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An insight into Maintenance Work Management

Pragma Academy Subject Matter Expert Tim Beavon

I have been working in the asset and maintenance management fields my entire professional life. It has always astounded me that organisations continually appear to feel frustrated at their organisation’s inability to get the maintenance planning office “right”. In this article, I will endeavour to convince you that, in fact, the problem is a lot wider than Maintenance Planning and Scheduling – rather, it is a Maintenance Work Management process problem.

Perhaps some may see this as semantics – however, I am of the opinion it is the most likely root cause of the problem. We set our planners and schedulers up for failure and are then surprised when they fail – it is because we don’t get the Maintenance Work Management process correctly in place from the outset.

Maintenance Planning and Scheduling involves several role players that typically don’t consider the impact their actions or oversights have on their planners and schedulers. For this reason, we need to consider that this is a Maintenance Work Management problem and not just a Maintenance Planning and Scheduling problem.

Maintenance Work Management
Getting the right work done, at the right time, by the right resources in the right way.

The principles of  maintenance planning and scheduling

In the Maintenance Planning Scheduling Handbook, Doc Palmer defined twelve principles of planning and scheduling that we often overlook in our enthusiasm and focus on the planner and scheduler’s activities. Doc Palmer’s principles need to be engraved on to the hearts of the reliability engineers, engineering managers, section engineers and maintenance supervisors across the industry. These are the principles that the planner and scheduler often have minimal control over but are fundamental to their success. Consider these factors:

The importance of the weekly scheduling meeting

We know that the planner must focus on future work, and the maintenance supervisor must manage the current day or schedule. Think about how often the planner is distracted from the future work through interruptions and distractions that can and should be handled by the maintenance supervisor? Everything from the spare parts that haven’t arrived on time to the contractor who hasn’t completed the Covid-19 screening site access requirements become the planner’s problem, and it is all because the planner was the one who originally identified the need for the spare part or contractor. The purpose of the weekly scheduling meeting is to agree that the plan is realistic and practical and that the arrangements or logistics for the spare parts and contractors have been taken care of. Once the maintenance supervisor is satisfied that everything is in order, they need to manage the agreed schedule for the week. Many organisations’ processes don’t consider these factors, and often it is too easy to pull the planner into dealing with problems in this week’s schedule.

The skills-set of an ideal planner

Do you promote your best tradespeople and supervisors to become planners? Planners should be the problem solvers in the plant, using their personal experience to get the right work done in the right way. It is that attitude toward quality and getting the job right that makes them so valuable. Developing tradespeople into the role of the planner makes that experience transferable across 20 tradespeople.

The planner must recognise the skills of the trade, while the scheduler must use the lowest required skill level. The planner is responsible for what must be done, and the maintenance supervisor must be responsible for how the work is done. Sounds simple. But, consider the impact that the reliability engineer, maintenance manager or section engineer has when defining the tasks that need to be executed. Reliability engineers have the luxury of looking at the asset type in isolation, using tools and techniques to define exactly what tactical maintenance needs to be carried out. What they don’t always do is give consideration to the apprentice trades in the organisation and what work an apprentice can do versus those tasks that a qualified trade can do. By discriminating between these skills requirements, we provide the planner and the scheduler with the flexibility to appropriately load the apprentices, freeing up valuable experienced trade capacity for precision work, rapid breakdown response or critical root cause analysis and solution development.

Prioritising the most important work

Priorities are important, and the maintenance supervisor handles the current day. While the practice of making the planner responsible for the prioritisation of work is an important aspect of their role, it is equally important that the maintenance supervisor and the planner are aligned when it comes to deciding on the work priority. The maintenance supervisors are the go-to people that the operations supervisor will look to when problems arise in the plant.

Maintenance supervisor only prioritises work that absolutely needs to be done in this scheduling period to ensure that the tactical work is executed according to plan and as much work arising is managed by the planner. When the work that could be planned is executed in the current schedule instead of the tactical maintenance, the reliability of the plant suffers.

In summary, Maintenance Work Management is more than Maintenance Planning and Scheduling – let’s look at the bigger picture and see what roles outside of the maintenance planning and scheduling process are contributing towards the challenges we face in getting the right work done, at the right time, by the right resources in the right way.

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