In this lesson, we will delve into the detail what Planning and Scheduling really is. At the end of this lesson, I want to take away the following three key points:
Hi there and welcome to lesson two of module two. In this lesson we’ll delve into the details of what planning and scheduling really is and at the end of this lesson I want you to take away the following three key points. First, I want you to really know the basic elements that will make up any planning and scheduling process. No matter what company you work for, which industry, if it’s an effective maintenance planning and scheduling process, these basic steps will be in it. Secondly, I want to make sure you really understand the difference between planning and scheduling. This is an area that is often misunderstood, but unless you truly understand the difference between planning and scheduling, you’ll never be able to really get the benefits and the maximum return that planning and scheduling can bring. And the last key point that we’ll talk about in this lesson is that planning and scheduling is a process, it’s a continuous process that repeats itself again and again and again. And that is something that we really need to understand so that we can use it to our advantage as we progress through this course.
So let’s start with what planning and scheduling really is. Now instead of me explaining the importance of planning and scheduling and the steps and everything else, I’m actually just going to ask you to watch a short video. And once you’ve watched this video, I want you to just pause the lesson right here and to reflect on what you’ve seen in the video and what your current practices are in your organization. And after that, head on over to the student-only forum and document and share what you have seen in the video versus what you actually do in your organization. Share what you see are the opportunities to improve, share what you think are your current strengths and what are your weaknesses.
This is Alex. He’s a maintenance supervisor in a large industrial plant. Every day Alex struggles with a large amount of maintenance work and many urgent repairs. His crew just don’t have enough time to get all the work done. Too often work stops because a part is missing or because the crew are unsure how to complete a task. Alex is worried about the growing backlog of work. Repairs are not getting done on time leading to equipment failures that could have been prevented. Alex is overwhelmed and worried that one of these days things could go terribly wrong in his plant. Luckily for Alex, a new maintenance manager has just started at the plant. When Alex has a chat with Anna about the state of the plant, Anna explains that better maintenance planning and scheduling will help solve many of Alex’s problems. That’s because planning and scheduling provides everybody with the right tools, materials, and work instructions to do the right work at the right time.
Here’s how it works. While working in the plant, Jack notices a pump nearby that makes a strange noise and seems to be running hot. Jack raises a work request in the CMMS what, when, where, the likely causes, any actions and risks involved. The following morning Jack’s work request is reviewed to make sure it’s clear and complete. The work request is prioritized and approved. Charlie, the maintenance planner receives the approved work request and starts planning the job. He visits the job site to diagnose the problem with the pump and checks what materials, tools and resources are required to complete the job. Charlie documents everything in the work order, materials are ordered and when they arrive on site, Charlie makes sure they are correct before marking the job as ready for execution in the CMMS. That is the sign for Jenny, the scheduler that she can include the job in the schedule.
Jenny takes all work orders that are ready to execute and based on their assigned priorities creates a draft weekly schedule. Jenny groups work that needs to be done on the same equipment or is in the same area of the plant. All in an effort to maximize crew efficiency. Once the draft schedule is ready, it’s discussed during the weekly schedule review meeting where operations and maintenance jointly agree on what work will be done next week. Once the schedule is agreed. It acts as a binding contract for everyone. Jenny issues the weekly schedule and Alex as the supervisor hands out the work to his crew. As Jack completes his work, he keeps a daily record of the time he spends on the job and provides detailed technical feedback once the job is complete. That information is used to analyze and improve equipment performance, but also to improve the planning and scheduling process.
Over time Alex notices that his crew is getting more work done thanks to the good job plans and a clear schedule. As more work is done, the backlog slowly melts. There are less urgent priorities. Both Jack and Alex notice that it’s becoming a better place to work. Safety improves, reliability goes up and so does production. Alex wonders what they could improve next.
All right. Now before I go any further, I want to say a few things about turn terminology. In this course I’m going to talk about maintenance planning and scheduling, a lot. I mean, it’s the title of the course, right? And when I talk about maintenance planning and scheduling, what I mean is the end to end process of what maintenance work being identified all the way through the various steps to it being closed out and reviewed for improvement. Now different people in industry and in different industries may use a different phrase. Sometimes they use the word work management for this and others often refer to maintenance planning and scheduling as maintenance execution. In essence, it doesn’t really matter. It’s the same thing. I just want you to realize that in each of these instances when we use different terminology, we should always be talking about the end to end process of maintenance work being identified, being planned, being scheduled, executed, closed out, completed and reviewed for improving performance. And it’s not just about the planning and just scheduling steps. It is about the end to end process.
