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As we age, we soon recognize that “time” is the most precious resource we have. This finite resource is also the first currency by which all maintenance activity is controlled, managed, and measured to ensure that the client will receive first-time quality work, on time, every time.  

Working recently with a facility-maintenance client to improve its planning and scheduling capability, we discovered an all too familiar scenario: Different client departments would ask for specific maintainers (by name) to perform requested work. Upon arrival at the client sites, these specially requested maintainers typically would be plied with coffee and donuts, then be handed additional “while you are here” lists of unplanned, unscheduled “off book” work requests saved up for just such occasions. Since maintainers are often “pleasers” by nature, they can be taken advantage of by clients and stakeholders, who recognize which of them will go the extra mile “off book.” Doing so saves the client time and effort in proper planning and scheduling procedures.

This practice of time theft in my client’s operation was exacerbated by the typical poor scheduling practice of passing the maintainer a fistful of work orders (often with no time estimate) at the beginning of the week and setting the individual free to schedule his/her own work. When there’s no process/procedure for allowing or capturing performance of “off book” maintenance work, the result is a scope-creep scenario that keeps major clients happy, but at a cost: It can be frustrating and expensive for other clients; fuel an ever-increasing maintenance backlog; and damage a maintenance department’s reputation.

Correctly written, the most effective work order is a “scope of work” document presented as an explicit, itemized checklist of what’s to be done. It’s not dissimilar to the plan for a small project. (For more details, refer to “Make Work Orders Work: The Work Instruction,” link below.) Scope creep occurs when additional or “off book” unauthorized work (beyond the agreed-upon scope) is required and the time is logged against an existing work order with no repair recorded. This not only cheats the asset work history, but also skews the “time estimate versus actual time spent” planner-performance measure.

Click Here To Read The Referenced Article
“Make Work Orders Work: The Work Instruction” (Aug. 20, 2020)

Scope creep can be controlled once the root cause is recognized and eliminated. In the maintenance world, scope creep is mainly due to lack of clarity on the work-order instruction; poor work-management processes; poor scheduling practices resulting from favoritism and maintainer self-scheduling practice; lack of client Service Level Agreements (SLAs); and lack of work prioritization.

A best-practice planning and scheduling organization is not necessarily a “no more Mr. nice guy” operation. Unplanned and unscheduled work can exist under a strictly enforced guideline/rule that stipulates: “While at a job site performing work on a work order, a single unplanned or unscheduled work event can take place if it can be completed within X minutes (usually 15 minutes, or less) without need for tools or spare parts. And all work performed must be captured against the asset on a work order after the fact. If not, a work request must be initiated by the Client/Stakeholder through the work-management system.”

When a maintainer is asked, “Can you spare some time,” the answer should always be, “Yes, but on a pre-scheduled date, time, and work-order number.” Managing scope creep is, after all, a major part of the scheduling process. And it’s one that pays huge dividends in the time management and optimization of maintainer effectiveness and client satisfaction.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: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, asset management systems, planning and scheduling, work orders