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How to Implement Maintenance Planning & Scheduling

If you’re a maintenance practitioner working in a highly reactive environment, you’re probably struggling with high maintenance costs and poor productivity as you feel stressed and undervalued. One solution organisations try to implement is maintenance planning & scheduling. But rarely do they get the results that they are looking for.

The problem is, most organizations struggle to get long-term results from their efforts. The most common reason is that they don’t have a process for implementation. 

That’s why in this article, you will learn a method for implementation that has been tried and tested and has worked in many organizations.A strategy based on the principles of project management and change management so you can get lasting results.

But first, you need to know what maintenance planning and scheduling really is.

What is maintenance planning and scheduling?

Ever tried planning for a beach trip? You choose which beach to go to, list down all the things you need to bring, and decide who brings what. And then, once everything is prepared, you schedule it on a date that is convenient for everybody.

It’s the same with maintenance. In this context, planning & scheduling is the process of making a detailed plan for maintenance activities, and then scheduling them in a way that causes the least amount of disruption.Of course, it is much more detailed than your trip to the beach because you’re dealing with expensive equipment.

The basic planning and scheduling process will always be made up of the same six steps: And the first step is to identify and prioritize the maintenance work. We then plan that work, schedule it, followed by 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.

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.

However, implementing this process is a different story.

Many organisations already have a planning & scheduling process in place. But often what happens is it is not properly implemented. New work requests are poorly prioritised. Jobs marked as “ready for execution” can’t be finished due to missing or incorrect parts. Many organisations can’t even differentiate Planning from Scheduling.

That’s why it’s important to have a structure for your implementation.

6 Steps to Implementing Maintenance Planning and Scheduling

Don’t get confused. Like the planning & scheduling process, there are also six phases to implementing your maintenance planning and scheduling: set up, define, develop, implement, close out, and maintain. You and your project sponsor should do a formal review of progress at the end of each Phase to make sure that everything that should have been done has been done.

Phase 1: Setup

Like every good improvement initiative, the keyisgetting it right the first time around. That’s why the first phase is critical. And it’s about making sure your organization has everything it needs to succeed.

This phase involves gathering all key stakeholders, making a clear and concise project charter, forming a steering committee, and regularly discussing progress with your team.

The most important thing is getting a leader in your organisation to sponsor your improvement initiatives. Get this sponsor to create and sign the Project Charter which is later going to be shared with the rest of the organization.

Now I typically recommend that you also form what I would call a steering committee, which would include your leadership sponsor, your project team lead and key stakeholders, like for example, your maintenance manager and operations manager.

The steering committee would then be the forum where key decisions get reviewed and agreed on. And they would also be the forum where the end phase project reviews get presented and discussed.

Finally, at the end of the phase, develop an overall project plan and a milestone schedule. This needs to summarize what needs to be done, who needs to do it, by when, and make sure you then highlight significant milestones or decisions that need to be made by a specific date.

Phase 2: Define

The second phase is figuring out what’s wrong andhow to fix it. This is done through a workshop called “AS IS – TO BE”. This is probably the most important activity that you’re going to undertake in this phase of the implementation.

Get together a group of people from all parts of the maintenance execution process such as key managers or supervisors, as well as people from support processes like procurement, finance, and the warehouse.

Next, make a diagram of the current process for planning and scheduling maintenance, showing all the steps, decisions, rework, forms, and paperwork. The group discusses what works well and what needs to be changed. Figure out what needs to be done to fix the biggest problems and see which best practices aren’t being implemented.

At the end of the workshop, the sponsor should align the team by taking them through the “AS IS – TO BE” processes. The team then creates a high-level plan, updates their communications plan, and shares the workshop’s results to the rest of the organization.

Phase 3: Develop

This phase is about getting ready forimplementation.

This means getting all the process maps and supporting documents ready, making the training materials, making a detailed communications plan, and making sure your team has the skills to give the needed training and coaching.

Use your TO-BE process from phase 2 and turn it into a detailed, well-documented process for planning and scheduling maintenance. Flowcharts should be used to show who does what and when in a process, as well as to define standard CMMS transactions and screens that everyone can use.

It is also important to look for big holes in your CMMS, like not having the right work order status codes, not making the right reports or metrics, or not getting rid of any backlogs.

Also, make your goals clear and set dates for when they should be met. For example, 90% of staff should be trained after one month, and 75% of staff should be deemed competent after three months. 75% of meetings are thought to be successful after 1 month, and 70% of the plan was carried out after 6 months. This is a great way to share progress with stakeholders and the rest of the company.

Phase 4: Implement

Phase 4 is about getting your whole organization involved and making the new process a normal part of their daily routine. To do this, it’s important to have kick-off meeting to explain why change is needed, give everyone a one-day overview, and make sure training is clear, action-oriented, and targeted.   A 3-month coaching period is also recommended because it gives the coaches enough time to figure out where their skills are lacking. Lastly, make sure that coaches never work in the process. Instead, they should always work on the process. It’s fine to help someone, but they never do the work for them.  

Track progress every week and think about giving simple rewards that encourage good behavior. Reward systems should be sensitive to culture and make it clear when people do the right thing. It is important to do a Coach Release Audit to make sure that the organization is ready to run the process without the coaches.   As you near the end of this Phase, you need to change your focus to make sure the change lasts. If you see a team falling behind, try to get them to solve problems without their coaches if you can. If they can’t, send the coaches back to the site.

Phase 5: Close Out

It is to celebrate the success of the maintenance planning and scheduling process, figure out what lessons were learned from putting it into action, and make a plan to keep the gains. It is important to celebrate success and thank people for their hard work, because if you don’t, you might start to take them for granted. Finding and sharing the lessons learned with the steering committee will help with the next set of improvements.  

Phase 6: Sustain 

Creating change is simple but making it last is far more difficult. That’s why you need to establish procedures that will support what you’ve introduced during the Close-Out Phase. This involves having a thorough set of performance metrics, specifying competency standards for key roles, having documentation that is simple to access and comprehend, appointing a Process Owner for Planning & Scheduling, carrying out annual Process Reviews, and monitoring the completion of agreed improvements.  

Final Thoughts

Organizations struggle to get long-term results from maintenance planning and scheduling efforts due to a lack of a process for implementation. But if you want to make your maintenance planning and scheduling work for you, you need a methodical, tried-and-true strategy. The strategy outlined in this article has six steps: Setup, Define, Develop, Execute, Close Out, and Sustain. By following these steps, you will be well on your way to meeting your maintenance planning and scheduling goals, ultimately making your equipment and plant more reliable.


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