There are many variations of the basic planning and scheduling process being used around the world in different companies, different industries. Each of them have their own unique view of things, their own unique way of doing things and each of them will have their own unique planning and scheduling processes. All slightly different, but in all cases an effective maintenance planning and scheduling process will always boil down to the same basic six steps. And the first step is to identify and prioritize the maintenance work. We then plan that work, schedule it, four we’re actually doing, or executing the work, properly closing it out and then the final step in the process to actually review our performance with a view to improving it. So no matter what industry you’re in, no matter what organization you work for, a good and effective maintenance planning and scheduling process will always contain these six basic steps.
Now in reality the work flow is not as simple as that and there are some intermediate steps, but we’ll discuss those later in the chorus as we cover each of these high level steps in more detail. And in fact you probably have noticed that this process aligns with the modules of this course. You see in module three we’ll talk about identification and prioritization of work in all our data. Module four is all about the planning of maintenance and we’ll discuss the basic maintenance planning principles that you need to put to good use. Scheduling is discussed in module six and in module seven we’ll tackle the execution of work and it’s a relatively short module. Module eight focuses on the close out of work and we’ll discuss how we review and improve performance in module nine. Now before we do that, I want to have a closer look at each of these six steps in the remainder of this lesson so you truly understand what these six basic elements aim to achieve.
The first step in the maintenance planning and scheduling process is the identification of work. Converting that work into high quality work requests and then prioritizing those work requests in a robust and objective method. You see a quality work request is the start of an efficient and effective maintenance process and allowing work requests with inadequate or inaccurate information to proceed through your planning and scheduling process, it’s going to waste a lot of time and effort. And remember we were introduced in planning and changing to drive efficiency and increase our productivity. So we cannot let poor quality work requests slip through because that’s going to waste people’s time and you need to use this step as a gate.
And conduct a quality check in effect to see that new work requests as they are raised are detailed and accurate enough to let them pass through and a good way to do that is to agree as an organization on a basic quality standard. What needs to be in there and to what level of detail and then make sure that all your new work requests are reviewed against that standard and if they don’t meet the quality standard, they need to be corrected.
Now the area where many organizations go wrong is in the prioritization of new work, you must make sure that you adopt a robust and objective system for prioritization of new maintenance work requests. If you like many organizations who start out with planning and scheduling are in a reactive maintenance of work, you will be getting a whole heap of work requests come through each and every day. And unless you prioritize these work requests properly, you’ll never break through that reactive maintenance cycle. Prioritization is truly a critical step and you really need to get it right. In the module three of this course, I’m going to provide you with two different prioritization approaches that are both robust and objective. And ultimately the outcome of this step in a process of identification and prioritization of work is a high quality prioritized work request that will enable the rest of the process to flow as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The second step in the process is planning and as we saw earlier, planning is the what and how of the job. Now, some people actually call this work preparation to avoid the confusion with the word planning because in industry very often the word planning essentially really means scheduling. People talk about planning when in fact they’re putting Gantt charts together, which is really much more much about scheduling. Now planners enable the efficiency of a work group. They ensure no time is wasted on the figuring out how to do a job in what sequence or what materials are required, what tools are required, and they make sure that technicians are not wasting their time trying to locate those tools and materials.
Planners ensure that all maintenance work is fully planned. And fully planned means that the following has been identified and organized. You have a clearly defined work scope and method stipend of how the job should be executed. You have the materials and the parts, you have access organized things like scaffolding. You have any external labor or contractors organized and ready to go. Any special tools or hired equipment that is required is there. Any equipment or plant shutdowns that have been identified and organized and any special safety or environmental precautions have been identified and organized.
