The Key Maintenance Planning and Coordination Duties for a Maintenance Planner Role

A Maintenance Planner is working some weeks ahead of the maintenance crew planning and preparing for the successful completion of future maintenance work. That includes letting people know what is coming their way, and later measuring how successfully the planning effort contributed to the results.



Hi Mike,

Firstly I would like to thank you for giving us an opportunity to share maintenance information. I have just been appointed as a Maintenance Planner responsible for planning and scheduling of all maintenance activities in a Hydro Electric Power Station. In your opinion, what is a Maintenance Planner expected to do? What is a Work Order Backlog and how do you manage it? What sort of reports is a Maintenance Planner expected to present at the Weekly Planning and Scheduling meetings?



Hello Friend,

In answer to your questions:

What is a Maintenance Planner expected to do?

Maintenance planning has two connotations. The first is of a strategic nature involving the selection of maintenance strategies from among alternative courses of action, for the enterprise as a whole. It is, in effect, deciding in advance what maintenance types to use to manage the various operating risks of the organization. Planning at this level assumes that rational processes can be used to nominate resources and define appropriate future action which will produce the desired outcomes ( To me this is what the Maintenance Manager is responsible to do.

The second view of maintenance planning is tactical in nature. It is takes a project management perspective and is the process of establishing the sequence and relationship of a series of actions and requirements prior to maintenance work commencing, along with procuring and providing the parts and resources needed to deliver the work plan. This is the meaning of maintenance planning that I use when I talk about a maintenance planner’s duties.

This definition ties-in very well with the primary purpose of maintenance planning, which is to maximize ‘tool time’ of the maintenance crew. (Keep the maintenance guys on the move straight from one job to the next.) This tactical work connects to the strategic work of the first definition by ensuring that the maintenance work performed delivers the organization’s desired outcomes. Hence the secondary purpose of maintenance planning is to ensure the trades do quality work by providing all the parts, tools, information, procedures and check testing needed to deliver a quality job.

Scheduling is not planning. It is the setting of order and time for planned events. Scheduling involves taking decisions regarding the allocation of available capacity or resources (equipment, labor and space) to jobs, activities and tasks over time. Scheduling thus results in a time-phased plan, or schedule of activities. The schedule indicates what is to be done, when, by whom and with what equipment. Scheduling seeks to achieve several conflicting objectives: high efficiency, low inventories and good customer service (

What is a Work Order Backlog and how do you manage it?

A ‘backlog’ is a build-up of work to be completed. Hence a Work Order Backlog is a list of all maintenance work orders not yet complete. Some work orders will be resourced and in progress, some will be scheduled to start on a future date, some will be planned waiting scheduling, others will be unplanned.

A maintenance backlog is a slippery beast to tame because production priorities are always changing. To successfully manage the backlog requires Operations and Maintenance to work as a team so that equipment, parts and resources are made available at the same time to do the maintenance work. This can only be accomplished by people from each group and operations process affected sitting down in a well-structured meeting and deciding what work to do, when to do it, and committing to its accomplishment. Once everyone at the meeting is agreed the job is then classified as ‘scheduled’. Until agreement is reached at the meeting the job is classified as ‘planned’ or ‘unplanned’. These meetings must be DAILY and people attending must act as professionals working to a well structured and timed agenda. The scheduling meeting should be over and done in 30 minutes (don’t do planning during this meeting, the planning for a work order is done separate to this meeting). Weekly meetings never work because too much will have changed during the week and there is not enough time in a weekly meeting to discuss all that must be discussed.

To aid in decision making each work order has a means to indicate its importance or priority to the operation. Usually this is based on the equipment criticality, which depends on the size of risk to the operation if an item of equipment fails or suffers downtime. To ensure the low priority jobs are not left sitting on the backlog for years due to the higher priority jobs always taking precedence, their priority is gradually increased as time goes by so they rise to the top of the backlog and must be done.

A great article to read on maintenance backlog management is this one here Maintenance Backlog Management in a Nutshell.

What a sort of reports is a Maintenance Planner expected to present at the Weekly Planning and Scheduling meetings?

Typically you will report various performances related to planning and doing quality maintenance work.

Since the Maintenance Planner is responsible for planning work orders this is one of the details reported – ‘Number and/or proportion of work orders fully planned in the total backlog’ (This reflects how well the Planner’s prime duty is being achieved), ‘Work Orders Completed as Planned’ (this indicates effectiveness of preparation work), ‘Work Orders Right First Time’ (indicates workmanship and skills quality for further development). A variation on the last one could be ‘Frequency of Repeating Work Orders’ (indicates work quality or parts reliability problems).

Other information in reports could include: ‘Size of backlog’ (is it growing, reducing, steady?), ‘Uncompleted Work Orders by Required Date’ (is the work getting done in good time?), ‘Work Orders Overdue from Scheduled Date’ (are Operations providing access? are resources available on-time?), ‘Operating Risk Level Represented by Work Orders’ (are we living with high risk problems or are we controlling our risks?), ‘Work Orders Complete by Trade Type’ ( are there problems in the maintenance workforce?). There will be other information appropriate to your operation that you want to report.

You should also ask Operations what they want to know and present that information to them at the meetings.

Another useful article for you is Secret Art of Maintenance Planning and Scheduling.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ

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