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Top 10 Signs Your Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Isn’t Working

by Matt Midas on March 22, 2018

Why implement Maintenance Planning and Scheduling best practices? You’ve probably heard how effective Maintenance Planning and Scheduling can increase wrench time, and even boost profitability and morale. The flip side is that without Maintenance Planning and Scheduling, your organization might suffer from one or more of the following consequences…and they’re not pretty. Just look at what happens at organizations that fail to equip Planners and Schedulers with the tools to succeed.

10 Signs Your Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Isn’t Working

1. You constantly reward people for going above and beyond the call of duty to put out fires.

At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal, but it is if you’re rewarding people solely for reactionary work and not preventive work. Of course, it’s vital to recognize and reward people when they go to extra efforts to resolve a crisis – but does your organizational culture favor crisis resolution over stable, predictable, planned maintenance?  Why not reward people for preventing failures?

If you find that your team is constantly doling out praise for quick thinking and hard work on reactive maintenance, that’s a sign that you haven’t implemented the proper maintenance planning and scheduling best practices to move your organization towards preventive – or even predictive – maintenance.

2. Maintenance and Operations are not in sync. As a result, schedules are constantly being modified.

Lack of communication and repeatable prioritization processes can lead to friction between Maintenance and Operations departments. Without defined processes, accountability, and the right tools to support workers, it can be difficult to reach consensus on how to prioritize work, leading to schedules being changed constantly as work is re-prioritized and different decision-makers vie for the work they consider most important. So, the schedule gets changed. And changed again. And again.

This silo-scenario means that few people – if anyone – sees the bigger picture and the impacts of maintenance decisions on the larger organization, because they are focused solely on their priorities and the work that affects them and their own goals.

3. Morale is suffering due to conflicting schedules.

Morale is intangible, but you can feel it. Working in a reactionary mode can increases stress and may lower employee satisfaction.

Nobody wants to be in a situation where they are continually reacting to emergencies; it’s stressful and demoralizing, which causes your technicians to work less efficiently. Add to that, conflicting priorities after a schedule is set and you have a minor skirmish happening between operations and maintenance on what can be done that always ends in some finger pointing. 

People inherently want to do a good job and take pride in their work. The right Planning and Scheduling tools not only enable Supervisors to hold workers accountable, but also show when and why schedulers are being broken.  This presents an opportunity to improve the process and get out of a reactive mode.

4. Technicians spend too much time on non-value add tasks resulting in a wrench time below 35%.

“Wrench time is a measure of the efficiency of your actions.” You’ve heard me say this before, I’m sure. But what does it mean?

Wrench time is how long a maintenance worker spends performing a value add task, as opposed to all the other work and time-spent not on the task, such as travel, parking, setting up, gathering materials, reviewing instructions or waiting for parts, assignments, or for an asset to be taken offline. Some of this is unavoidable, but minimizing the wasted time will make a difference.  Out of an 8-hour workday, the average technician’s wrench time is less than three hours per day. That’s a lot of wasted time.

The average company has a wrench time hovering between 25-35%. Increasing that productive time requires efficient planning, meaning that assets are ready to be fixed, parts are in house, tools are where they need to be, etc.

Effective Planning and Scheduling reduces that wasted time and increases wrench time, allowing that same technician to complete more tasks in a given day.  The end result is an  organization getting more value from their maintenance dollars.

5. The same machines need to be repaired frequently, because the repairs are always rushed.

Maintenance workers feel like they are living Groundhog Day when they are repeatedly called to fix the same asset. When they’re called out for an emergency quick fix, they often have no other option but to stick a metaphorical band-aid on it, often because they don’t have the proper tools or parts, or enough time, to do a proper fix.

Ricky Smith recently released a fantastic article on LinkedIn: “Creating a Culture Change in your Maintenance Department”. In it, he outlines many different ways to define if a maintenance department is functioning in a reactive mode. For me, he summed it up perfectly when he said:

“You know you’re in reactive mode when you continue to perform preventive maintenance on equipment that continues to fail.”

At first glance, this can appear to be a maintenance problem, but in actuality, it is also a symptom of inefficient Planning and Scheduling processes.  Take a look at the data.  Are there job plans associated with reactive work?  Probably not. Was the effort to repair the failure recorded and analyzed? Were any improvements made to the process?

6. There's an emergency far too often and downtime is too high.

Unplanned reactive work and unscheduled downtime is bound to happen within any organization in virtually any industry. Emergencies happen. The questions are:

  • How often should they happen?
  • What is reasonable and optimal for your organization?
  • Are some emergencies preventable?
  • Is your organization even keeping track of how frequently break-in work occurs, and why?

Whenever an asset is down for unscheduled maintenance, it is going to directly impact the company’s bottom line. Effective Maintenance Planning and Scheduling contributes to keeping machines running at full capacity and reducing downtime.

Planned Maintenance Percentage (PMP) measures the efficiency of a maintenance department and is probably the best way to also determine emergency trends. PMP is the percentage of planned maintenance hours, versus overall maintenance hours. In other words, if a company spent 80 hours out of every 100 on planned maintenance, the remaining 20% or 20 hours was used on unplanned, emergency maintenance.