And the outcome of the planning phase is a fully planned, fully staged and catered job, a job that is ready for execution. And once a job is at this stage, the planner should mark the job as ready for execution in your CMMS. And then that is the handover point to the scheduler who then knows that this job is ready to go and can be scheduled. And so the next step in the process is therefore scheduling. And if planning is the what and how, then scheduling is more or less the who and when. So why bother with scheduling? Well, you need to see scheduling as goal setting. We agree to an amount of work that needs to be completed and then we measure our success in terms of schedule compliance. Scheduling ensures that a sufficient amount of work is agreed to be done during the week based on actual and available labor capacity. Planning eliminates waste during jobs.
But planning alone is not enough to get truly efficient. We need scheduling to ensure we don’t waste time between jobs that we commit to enough work and that we remain disciplined. But scheduling is also important for coordination, coordination between trends to make sure the electrician required to isolate electric drive associated with the pump is there on time so that a mechanical technicians don’t end up waiting two hours for a technician or for an electrician. Scheduling enables coordination between maintenance and operations so that there is an agreement upfront about what equipment can be taken offline and what can’t. You don’t want to have that conversation during the week when a job was about to start because your technicians will be waiting around and wasting your time.
Scheduling enables coordination with your warehouse too. That way your warehouse can stage and get all the jobs that are due to be done the following week and all materials, tools, parts, et cetera that are required to do a job are all neatly organized in boxes tagged with a work order so that the technicians can simply come and pick up their relevant box and start the job. Or even better get those boxes delivered to the job site.
And the outcome of the scheduling step is an agreed, an approved frozen weekly schedule that lists all the jobs that are due to be done that following week. Take into account all our constraints around how much labor we have, what plant and equipment can be taken offline or not, and what the priorities are for the week. With then measure our performance against that frozen weekly schedule using a basic schedule compliance metric to see if we indeed did do what we said we would do.
And although we talk about planning and scheduling a lot, it really is actually all about executing the work. That’s why we do all this. We go through all this effort of planning and scheduling to get efficient and effective execution of our maintenance. So the execute work is the heart of our process. As part of the execute step, the maintenance crew now has the frozen weekly schedule that has been handed over. Our focus is on getting all of that work completed on time, safe and to the right quality standards. Once the frozen weekly schedule has been communicated, the maintenance supervisor will allocate the work out to the crew and the crew now owns that work.
The planner has done the preparation and everything should be in place to execute the work efficiently, but if it’s not, then it’s up to the maintenance supervisor and the crew to address any issues, whether that be a missing part or a difference in how the job needs to be executed. The supervisor and the crew need to solve this. We’re not going to get our planner and we’ll talk a lot more about that later in the course, but for now, just keep the following in mind. The planner does not work for the current week and ultimately the outcome of this step would be the timely and safe and quality completion of the work that is in a frozen weekly schedule.
Once the work is physically completed, it needs to be properly closed out in the CMMS. That means the crew will need to record the technical history, provide feedback to the planner on the quality of the job plan. Was everything there? Were there any parts missing? Was the sequence correct? Were the job durations right? All that needs to be fed back to the planner and as part of this step, your maintenance supervisor should be reviewing the history that is entered by the technicians into the CMMS and make sure that it meets your quality standards for technical history. And at the same time the supervisor maybe flagging certain jobs of requiring a root cause analysis. It could be that the crew has had to do this same repair now several times in a row or it could be such an expensive repair that we really want to get to the bottom of why did this failure occur?
Even if you have a highly effective reliable agent, who always picks up these things, you still want to give your maintenance supervisor and his crew the ability to flag something that might need an RCA. That way things get detected much faster and it builds ownership. The final part of closing out the job and making sure the payments are made and for example, hire equipment is returned on time, et cetera. Ultimately the outcome of this step is a fully closed job in the CMMS.
The final step in the planning and scheduling process is to review and improve performance. I tend to look at this step in two ways. One part of the improvement cycle relates to the actual equipment. You’ve reviewed the technical history of the equipment, the frequency of failures and you identify improvement opportunities from there, but that’s not really part of the planning and scheduling process. Although the collection of the data that is used in the improvement step is part of a process. Analyzing the technical history and identifying defects isn’t really, that’s another process and so we’re not going to go into that part of the improvement cycle as part of this course.
