The Secret Art Of Successful Maintenance Planning and Maintenance Scheduling

How to be extraordinary at Maintenance Planning and Maintenance Scheduling so you can become masterly and deliver great planning results.


The Secret Art Of Maintenance Planning and Maintenance Scheduling.  There is vastly more to maintenance planning that using project management software to schedule tasks.  The truly superior Maintenance Planners use methods that deliver fast, efficient and accurate work through people, not software.  In this article you will learn how to think about and organise planned maintenance work and then how to do maintenance scheduling to get the job done on time.  Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway!Keywords: maintenance planning, maintenance scheduling, planned maintenance,



The Purpose of Maintenance Planning
Do you know why it’s important to plan your maintenance?

Because you want to get the job done right first time!  Because you want to get the job done right first time, in the shortest possible downtime!  Because you want to get the job done right first time, in the shortest possible downtime, so you can get your equipment back working properly to produce quality product for as long as possible before the next repair!

If you want maximum plant availability and maximum mean time between equipment failures, at the least cost to achieve them, then maintenance planning will help to do that.

But if it doesn’t matter how much money, time and production you waste, then don’t worry about maintenance planning.  Just go right ahead as you are!

However, if being efficient and effective with your people, time, equipment and money is important to you, then you really need to master maintenance planning and maintenance scheduling.  Read on about what makes a top class maintenance planner.

Is Maintenance Planning a Science or an Art?
Maintenance planning is mostly a science – you can get books about it and follow it step by step and do all the necessary actions perfectly. The books will tell you about developing task lists, estimating times, setting up job procedures, gathering materials together, creating bar charts and ‘S’ charts, and so on.  All very scientific and seemingly so simple! And you will need all of that for your maintenance jobs to go well!  But you need more than a scientific approach to do planning superbly.

It’s the extra bits that take you from being a regular maintenance planner to a master maintenance planner that you can’t learn from books. The extra bit comes from ‘the heart’ – it’s the artistic, creative part of you that you now need to use if you want to become great at planning and scheduling maintenance.

The person doing the maintenance planning and scheduling role needs to be accomplished in a broad range of technical skills, maintenance and operating competencies, and engineering knowledge. You can follow this link to read about the skills, competencies and knowledge set of a Maintenance Planner and Scheduler.

Look Ahead!
Planning is all about making sure the future happens exactly as you want it. In a nut shell, a maintenance planner works at guiding the future actions of the maintenance crew so things are done right on purpose and not by accident.

Read that again, “so things are done right on purpose and not by accident”. It is making sure that ‘things are done right’ which is important!  A good maintenance planner will make an average maintenance technician shine, because he will give the technician all the right tools, information, parts and advice needed to do the job right in the shortest time possible.

The top maintenance planners look at the maintenance crew as an extension of themselves. They consider that they are personally doing the job through their people.  They plan and prepare as if they will be using their own hands to make the repair.

That means they are looking ahead for all the fast, simple, accurate ways to do the job. And they give that knowledge to the maintainer through the information they pass to them to do the work.

It’s here that the ‘art of maintenance planning’ becomes impossible to explain with science. The little things that streamline and simplify a job, which causes the work to be done smoothly and quickly, … that is what makes a great maintenance planner!

Building a Library of Information and Systemise It
To do the job right requires the right information.  The first role of the maintenance planner is to collect all the relevant information about a job together into a library of their own making. This library will become the storehouse of all knowledge about the equipment on your plant.

From my experience it is best to have a central library used by all, in which is kept every piece of available information about your equipment in equipment number order.  Information on each item of plant equipment should cover all trades and disciplines and include:

  • the original service duty specification,
  • technical information of how the equipment works,
  • model number with all suffixes, serial number, item description,
  • purchasing information,
  • maintenance manual,
  • operating manual,
  • a copy of the most current computer control program if the equipment is automated,
  • set point parameters and units of measure,
  • mechanical, electrical and control equipment parts manual including parts material specifications list and drawings,
  • both the original historical applicable engineering specifications and the most current,
  • foundation, mounting and structural support details,
  • details of any changes done to the equipment since new,
  • parts supplier information and contact details,
  • drawings of the site location,
  • general assembly drawings,
  • drawings of the equipment assemblies,
  • individual parts drawings and materials used in construction,
  • electrical drawings of power supply and distribution,
  • control logic diagrams and tables,
  • history of work performed in the past and how it was done and what was found and learnt,
  • completed test sheets and check sheets,
  • statutory information if the equipment is a registered item of plant,
  • photographs of the equipment,
  • copies of investigative and engineering reports conducted on the equipment,
  • the most current of operator work procedures,
  • the most current of maintenance procedures,
  • the most current originals of test sheets and check sheets,
  • tips and advice learnt about using and maintaining the equipment,
  • references to any useful information on the equipment or its construction and operation,
  • an index of what is listed in the library for that piece of equipment.

The aim is to have all the necessary information at hand when it is needed. Information is most useful when you can trust its accuracy and you can get it quickly.  This means you need a way to know what is recorded in your library for each item of equipment, hence the need for a comprehensive index of information correctly identified, numbered and catalogued.

You also need to find that information quickly, hence why you have to develop a system to store and extract correct details fast.  A central library out performs individual filing systems every time!

Ideally you want all the information both in hard copy form and electronically. With a recent back-up of the electronic copy kept in a safe place.  In electronic form it can be sent to any location where it can be received. At the least it should be in electronic form for ease of access by all persons as needed.

