July Management Work Processes

Viewpoint: Auditing The Planning Function — Perfection Isn’t Our Goal

EP Editorial Staff | July 19, 2013

0713viewpointBy Doc Palmer, P.E., MBA, CMRP, Managing Partner, Richard Palmer and Associates

How do we know if planning is “working”? The answer is that we audit to see where we are versus our purpose. While the question is good, it implies we know the purpose of planning. The purpose of planning isn’t merely to create perfect plans that eliminate all delays so we can do a lot more work. Perfection isn’t our goal, regardless of slogans urging us to “Do it right the first time!”

 The real purpose is twofold:

  • Planning operates an improvement cycle (a Deming Cycle to continually improve plans for quality of maintenance, as well as avoidance of potential delays). 
  • Planning supports scheduling by estimating labor skills and hours. (Scheduling later improves productivity and allows us to get lots of work done. But let’s just stick with planning for now.)

This sounds like nitpicking, but thinking that planners should deliver perfect job plans encourages them to spend too much time: (1) trying to make plans “perfect;” and (2) trying to correct problems with jobs that are already in progress—and both to the extent that not all the work gets planned. The following points reflect my basic thought processes and “wish list” regarding effective planning:

Planners should spend substantial time compiling feedback on what’s been learned over many jobs. They should then quickly begin planning jobs incorporating that feedback. Insisting that plans are to be right the first time means there’s no opportunity to learn from our successes and failures. As planners, we want to plan all jobs as best we can, in the time we have to do it, then make sure we collect all the feedback possible to improve all plans, continuously and forever. Once that’s underway, let’s audit to see how we’re doing.

My goal is 80% planned coverage: That is, I like to see that planned jobs make up at least 80% of all work orders we complete. Most jobs should have the benefit of a planner who can see what could be done better than the last time we did a particular job. (I define a planned job as one that references a reusable job plan and has any estimated hours.)

A reusable job plan supports the cycle of improvement; estimated hours support scheduling. I tend not to get into deep discussions about the “quality” of a plan. That’s because we should have planners with good craft skills, organization skills and communication skills. If we haven’t hired appropriate planners, the planning system won’t work anyway. (Surprisingly, of the three important qualities mentioned here, planners can get away with being weakest in the area of craft skills.)

While I’m at it, I like to see a facility’s library of reusable job plans expand. The library should start out growing quickly, then level off somewhat as more plans are reused.

Finally, I also like to track work orders where planners have used feedback to improve job plans. Take some time to review a few of these work orders to ensure the planner has added entries in the history section at the end of the procedure.

Good luck on your planning efforts. Planning does, indeed, make a worthwhile contribution to maintenance. Just remember that it takes a good understanding of what you are trying to accomplish, coupled with great persistence, to be successful. MT

Richard “Doc” Palmer is the author of McGraw-Hill’s Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook. In his role as managing partner of Richard Palmer and Associates, he helps guide companies worldwide on their journeys to planning and scheduling success. Email: docpalmer@palmerplanning.com. 

The opinions expressed in this Viewpoint section are those of the author,
and don’t necessarily reflect those of the staff and management of Maintenance Technology magazine.






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