Column Lean Manufacturing Management On The Floor

Schedule 100% Of Available Hours

EP Editorial Staff | March 1, 2021

Effective preventive/predictive maintenance results when you use a “planning then scheduling” approach to prevent the two functions from becoming separated.

By Dr. Klaus M. Blache, Univ. of Tennessee Reliability and Maintainability Center (RMC) and Jeff Shiver, People and Processes Inc.

Q: Is your planning and scheduling ready-fire-aim?

A: Jeff Shiver expounds on this pivotal question. His comments are based on numerous years of implementation experience in this area:

Current resources indicate that manufacturers have been performing maintenance planning and scheduling for more than thirty years. Yet organizations continue to struggle with practical implementation. Many groups claim to do it well, but few do. While the benefits are widely recognized, some organizations lack maintenance-planner roles. When organizations do staff the position, it’s common to find the individuals doing everything but planning and scheduling. A standard error in the application is the use of the word “and.” Consider that the phrase should read “maintenance planning then scheduling.”

One goal is to drive increased craft efficiency. Explaining it another way, the goal is to overcome barriers and frustrations that make it difficult for technicians to execute work. These include having the correct parts and materials; access to shared or rental equipment; information, i.e. OEM specifications; timely access to cleaned equipment ready for maintenance work; and not routinely getting pulled off jobs to do other panic work. There are other benefits. Accurate estimates and execution foster trust and cooperation with operations partners. Planning that focuses on precision task steps at the right level of detail helps technicians reduce variability and human error, while improving reliability.

Inherent reliability is determined by design, along with the parts used and capability of the equipment manufacturer. Operational reliability is the observed reliability from asset installation, operation, and maintenance. Defect elimination is a continuous-improvement process that rids assets of defects from the OEM provider and reduces instances of improper installation and incorrect operation and maintenance. The intent is to address the gaps that exist between the inherent and observed reliability.

Visualize placing a shield around an asset to prevent the introduction of new defects. Do not allow out-of-specification raw or packaging materials, inferior or used spare parts, or improper operation and maintenance to affect asset reliability.

Not often discussed is the role that maintenance planning and then scheduling plays in not introducing those defects. Poorly developed job plans that lack precision specifications allow the introduction of defects. Inefficient scheduling processes, along with the lack of operations partnerships, introduce defects. Not having the right parts and substituting “equivalent” parts creates flaws.

Remember, it’s not about planning and then scheduling more work. The design of preventive and predictive maintenance programs mainly finds things in the act of failure. The focus must be on eliminating the need for the work in the first place.

Scheduling sets an expectation of the work to be accomplished. Start with understanding the available labor hours for the coming week(s). The scheduling function works with the various partners, i.e., engineering, operations, and production planning, to determine future work priorities. It seems that maintenance personnel huddles in many organizations in a small office, hammering out what they believe to be meaningful without the other stakeholders present. As a result, buy-in to the schedule is missing during the execution phase and equipment access is not available. Measure backlog in estimated work order hours, not numbers. The backlog should not have birthdays either. Trigger the preventive- and predictive-maintenance (PM/PdM) procedures a few weeks in advance.

Visualize using the available hours to create a fill-line on the side of a bucket. The scheduling function populates the bucket, using the PM/PdM work and prioritized work from the backlog up to that fill line. The goal is to schedule 100% of the available hours.

Not enough work to reach the fill line? One likely cause is that the technicians are not feeding the beast, the CMMS system. One client recently implemented planning and scheduling, working with technicians to gain buy-in. They increased the work orders generated by more than 800% and the maintenance budget by 20%. Remember, no work order, no work.

Another cause is that technicians are fixing everything on the PM/PdM activities and not allowing planning and scheduling benefits to reduce the avoidable delays. Implement a time rule that requires an emergency work order if more than 20 min. is needed to fix something found on a PM.

Suppose planning and scheduling are combined into a single role. In that case, the first-level supervisor pulls work from the bucket and generates the final weekly schedule. The supervisor assigns technicians to the specific jobs by day. Otherwise, the scheduling function works with that first-level supervisor to accomplish those tasks. Some organizations require the first-level supervisor to own the entire scheduling process. They determined that asking the combined planner scheduler to achieve both functions does not yield the desired results.

These are only a few of the insights and challenges for maintenance planning, then scheduling. Change begins with education, followed by coaching. Take action to develop and improve your processes. EP

Learn more during online events June 22 to 24 (Maintenance Planning & Scheduling) and August 17 to 19 (Maintenance Storeroom and Materials Management). Go to to register and for more information .

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at

Jeff Shiver, CMRP, is Founder of People and Processes Inc., Yulee, FL. He educates and coaches organizations to success in operational and reliability challenges. He can be found on LinkedIn.


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