The Work Pack
The maintenance planner’s style, knowledge and efforts are reflected in the ‘work pack’ they develop for the job to be done.  The work pack is a folder handed over to the repairer containing all the information and details to complete the job accurately, in the shortest possible time.

In the work pack are the following details necessary to do the job right first time, in the shortest time possible:

  • an index of what the folder contains,
  • a job safety analysis and risk assessment,
  • a list of all tools needed to do the job,
  • a list of all parts needed for the job,
  • drawings of how the item needing repair works and goes together,
  • descriptions and photos of what they should find as they do the job,
  • a step by step procedure including photos and descriptions of what to do, with clear indication and advice for the critical parts of the work,
  • a test and check sheet to confirm accuracy of the work and to be a record of the job,
  • a report back sheet for the repairer to advise the Planner what they found to be different to what was planned and expected,
  • the planner’s personal advice to the repairer on the best ways to do the job.

In addition to the folder, the repairer is given all the necessary parts and special tools to do the work.  If necessary the Planner sits down with the Repairer, or visits the job site, and discusses the work required in detail so that the repair understands clearly what needs to be done.

The transfer of clear work instructions is even more important than usual when the maintainer is new to the job.  The Maintenance Planner must make special effort with persons new to a task to maximise the chance of success.

Leave Nothing To Chance
A well planned maintenance job is a beautiful thing to behold. Equipment and task information is complete and plentiful. Replacement parts are at-hand, and of the right size, specification and quantity.  All external resources like cranes, elevated work platforms and specialist sub-contractors are there on time and are fully prepared for the job. The job procedure promotes accuracy and has been well thought through, explaining what need to be done in excellent detail, clarity and accuracy.

The work progresses through checks and tests to insure proper, precise assembly that matches, or betters, the manufacturer’s specifications. Factors that influence the accuracy, quality and reliability of the work are also checked and recorded. The work only proceeds when the previous step is proven correct. A complete history of the job is made in the records of the tests and checks performed.

The repairer must know the work quality and tolerances to be achieved in order to deliver the reliability needed from the equipment.  They must know how to do the work safely and in good time. If necessary they should be given a chance to practice the task as often as they need so that they have developed their skills and abilities to do the real job brilliantly!  They should be able to monitor their own successful accomplishment of the job and be sure they have done it to the best quality and accuracy.

Plan the Backlog of Work Based On Equipment Criticality
Maintenance jobs in the backlog should all be planned and be ready for doing once scheduled. Work in the backlog is work that has the time to be planned well.  The job priority is used to dictate which backlog jobs are done first, and hence planned first.  The priority is based on equipment criticality.

The equipment criticality is also a good measure of the planning effort and work pack content requirements to be provided in preparing for the work. It is the critical equipment, and those that pose great danger, that must be worked on with great accuracy, quality and certainty of job outcome.  This is best guaranteed by doing thorough and careful planning!

Always have work available to give the maintenance crew. There may be quite times, but there should never be times without work planned to do.

There are plenty of visual inspections to be done around the plant, there is always lubrication to be checked, there is always condition monitoring with the human senses to be undertaken.  There is always a plant improvement project to be designed and installed. There is always working to pass to others for them to plan in great detail, procure parts and prepare procedures. There is always training opportunities to be taken.

A wise maintenance planner keeps a file of jobs handy that can be quickly passed to tradespeople at any time.

Schedule Planned Work With The Operating Group Into the Operating Plan
Once work is planned thoroughly it needs to be scheduled and done. The people that control access to the plant and equipment are the operations group.  You cannot get planned work done unless they make time for it to be done. This requires them to commit to stopping the equipment and stopping production.  For the operations group production is how they measure success and to stop it gives them great discomfort.

None-the-less, if equipment is not maintained well it will fail too often and production will suffer.  The best way to schedule access to plant and equipment is by letting Operations decide the date and time and getting them to put it into their production schedule. This way it becomes part of their plan and almost guarantees that it will be done, excepting catastrophe!

Tell Everyone What Is Planned – Make a Picture of the Plan
The next important step is to let the operators on the shopfloor and their immediate supervisors know when the maintenance is due to be done and what is affected by it. If one cannot count on the Operations people in the scheduling meeting to tell their operators what is planned for their plant and equipment, the Planner or Scheduler must do it themself. They may need to separately advise the operators what is being planned so that they can prepare for it ahead of time.

One of the best ways to ‘paint a picture’ is to publish a bar chart, also called a Gantt chart, of the coming month’s planned work and, in greater detail, the work being done in the coming week.  Put the bar chart up on a notice board in an area frequented by both the operators and the maintainers.  Get the ‘picture’ out for viewing a few days before the actual work starts.

Another option is to send the bar chart electronically to the control room operators for them to print-off and publish.

You can never do too much to give advice to operators and maintainers about what work is coming-up for them.

If Things Go Wrong
Even the best planned jobs can go astray.  By planning them well the chance of such things happening are massively reduced.  But if problems do occur they must be confronted quickly and solved as well as possible in the circumstances.

The lessons learned must be recorded for future reference so that next time the job is done it will run much more smoothly.

It is best if the Planner goes and looks themself what has happened to cause the work to not go to plan.  They will understand the problem better.  Collect feedback from those doing the work after the job is complete. A good idea is to have a close-out meeting where problems are aired and ideas put forward to improve the future execution of the job.

Hope the above helps you.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ

P.S. Throughout the world you can now do our online 10 module Maintenance Planning and Scheduling training course with certificate. Read more at Online Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Training Course.