Generally, the most efficient maintenance departments achieve 85% of their time on scheduled maintenance. If your organization isn’t achieving that – or isn’t measuring and therefore can’t say what your PMP is, that could be a problem.

7. You’re swamped with a list of activities that should be documented for later reference, but it never gets done.

In other words, maintenance staff reinvent the wheel every time they fix an asset, because there is no time to document that knowledge when similar work arises.

Documenting work management processes, roles and responsibilities, and job plans are a critical step for maximizing your department’s efficiency. Understanding who does what allows people to focus on their part of the process.  Having properly documented job plans take out a lot of the guesswork, for example:

  • How long is this job going to take?
  • What documentation needs to be in place?
  • What safety concerns have been identified, including all lock-out and tag-out incidences?
  • Is there a specific plan, including steps to complete the maintenance?
  • What tools and parts are needed?

Does this sound familiar? “I don’t have time to create job plans, because we’re always dealing with reactive maintenance.” Why are we always dealing with reactive maintenance? “because we don’t have solid job plans in place.”

8. You have no schedule compliance report card – or the one you do have is suspect.

Schedule compliance is tough, because it can be so contradictory. Consider this:

  • The best way to get more work done is to schedule more work.
  • The best way to achieve schedule compliance is to schedule less work.

Scheduling compliance goals need to be carefully considered and designed so that they:

  • Encourage the desired behavior
  • Are integrated and aligned with business processes and operating measurements
  • Are quantifiable and balanced
  • Are set at the organizational level (the level where decisions that affect the measurements are made)

But many organizations aren’t even collecting or tracking the data to monitor their schedule compliance – so they have no idea how frequently break-in work is disrupting the schedule.  Even worse, in some cases we don’t have an accurate count of total available resource hours and the hours on our work orders are not as accurate as they could be.  So, how accurate is our scorecard?  It’s not easy, but it is worth the effort and you will see improvements.

9. You can’t keep spare parts in stock.

When assets break down, there is a flurry of activity to get it back up and operational as soon as possible. This often means technicians are hitting the storeroom on a continual basis to grab spare parts, or parts must be brought in quickly, at a higher cost.

It isn’t cheap to keep a large inventory of spare parts, but plants that are constantly working in a reactive state need to keep these parts in house for when the machine breaks down.

Conversely, with proper Planning and Scheduling, organizations can prevent failures. When this happens, a large inventory of parts isn’t necessary because purchasing has a sufficient heads-up on when to bring these parts in-house.

10. Unplanned overtime is the rule, not the exception.

Overtime is costly in many senses of the word; it can affect employee morale and impact the company’s fiscal health. Every organization needs overtime on occasion – but when you’re in a reactive state, overtime becomes the norm.

Better Planning and Scheduling means that people will be able to get more done in the time they are allotted because maintenance will be carried out as planned, and not as needed. This should reduce the need for unplanned overtime and the budgetary blowouts that come with it.

If you are scheduling overtime to handle backlog work, and the back log work orders are celebrating birthdays, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

And just for good measure, here's one more sign that your enterprise maintenance Planning and Scheduling could use improvement:

Bonus: 11. It is a challenge to create schedules, taking time away from the value-add tasks your Planners and Schedulers should be doing.

I like to say that it’s not about having the hours, it’s about how you spend them. If you have an hour of maintenance time, that time is going to go by – whether it’s spent productively or whether it’s wasted. This is where efficiency comes into play; it dictates how well your time (and therefore your money) is spent.

Poor or non-existent Maintenance Planning and Scheduling practices lead to wasted time in two different but important ways:

  • The maintenance technicians are less efficient and effective because the plans and schedules weren’t optimized.
  • The Planners and Schedulers are less efficient and effective because the tools and processes the have are complicated and difficult to use.

In both cases, the result is that inefficiency means more time is spent (needlessly) on low value-add tasks, leaving less time to spend on high value tasks. Whether this means a maintenance worker spends more time driving to the worksite than actually fixing the asset, or the Scheduler spends more time jumping between applications and spreadsheets just to make a schedule, it comes down to the same thing: they have less time to spend on what they should be doing, tasks that add value to the organization.

The solution is simple: when you equip Planners and Schedulers with the right tools to succeed, not only do they have more time for real value add tasks (such as site checks, revising job plans, analyzing performance, etc.), they are also able to optimize the plans and schedules, thereby further improving efficiencies for the organization. I call this a win win!

Taking a hard look at the costs of poor Planning and Scheduling

It’s easy to get caught up thinking about the benefits that you could reap someday if you ever get around to implementing effective Planning and Scheduling best practices. It’s a lot harder to examine the problems, challenges, and waste that your organization might be dealing with because it hasn’t made Planning and Scheduling a priority.

Effective Maintenance Planning and Scheduling helps organization to leverage their labor resources optimally, reduce reactive maintenance and minimize the losses resulting from unanticipated downtime and outages.

What challenges have you overcome with Planning and Scheduling? Let us know in the comments.

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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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