Best Ways to Kill Planning, Scheduling

Doc Palmer

Two ways to kill a planning and scheduling system dwarf all other methods. Be careful with these two schemes. They will make everyone either mad or frustrated. They will also leave management bewildered after it puts them into play. These methods are the perfect job plan and schedule compliance.

The first method, the perfect job plan, is easy to implement and usually wounds all players, leaving nothing in place for use of the second strategy. Management simply proclaims loudly to the mechanics, "Now that we have maintenance planning, no mechanics will ever have to waste time looking for parts or other information because the planner will have provided a job plan for each job."

Simple, huh? Of course, we know this is impossible, as do the planners and mechanics. Management also knows this is impossible. That's why it implemented the strategy - to ensure planning dies a slow, lingering death. The whole thing is so subtle that it boggles the mind.

Management has been to management training and knows all about W. Edwards Deming. Back in the 1950s, Deming explained the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle. Nothing is simply Plan Execute. You see how clever the whole thing is. Simply proclaiming that planners will provide perfect job plans sounds good enough to make everyone forget Deming. Deming who? It works!

With the proclamation in place, sickness sets in. Planners sweat. They know they could never provide a perfect plan, but that is their very job, to provide the impossible. Fever mounts as mechanics arrive in droves to "help" the planners.

One mechanic says, "You gave me a wrong part number. It's only right that I give you a chance to correct your error." Another mechanic interjects, "Wait a minute. The planner is already correcting the silly time estimate assigned to my work order." The fever approaches 102 degrees.

Soon, woozy planners must abandon even feeble attempts to plan future work. Instead, they focus on helping these desperate mechanics who couldn't otherwise complete their in-progress jobs. The disease advances as mechanics run out of planned work. Planners conditioned to help jobs in progress continue aiding such jobs. It's their purpose in life, but planning dies.

What is this? Some planners escaped the plague? You say they realize that planners can never plan perfect jobs so they have set out to collect feedback to improve future jobs? You say that they resist mechanics seeking in-progress help? Phooey. We must implement the second strategy, schedule compliance.

Facing an enlightened planning group, management turns its attention to the maintenance supervisors to kill the planning and scheduling program. Management ties supervisor pay to schedule compliance. Nothing to it. Easy as pie. Planning and scheduling will die.

The schedule compliance strategy is more insidious than the perfect plan weapon. It counts on no one knowing that schedule compliance is a measure of our control over plant equipment, not our control over plant supervisors. Now, you and I both know that schedule compliance is the ultimate indicator of plant proactivity. It tells us whether the plant is working on us or if we are working on the plant. But, management knows that compliance sounds like a supervisor control indicator, so it slips it in. Diabolical!

Tying supervisor pay to schedule compliance makes the supervisor cringe whenever a hiccup causes an emergency work order. The supervisor must then decide whether to help the plant by breaking the weekly schedule or to help his own family by adhering to the weekly schedule.

Unable to sleep at night, the supervisor achieves a record stress level. Supervisors, the keepers of the plant culture, now bad-mouth planning and scheduling, seeking every opportunity to scuttle the ship. Management gloats. As long as management doesn't reveal its Peter Drucker teachings from the 1960s, planning and scheduling will soon die!

What's that? Someone revealed that Drucker's Management by Objective allows for not achieving goals? It's true. As long as we set the weekly schedule as a goal and allow for breaking the schedule, supervisors accept the schedule. These modern supervisors enjoy having a target of work they should do.

They enjoy having a culled backlog service. They enjoy the increased control they wield using planned jobs with craft and hour estimates. They complete more work than a crew without planning and scheduling. Resistance to pestilence. Unbelievable!

Doc Palmer is the author of the “Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook.” He is a CMRP and has nearly 25 years of industrial experience as a practitioner within the maintenance department of a major electric utility. From 1990 through 1994, he was responsible for overhauling the existing maintenance planning organization. The resulting success played a role in expanding planning to all crafts and stations owned and operated by the utility.

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About the Author

Doc Palmer, PE, MBA, CMRP is the author of McGraw-Hill’s Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook and as managing partner of Richard Palmer and Associates helps companies worl...