Creating an Environment for Planning and Scheduling Success

Jeff Shiver

Too many times and in too many organizations, we send people off to training with high expectations that they will lead change and improvement upon their return. We hope that overnight they have become equipped with the skills and knowledge to effectively start doing their new work. Unfortunately, weeks later, the trainee and his or her organization are frustrated with the lack of progress.

Where did we go wrong? Let’s take a recent case that I had the opportunity to witness. ABC Company chose to send its new planner/scheduler off to be trained in the proper procedures for planning and scheduling work. The planner came back to the site with his newly learned planning skills and attempted to plan and schedule work. On the first day back, he attended the normal morning meeting where the issues of the last 24 hours are reviewed and any items left uncorrected are assigned for the day.

After the first hour was spent in the meeting, the planner headed off to his office only to be stopped by the maintenance team leader, who needed a hot work permit completed and delivered to Johnny down at the waste-water treatment area so he could get started welding a bracket for a pump. Thirty minutes later, the planner delivered the permit. After a quick break, the planner finally made it to his desk and turned on the computer.

Fred and Susan had been watching for the planner to show up, and they pounced, requesting that he requisition some parts they needed for upcoming work the next day. The planner spent the next hour expediting those parts to ensure they would arrive in time for Fred and Susan to do their job. The planner then looked at the clock on the wall, and it was lunch time already. Where does the time go?

I am going to stop at the half-day mark, but I bet many of you could fill out the rest of the planner’s day based on your experience. For that planner at ABC Company, days two through five didn’t look much different from the first day back on the job.

If we expect different results, then we must do something differently. If we want to move from a reactive environment to a reliability-centered, proactive environment, we must properly plan and schedule work. That work is not today’s work (reactive), but next week’s work. By planning for next week and beyond, we have the time to get the right parts, prepare the job plan, and properly schedule the equipment and resources to do the work.

As part of creating an environment for success, we have to educate all of the interfacing functions on the proper role of the planner/scheduler and how those other functions contribute to the success of the planning and scheduling work. For example, the daily meeting that reviews the last 24 hours is not the place for the planner, who should be looking out a week and beyond. The maintenance team leader needs to take responsibility for issuing the hot work permit on short notice. In the future, when the job is properly planned, the hot work permit form should be part of the job package.

In addition to educating others on the new role, we have to set the proper expectations with that planner/scheduler and hold that person accountable. As an example of educating others, in the case of ABC Company, I used a supervisors’ training course that I was conducting separately to educate all of the operations and maintenance supervisors on the new role of the planner/scheduler. Next, I spent time with the maintenance technicians to explain the role, how it affected them and whom they should seek out to expedite parts.

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About the Author

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