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Achieving recognition as a valued partner within a corporation is a “best practice” hallmark coveted by all aspiring maintenance organizations. Achieving this type of recognition is built on the cornerstone foundation that an effective Maintenance Planning and Scheduling function delivers to the business.

The Maintenance Planning and Scheduling function is core to an continuous asset-management-improvement initiative, from the implementation of a rudimentary preventive-maintenance (PM) program to the overhaul of a complex maintenance-management system. This function is the logistical glue that enables maintenance to build professional working relationships with all other corporate departments and facilitate the shift from a reactive to proactive environment.

Proactive maintenance incorporates preventive, predictive, and condition-based strategies, all of which demand logistical planning and scheduling of people, assets, spare parts, tools, data, job plans, and requisite documentation. In smaller organizations, the Planner/Scheduler is often a single, combined role. In larger organizations, the role is frequently separated into distinct Maintenance Planner and Maintenance Scheduler positions.

A Planner’s primary focus is work-plan development, best described as the “work preparation” side of maintenance. Planning involves responding to the need of the work requestor; building a job plan in collaboration with operators, maintainers, engineers, outside experts; procuring parts with inventory and purchasing; and readying the work’s job plan for scheduling and execution.

A Scheduler’s primary focuis on workflow and the scheduling and managing of work toward satisfactory completion, best described as the “work execution” side of maintenance. The scheduling function serves to prioritize work and pre-build the manpower utilization schedule for the following shift, day, week, month. This requires collaboration with stakeholders in order to schedule maintenance time on an asset before it breaks down, and with maintenance trades to schedule time to maintain the asset.

A major step toward increasing tradesperson utilization and value is to recognize that it’s not the job of tradespersons to prepare their own schedules, but to facilitate what they do best, i.e.,“wrench” equipment. In the words of world-renowned management guru, Peter Drucker, “The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker, but of the manager. A worker will not plan for his/her own efficiency.”

In many plants, a maintenance Scheduler is often required to take on foreperson/people-management duties. In such cases, both Planner and Scheduler must interact with, and act as liaisons between management, production, engineering, MRO Inventory control, purchasing, and safety officers.

When utilized to their full potential, Planner and Scheduler positions (be they separate or combined positions) are crucial to ensuring optimal availability of assets.


Leading planning and scheduling practitioners subscribe to the following seven-pillar approach toward planning and scheduling:

1. The PM Checklist
When setting up a maintenance-management system, the initial focus is almost always on preventive-maintenance (PM) job plans. Most existing PM plans are legacy-based and remain unchanged for years, if at all.

Typically written by multiple people over a number of years, those types of legacy plans tend to employ subjective language that can, and is, often interpreted differently by the end user as to the actual task requirement. This situation leads to in inconsistent work execution. Many PMs are often included as “make work” job tasks to keep staff busy, thus adding little or no value to the current organization.

Establishing best practice requires an evaluation of all PM tasks for current value. If no value is perceived, the task must be eliminated. Remaining tasks are then rewritten in objective language in a “Check-Do” and/or “Check-Confirm” style similar to that used for aircraft flight checks and hospital surgical procedures.

Among other things, the objective-language format promotes consistency and first-time quality. In these types of checklists, PMs are given a time- completion and frequency estimation and load levelled onto the calendar for scheduling through maintenance-work-management software.

2. Work Order Design
Work order design is crucial for capturing the required data for work instruction and post-reporting capability. A quality work-order design will include data that accurately describes and locates the asset on which to work and who is to do the work, and provides adequate space to include work instruction and information on safety, tools, and parts description.

The work order will have a start/finish time component and multiple search-code-field capability for grouping work type, equipment type, failure type, etc., based on the data requirements utilized in the different reporting calculations.

3. Work Plan Development

(non-PM work orders)
Developing a quality demand or breakdown work plan requires a planner to actually visit the major breakdown problem areas to perform “See for Yourself” job planning. Known in Japanese as “Genchi Genbusto,” this simple step is championed by and credited for rapid improvement in work management by the Toyota Motor company. 

Once again, the work instruction must be objective and the tradesperson’s work instruction must be completed in the work order and bundled with pertinent drawings, permits, photos, tool, and parts information prior to release.

4. Inventory Kitting and Staging
Understanding MRO inventory needs is based on calculating what parts are used on a regular basis, and the turn rate of each item (number of times used per annum). Best-practice organizations use this information to understand their “spend” rate and the parts on which money is spent. This data is then reviewed alongside the PM job plans to determine if the frequency or job plan requires update.

The spend analysis also can be used to set up a vendor-managed inventory contract, based on one or more vendors bidding on managing and holding inventory on behalf of the client, which would then only pay when a part is used. That type of contract would include the kitting of parts for PMs and demand/breakdown work, and staging of parts in the Maintenance department, and/or drop shipping parts to remote locations, as required.

5. Dynamic Scheduling
Scheduling must begin with a daily understanding of the following: a) maintenance-staff availability; b) asset/equipment availablity; c) parts availability; d) tools availability.

The daily work schedule is a living document, i.e.,dynamic in nature. A Scheduler must constantly update the schedule as new availability information comes in, or higher priority work breaks in to the schedule. Best practice schedules each maintainer up to an 80% work load day. The remaining 20% is then used to accommodate emergency work and faciliate backlog management.

6. Performance Monitoring

(turning data into management information)
Access to accurate work-management history allows the best-practice organization to analyze its data for failure cycles, based on equipment type, parts used, manufacturer, contractor, operator, product, etc. This allows the Maintenance department to accurately predict future trends and isolate pefromance in many different ways. The performance data also allows the business to make accurate evidence based decision making on many aspects of the business and promote healthy change and optimization at minimum cost.

7. Standardized Process and Procedures
Performing maintenance business in a new way requires a set of standardized work flows, process, and procedures that can be used for training of current and future staff. Standardization promoted consistency and quality throughout the organization.


Future RAM planning and scheduing articles will focus on each of the seven “best practice” maintenance planning and scheduling pillars descibed above.TRR


Ken Bannister has 40+ years of experience in the RAM industry. For the past 30, he’s been a Managing Partner and Principal Asset Management Consultant with Engtech industries Inc., where he has specialized in helping clients implement best-practice asset-management programs worldwide. A founding member and past director of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada, he is the author of several books, including three on lubrication, one on predictive maintenance, and one on energy reduction strategies, and is currently writing one on planning and scheduling. Contact him directly at 519-469-9173 or


Tags: maintenance, availability, procedures, workforce issues, CMMS