Answering Common Maintenance Planning Questions

Jeff Shiver

At a recent conference, a number of questions came up that were never properly answered, so I thought I would try to address some of these. The questions involved getting maintenance planners to focus on planning, getting them focused on future work and allowing time to plan.

First, let’s look at roles. The planner should be strategic and focused on future work (i.e., next week and beyond). The supervisor, team leader or lead person should be tactical or focused on today and this week. If parts are needed this week, it’s not the planner but the supervisor who should be dealing with it. The same goes for emergencies; we can’t plan and schedule them, so they should not normally involve planners.

The planning group should be a separate group. The planners should have craft skills; often, they are some of your best craftspeople. However, if you have your planners attending the production meeting where the last 24 hours are reviewed, shame on you.

How can the planner focus on the future when you have them focused on today? Watch what happens in the meeting. The day’s priorities change before they leave the meeting. Don’t put your planners there. Instead, use the supervisors who are dealing with today anyway.

What about having supervisors do some planning? Supervisors have to deal with the reactive chaos of today and this week, so the first thing thrown out the window is planning.

You may even look at where your planners are located. If they are in the hub of activity, centered in the shop areas, the interruptions will keep them from planning and scheduling. You want them accessible, but you also want them to have the time to be able to focus on planning. You may have to find another location to get them away from interruptions.

You need to have good work-management processes so that your planners don’t end up simply shagging parts all day long.

What about your partnership with the storeroom/materials management? It takes a while to locate all the parts needed if you have not built your bill of materials in a CMMS/EAM. If you don’t have a good priority matrix and aren’t holding people accountable to it, this creates more time loss for the planners in responding to the wrong priority work.

As a manager, you have to take the steps to encourage the planners to focus on the future. In addition, you need to reward the right behaviors. It’s easy to reward people for jumping into the fire every day and resolving the issues at hand. These activities tend to be fast-paced, and they can be seen as the solution provider, the go-to person. I’m sure you recognize these activities as chaotic and expensive.

Subscribe to Reliable Plant

About the Author

As a managing principal for People and Processes, Jeff Shiver helps organizations implement best practices for maintenance and operations. Prior ...