equipment needs work, there is a 50% chance it will need the similar, if not the same, work within 1 year.”

“The 80% Rule–there is any 80% chance the equipment will be worked on again within a 5 year period”

  • Conclusion: feedback on jobs completed is the path to increased productivity.
    - Feedback should be provided to the planner after each job is completed.
    - Planners should use the feedback to improve future work.
    - Benchmark: 6 months of feedback will make job estimates and costs more accurate.

3. Maintain Component Level Files:

  • Planners should maintain a simple, secure file system based on equipment/asset numbers—Best Practice: individual component level files are to be maintained—not by manufacturer or vendor.
  • This information allows the planners to utilize equipment data and information learned on previous work to prepare and improve work plans, especially on repetitive tasks.
  • Historical information consists of both work order history and equipment databases.
  • The cost history information is of great help in making repair or replace decisions.
  • Supervisors and engineers should be trained to always use these files to gather information they require with minimal planner assistance.

4. Estimate Job Based on Planner Expertise:

  • Planners should use personal experience and information on file to develop work plans that avoid anticipated work delays, quality or safety problems.
  • Planners should ideally be experienced senior level technicians, trained in the appropriate planning disciplines and techniques.
    • Planner training should include specialized techniques: industrial engineering, statistical analysis, etc. on-the-job training and feedback are very effective.
  • Best Practices:
    - Choose from among the best crafts persons for your planners.
    - You can expect to see a department productivity loss for a few months when an experienced crafts person transitions to planner.
  • Payoffs—Simply stated, it is better to have good execution of a proper job plan, rather than perfect execution of the wrong job plan. 

5. Recognize the Skills of the Craft:

  • Best Practice: all work should be planned with a minimal level of detail in the job plans. Use some standard plans.
    - You have a choice between highly detailed job plans for minimally skilled crafts or less detailed job plans for highly trained crafts. Choose wisely.
    - You can maintain control over the workforce or empower skilled, knowledgeable people.
  • The planner determines the scope of the work request.
    - This includes clarification of the originator’s intent where necessary.
    - Engineering requirements should be gathered before planning starts.
  • The planner determines the strategy of the work (repair or replace)
    - Planners should identify and attach helpful procedures from their experience, such as files or reference documents, for the technician’s use.
    - Craft technicians should use their expertise to determine how to make a specific repair or replacement.

6. Measure Performance with Work Sampling: 

  • Measure how much time technicians actually spend on the job versus other activities such as obtaining parts, waiting for instructions, etc.
  • Wrench time—the proportion of hands-on time a technician spends working per hour–Best Practice: 60%.
  • This gives everyone a measure of how much planning helps “put everyone on their tools in front of a job” instead of doing something else or waiting around.
  • Work planned before assignment will reduce unnecessary delays during jobs. Work that is scheduled reduces delays between jobs.
  • Something that management needs to answer: Is time spent obtaining parts or tools part of the job or is it a delay to be avoided?

Are there other principles that you would want to add to this list? Let me know in the comments section below. 

Looking for more of these valuable tips? Download (free) my complete and detailed white paper on maintenance planning and scheduling best practices.

Free White Paper - Planning & Scheduling Best Practices

Credits: Concepts in this blog post are drawn from the “Maintenance Planning & Scheduling Handbook,” by Doc Palmer.

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Matt Midas

Director of Sales, Maximo.

Matt has been involved in the maintenance and reliability industry for over 30 years. A graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy, he has served aboard US flag merchant vessels and upon graduation, he was commissioned in the US Navy and served aboard the USS Jesse L

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