The Ultimate Maintenance and Scheduling KPIs

Doc Palmer

The Ultimate Maintenance and Scheduling KPIs

The ultimate maintenance key performance indicator (KPI) will reveal if we’re keeping assets from breaking down or fixing them after failure occurs. While our maintenance forces are responsible for fixing the failed assets, breakdowns reveal we’ve failed in our primary mission: keeping assets running.

In Six Sigma, the ultimate maintenance KPI should revolve around eliminating “defects,” or emergency and urgent work requests. The goal is to understand how many you have and evaluate if you are improving at eliminating them.

The key to reducing defective (or reactive) work orders is to perform proactive work, such as preventative maintenance (PM) and predictive maintenance (PdM). But, the reality is that many plants are overwhelmed with reactive work. Because of this, planning and scheduling are critical to completing the necessary proactive work that will enhance asset health.

To achieve high productivity and quality of work, we must track and manage simple supporting planning and scheduling KPIs. These easy-to-measure KPIs are:

  • Emergency and urgent work orders per month
  • Work orders completed per month
  • Weekly schedule coverage
  • Weekly schedule compliance
  • Wrench time
  • Minimum unplanned backlog
  • Planned coverage
  • Creation of new job plans
  • Helpful feedback

We can relate these KPIs to characters from the famous children’s story “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Snow White: Emergency and Urgent Work Orders Per Month

The goal is to have a healthy and productive plant. Reactive work hinders this mission. While reactive work will never completely disappear, we can have a more balanced facility through emergency work order reduction.  

To have a proactive maintenance program, we should aim for less than 20% of our work orders being reactive. While not foolproof, a great way to start estimating your level of reactive work orders is by measuring the hours you spend on them. For example, a ten-person workforce has 400 hours of labor available a week. If a team member charged 80 hours of work for emergency work orders, the plant would be operating with 20% of its work orders being reactive.   

Another way to calculate your facility’s number of reactive work orders is to measure the number of emergency work orders against the number of total work orders. For instance, if you had 100 new work orders in a week and 20 of them were urgent, then your facility has a 20% emergency work order rate. The fewer emergency work orders, the better we are performing and preventing failures.

Unfortunately, it’s not abnormal for a facility to find their work orders are nearly 50% reactive. In this way, we are much like Snow White, sleeping and maintaining, not proactively responding to the needs of our critical assets.

Happy: Work Orders Completed Per Month

It’s critical to reduce our facility’s emergency work orders, but how do we accomplish this? First and foremost, we must perform proactive maintenance. But we must accomplish this while our hands are still full of reactive work.

This can be difficult to achieve because plants have become experts in efficiently completing reactive work orders, which maintains profitability and doesn’t require change. But management must understand that completing proactive work not only reduces reactive work, but significantly increases profitability.

Did You Know?

Facilities that switch from a reactive to proactive maintenance system can reduce their maintenance costs by up to 40%.
Source: upkeep.com

This is accomplished through planning and scheduling — the “productivity piece” of maintenance — which can increase work order completion by 50% without having to hire additional staff. And because the bulk of our work is normally reactive, this 50% boost creates more time for proactive projects, making management Happy (our first dwarf).  

Consider Parkinson’s Law — the amount of work assigned expands to fill the amount of time available. Reactive maintenance will expand to take control of the entire schedule, but with careful planning, we can manage this and place greater importance on proactive work.

Doc: Weekly Schedule Coverage

We can overcome Parkinson’s Law not only with planning and scheduling but through the work orders’ mission.

For example, a ten-person crew working a 40-hour week will have 400 labor hours available. The planner’s goal is to schedule 400 hours of work for the week. By changing the overall mission of the work orders from “take care of reactive operations and stay busy” to “this schedule is to help us be productive, not busy,” the schedule doesn’t have to have set completion days or assigned team members. Through careful planning and prioritizing, the schedule will naturally create a productive work environment that creates greater efficiency for the entire facility.

Combining a filled schedule with this new mission moves our teams from being busy to being productive, helping us achieve the 50% productivity boost we’re looking for. While simple in nature, this methodology is exactly what the Doc (our second dwarf) prescribed.

Dopey: Weekly Schedule Compliance

A schedule’s purpose is to help complete more work, not achieve a perfect schedule compliance score. We should aim for 40% to 90% schedule compliance, showing we fully accounted for the available labor while increasing the number of completed proactive work orders.

This concept of not insisting on high schedule compliance scores requires management maturity. Insisting on a high score is Dopey (our third dwarf) because it encourages planners to underload the schedule, thereby giving in to Parkinson’s Law.

Did You Know?

