Maintenance planning and scheduling Q&A part 3: properly sculpted roles

Suzane Greeman, president and principal asset management advisor of Greeman Asset Management, discussed in a recent webinar 6 steps to establish an effective maintenance planning and scheduling process. During the webinar, several attendees submitted questions, and Part 3 of Greeman’s answers focus on forming properly sculpted roles. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

Should the planner be the one to create work orders, or would it be best to have an administrative assistant do this?

Greeman: This is a good question and one that speaks to role sculpting. In defining the roles, each group should have certain documents that are owned by that group. The work order is one that should be owned by the planner. Here are some reasons why:

  1. The work order should include the tasks, the labor, materials and information required to execute the job. In other words, when the tradesperson gets the work order, it should be accurate enough to do the work without him/her planning it from scratch. This is the real value of the planner as it relates to protecting wrench time. If the admin assistant can do that, give him/her a raise, and hire that person as a planner.
  2. The planner is required to review the work requests and make a judgment as to whether a work order is required or not. A work order may not be required if there is already an approved one in the system and the work request is duplicated or if doing another job will correct the failure in the work request etc. The planner needs to review this and make these calls. Again, if the admin assistant can do that, give him/her a raise and promote that person as the planner.
  3. The planner has the authority to incur costs (add materials to work orders for example) and instruct other groups to act such as purchasing and stores to incur costs. I like to act my wage, and it is not normal that an admin assistant can carry this level of liability.

I would like some general tips on separating planners from reactive work. Some tips are always appreciated. I walked into a reactive environment where planners occasionally act as backup supervisors. We’re trying to move away from that, but the location, a non-user-friendly CMMS, and a lack of available manpower make this difficult to break away from.

Greeman: The real problem with reactive work is that there is a higher cost associated with it, hence the drive to plan as much work as possible [not to be confused with PM as non-break-in corrective work can (should) also be planned]. Many organizations are reactive in nature largely due to the culture, and this is something that top management needs to be convinced to change as culture is created and reinforced by them either by rewarding or resourcing the reactive behavior.

Some organizations are too small to have separate roles, and now we are in generally difficult economic times, which puts constraints on budgets to resolve manpower issues. Sometimes though, the maintenance team can be reorganized to achieve more efficiency. Bearing the context of the organization in mind, what I have seen work exceptionally well is that no executing staff reports to the planner. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. The planner should not be involved in day-to-day activities and at a minimum should be focused on planning the week ahead, not usually working in the current week. Acting as backup supervisors may be a bit glamorous (planners are not normally in the limelight) and may afford the planner some acting pay and OT, but ultimately pulls them into the daily activities and away from the planning responsibilities. In sculpting the roles, be sure the planner’s role is appropriately recognized as a senior role in the maintenance team so that your planner does not have to moonlight internally. Otherwise, you will have trouble attracting senior people with gravitas into the role. Role sculpting is the maintenance manager’s and senior management’s key responsibility.
  2. The planner is a part of the quality management in maintenance. Their quality assurance roles will become difficult to separate if they are also executing the maintenance work.

Usually, I recommend that only planners/schedulers report to planners/schedulers. Some companies have a work planning department headed by a planning engineer, senior planner or a planning manager. Oftentimes, this department will also include plant inspectors, and that combination works well too.


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