Maintenance Planning: What's in it for you?

Doc Palmer

What is the value of planning and scheduling maintenance work? It depends on who is asking the question. Are you a technician, a crew supervisor, a plant manager or a company?


Enlightened maintenance technicians welcome planning for a few reasons. First, technicians gain their own file clerks. No longer do they have to keep tidbits of technical information in their lockers or memories. They simply write down information on job plans as feedback and the planners include it on future plans for the same equipment. The planners keep a file for every piece of equipment. In a plant with thousands of devices, technicians need the services of a competent file clerk.

Advances in plant maintenance often result from little lessons of the past. The lesser technicians simply can’t keep up with the minute details. The better technicians have a wealth of this information stored in their minds. The planner as file clerk can put the lessons learned into plant memory.

Second, planners not only save these past lessons for future job plans, they codify the lessons into formal procedures. They take the lessons from feedback and gradually improve written job plans for specific equipment in specific plant environments. Technicians would be crazy not to want planning.

Crew Supervisor

Enlightened supervisors welcome planning because it gives them more control over maintenance work. This is a huge statement because the chief impediment to planning is supervisors that fear a loss of control. These supervisors reason that their specific role in maintenance is to decide what maintenance to do and which jobs to work on. Yet, maintenance supervisors should never assume this role. The priority system of the plant should dictate work. Maintenance should do the higher priority jobs first.

Enlightened supervisors realize their role is to be out in the field supervising. One reason supervisors don’t supervise present maintenance work is they are too busy lining up future jobs. They look over the work and decide how they would assign it. Planners free them of this task by taking care of the future work.

They include craft needs and labor hours on job plans in addition to general job scopes. This allows supervisors to assign work without inspecting every job personally. Not only does this give supervisors information to control their work better, it gives them extra time to spend with their crews on maintenance work already in progress.

A planning group further frees supervisors from constantly reviewing entire backlogs of open work to decide on the next job assignments. A planning group provides a backlog service when it develops a weekly schedule.

Instead of a crew supervisor having to scan an entire backlog of open work orders, the group gives supervisors a subset of the backlog matching their available crew labor hours for a week. A supervisor needs only to scan this subset instead of the whole backlog when selecting next work assignments. Supervisors would be crazy not to want planning.

Plant Manager

Enlightened plant managers welcome planning because it allows them to control maintenance productivity. How much maintenance should be done? Is it enough to handle all the emergencies? What other work should be done? With the planning group developing a weekly schedule as a work goal, management can see if the maintenance force accomplishes the expected amount of work.

If not, the manager has a basis for asking, “Why not?” Did the storeroom run out of parts? Did emergencies interrupt the schedule? Simply starting crews with a goal of work each week lifts wrench time from the traditional 35 percent to upward of 55 percent. That’s a 57 percent rise. Multiplying a 50-person group by 1.57 yields a 78-person workforce, a 28-person improvement. Managers would be crazy not to want planning.


Enlightened companies and their shareholders welcome planning because the additional productivity means more completed maintenance work. More completed work means higher plant availability for producing product and higher profits. Companies would be crazy not to want planning.

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...