"Schedule compliance is probably the most dangerous of all key performance indicators," and most plants use the metric so inaccurately that both productivity and reliability suffer.
Source: plantservices.com

Schedulers must also be mindful to not give credit to partially completed work. The work was either completed entirely or it wasn’t.

Evil Queen: Wrench Time

Wrench time is the time a team member is actively working on completing a job. This doesn’t include the time it takes to get extra parts or tools, travel from one location to another, or take a break.

Surprisingly, many plants only experience a 35% wrench time rate, meaning only three and a half out of every ten hours are considered productive. While focusing on this KPI can increase productivity, there are downsides. First, wrench time doesn’t reveal if the work is being completed correctly or efficiently. No matter how slowly a job is completed, if the work is continuous, the wrench time equals 100%.

Second, performing research into why your wrench time is lower might be your Evil Queen — it can cause rumors and severe morale damage among team members. Instead, simply accept this as an opportunity to improve.

Grumpy: Minimum Unplanned Backlog

To have enough work to fill our schedule, we must efficiently plan incoming work while avoiding the idea of perfection. Perfection doesn’t exist, and ten less-detailed plans are better than three perfect and seven incomplete plans, which lower productivity.  

By following the Deming Cycle of continuous improvement, we produce the best plans that help efficiently attain our 50% productivity boost. The Deming Cycle, similar to the PDCA cycle, teaches skills that help improve processes and plans. The four steps of the cycle are plan, do, study and act. 

Be aware that planners may get Grumpy (our fourth dwarf) when managers insist on sacrificing perfection to effectively run the Deming Cycle for plan improvement. Remember, what doesn’t get scheduled doesn’t get completed, further encouraging a reactive mindset.

Take note of how long planners are leaving new work orders in an “unplanned” status and whether the schedules are underloaded. It’s important to correct these practices as soon as possible; when this is accomplished, our backlogs will diminish, and jobs will be completed at a more productive rate.

Sleepy: Planned Coverage

Work orders are more likely to be efficiently and successfully completed when planned. This means that the planner has not only anticipated the team member’s needs, such as required parts and tools, but has clarified the scope of the project, all before the team member ever receives the assignment.

To measure planned coverage, we must first define what a planned job is. The standard industry definition is “having all the steps identified and parts kitted,” but this can be counterproductive to our overall mission. “All” implies perfection, and that is not our goal. Our goal is to make plans better over time through the Deming Cycle and careful KPI measurement. By forcing planners to include all the steps, we slow down their Deming Cycle process, and fewer jobs get planned. In addition, we don’t always need to kit parts, only where it makes sense. Otherwise, we run the risk of disorganizing our storeroom or losing parts before the job starts.

Instead, we need to define planned jobs as “jobs that have a reusable plan, run through the Deming Cycle and have the estimated hours needed to support scheduling.” Be careful to not have a soft, or Sleepy (our fifth dwarf) target. The more you utilize planning work, the lower your reactive work numbers will be and the more productive work you’ll be able to accomplish.

Sneezy: Creation of New Jobs Plans

It’s not enough that planners are quick and efficient when planning work. They must also make their plans reusable. Nearly every computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) has a place to make reusable plans. Unfortunately, most companies only use them for preventative maintenance. By not making the plans reusable, we fail to successfully run the Deming Cycle.

It’s a Sneezy (our sixth dwarf) nuisance at first to make a reusable plan for every job, but about six months after starting this strategy, most planners find that nearly every other new job that comes through already has a reusable plan that fits their needs. This saves them time and helps create a more proactive system.

Bashful: Helpful Feedback

Finally, to complete our journey of continuous improvement, we must receive team member feedback to improve our plans for the next time. Having no feedback is not the sign of a great planner; it’s a sign that we’ve stopped learning.

Giving and receiving feedback is one of the most difficult skills a maintenance group can master. Many team members are Bashful (our seventh dwarf) about critiquing plans, or they simply want to finish a job and move on to the next. It is the responsibility of management to seek out and cultivate these opinions and insights.  

Prince: Conclusion

If we schedule with a clear goal in mind, we can achieve the 50% increase in proactive work order completion. The number of reactive work will drop, and this extra proactive work being done will effectively prevent an influx of reactive work from happening. In the end, we will find facilities and critical assets dealing with fewer and fewer defects, allowing us to not simply repair them, but maintain them. In this way, just like the Prince, we apply the winning strategy to awaken us to the possibilities of our facility, helping us transform it into a world-class facility.


Doc Palmer's article was based on his Reliable Plant 2022 conference presentation. Learn more about the 2023 Reliable Plant Conference & Exhibition today.

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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...