A Case for Planners

For the purposes of this article, “planning” will be defined as work that helps determine what needs to be done, how it will be done, and how long it will take. “Scheduling” will be defined as work that helps determine when to do the work and who will do it.

Planning must be complete before scheduling.

I have worked with many plants without planners because the maintenance organization couldn’t justify the position. I would like to provide some ideas on how we have successfully helped maintenance organizations prove that planning will be more efficient using planners.

Table 1

With or without planners, someone always plans work. Otherwise, the work could not be done. Table 1 shows a typical situation in an organization without planners.

To summarize, in the Table 1 example, the scope of work had to be entirely decided by the mechanics. They were also responsible for deciding on tools, parts, rigging, etc., as well as the adjustment of the impeller. All of these activities fall under the category of “planning” and would be better performed by a planner. The schedule outlined in Table 1 is inefficient because the planning was done after scheduling. To be efficient, it must be done the other way around.

The problem with the pump was discovered during an established inspection route two weeks before the problem needed to be corrected. Had a planner been on staff, they could have planned this job efficiently. It would have taken the planner around two hours to prepare everything needed for the work and arrange for the pump impeller to be adjusted, etc. So, instead of the mechanics working in an organized way and completing the work in five maintenance hours, they accrued around 20 hours in overtime work.

We have done hundreds of evaluations of maintenance organizations all over the world. We have found that, without organized inspections and planning followed by scheduling of work craftspeople, 40–60 percent of time is spent on planning activities as demonstrated in Table 1.

Now consider Table 2. In this example, the maintenance organization is very reactive, and craftspeople are put in a situation where they need to plan to get the work done. The implementation of basic inspections will change the situation so that a planner can plan before work is scheduled by a supervisor and executed by craftspeople. The target is to get down to about 10 percent urgent work, where the situation described in the scenario above would still be repeated. That would free up 190 hours/day from the craftspeople’s time.

Table 2

To be efficient in work management, the Table 2 organization would need three or four planners (24–32 hours/day). This would enable craftspeople to free up 158–166 hours/day. The number of planners depends on how disciplined work priorities are, whether there is access to an updated and accurate Bill of Materials, and close cooperation with operations.