The second way of looking at improvement is actually looking at how your planning and scheduling process is working and using a standardized set of performance metrics, you can track if your performance is trending in a right direction. Are you getting enough work done? Do you still have a lot of emergency maintenance breaking into your frozen week? How good are the job plans as created by your planner? Are the estimates for job durations reasonably accurate? Do you still find yourself wasting a lot of time looking for materials that were not identified in the job plans? As you look at your performance and your performance metrics that measure these things, you’ll be able to identify a series of small improvements. We’re not looking for major changes but small improvements that your planner, your scheduler or your execution crew can make immediately.
Small improvements to make sure the work is done just a little bit faster, a little bit safer, a little bit cheaper next time round. And again and again all those little improvements really add up over time. And that brings us to the end of the overview of the planning and scheduling process. This was just a quick introduction and in the following modules we’re going to delve deep into each of these steps. Before we do that though, there’s one last thing I really want to cover and that is the difference between planning and scheduling. They are shown as very distinct elements in a process for a reason and that is because planning and scheduling are not the same.
Over the years many organizations have confused planning with scheduling and have ended up almost using them as synonyms. Now we need to set that right before we continue with the rest of the course or we’re going to have a lot of confusion done a lot because planning and scheduling are not the same and they cannot be used as synonyms. Now planning and scheduling in the maintenance world is a bit different than the planning and scheduling process that you may use when you’re preparing for say, a major project or a turnaround or a shutdown. But in both instances, planning and scheduling are still not the same. What is considered planning or what is scheduling when we talk about maintenance is a bit different from when we talk about projects. So to be very clear, when I talk here about planning, I’m talking about planning from a maintenance perspective and the same for scheduling.
So in the maintenance world planning should be seen as defining what needs to be done and how or as we show here, planning is the what and the how. And once that’s done, scheduling focuses on who will execute the job and when. So scheduling is the who and the when. Now, of course there are some subtle overlaps here like the fact that the scheduling has to adhere to certain constraints that you might have set during the planning process. And that during the planning process you may well sometimes have to set specific dates. If for example, a major piece of equipment is taken out of service, you may have to fix those dates.
But in general, this is a simple and effective differentiation. Planning is the what and how and scheduling is the who and when. So clearly planning and scheduling are different. They have different objectives. Very importantly they require different skills. Planning requires technical understanding of both the equipment that is being maintained and the job that is being done. And that typically means that with a planner you want someone with a trade background, somebody with a technical background, somebody who’s done the job before.
Scheduling on the other hand, does not require detailed technical knowledge. And so scheduling is something that can be done very well by somebody without a trade background. Scheduling is much more to do with data and administration and so you can train up an administrator to become a scheduler, very effective, but you’re going to struggle to take that same administrative person and train them up as a planner. It rarely, rarely works. We’ll talk more about this throughout the rest of the course, but it’s important to get this clear upfront.
Now another way to look at how planning and scheduling differ from each other is to consider their role in our overall work management process in how we use them to increase efficiency. Now planning aims to avoid delay during the execution of work, by making sure everything is in place before the job is started. A clear scope, a clear method. Access requirements are sorted. Spares and materials are on site and the external labor has been mobilized. Planning makes sure that you have everything to do the job is there and so the job itself can be done without any unnecessary delay. Scheduling on the other hand, is about making sure that we don’t have delays between jobs. When you schedule work for the week, you put enough work in the schedule to keep your crews focused and busy. As part of scheduling, you group work together so crews can do multiple jobs on the same equipment at once rather than coming back later.
So for now it’s enough to keep this in mind. Planning, what and how. Scheduling, who and when. So with all of us crystal clear on the fact that planning and scheduling are not the same. We can now wrap up this lesson and keep in mind the six basic elements of a planning and scheduling process which were to identify and prioritize the work, plan the work, schedule it, execute the same work, close it out and review our performance for opportunities to improve.
And that brings me to the end of this lesson. The three main key points of this lesson were firstly for you to know the basic steps of any maintenance planning and scheduling process. Six we just talked about. Secondly for you to understand the difference between planning and scheduling. This difference is really often misunderstood and it is really important that you get this because without it you will never achieve the benefits from planning and scheduling. And the third key point was to start seeing planning and scheduling as a process, a business process that is repeated over and over and over again in your business. And that repetition is something we’re going to use to our advantage in the rest of this course.
Learn what maintenance planning & scheduling is, how it creates value in an industrial plant and how to successfully implement it.
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