Current Region: United States  »  

1 (800) 849-2041

Back to articles Print Email Share

Execute the basics of reliability and maintenance well and you will get guaranteed results. Part III

by Christer Idhammar

In this third part of this article,I will explain the very basics of Work Management.
Even with good skills people cannot be more efficient than the system they work in allows them to be. To design, document, repeatedly communicate, and reinforce the execution of the system is a leadership obligation.
When work is properly planned and after that scheduled and executed accordingly employee productivity will increase significantly and reliability will increase. This will result in faster product throughput and lower costs.

Planning and Scheduling of work

It is important to understand the difference between planning and scheduling. These two elements of maintenance management are essential and are very often mixed up. Most organizations, where scheduled shutdowns of the manufacturing process are common, plan and schedule work quite good because there is a consequence if they do not.

Planning and scheduling of weekly/daily On-The-Run work is often very poor. Perhaps this is because of more lax expectations on performance than during a shutdown?

The short definitions used here are:

Planning of work = Deciding What, How and Time to do work.
Scheduling of work = Deciding When and by Whom work will be done.

Planning of work is to prepare everything needed to do the work. E.g. Scope and description of work, any safety requirements, tools, parts and material, documentation, need for scaffolding, skills required, shut down required or can be done without interference with production etc.

Scheduling of work is to first decide when job shall be done by date/time and who will do the work.

A best practice is to plan work before work is scheduled for execution and to schedule to the work that need to be done and then schedule people to the work.

All work can be planned but all work cannot be scheduled.

To plan work is the easy part if you have dedicated people who are allowed to focus on planning. Even correction of a break down can in theory be planned because you know it can, and most probably will happen, but you cannot schedule all work because you do not always know when the break down will occur.

Most breakdowns can be prevented but all failures cannot be prevented. This is because all failures do not have a long enough failure-developing period. The failure-developing period is the period in time that lapses from the point in time you discovered a failure until the break down occurs. If this time is too short the failure will develop into a breakdown before the corrective action can be planned. This is common for electronic components. Before problems in systems with electronic equipment can be corrected troubleshooting has to be done. Breakdowns can still be prevented with redundant components.

Figure 8. In general most mechanical and electrical equipment demands less trouble shooting time and more time repair. The opposite pertain to Electronic equipment and control systems. To troubleshoot takes in general much longer time than to correct the problem. This has to be considered for example when setting goals for volume of work that can be planned before it is scheduled. For many years the trend is that industrial plants have more complex control systems and more electronic equipment.

Work Management Process

It is necessary to document and reinforce the process defining how work is managed. If this is not done you will surely end up in the “Circle of Despair” (Figure 1. Part 1). My intention in this article is to discuss the very basics and an overview, not a complete article about planning and scheduling. The essential steps in a work management process include:

Figure 9. This example describes work that is requested and approved to be executed and where planning and scheduling can be done without any other steps. When work is planned it is common that the work has to be placed in hold codes such as:
• Waiting material
• Waiting approval
• Waiting Opportunity. E.g. unscheduled shutdown. This work is planned but not scheduled
These hold codes has to be cleared before the work shall be added to planned backlog where all work that is planned and ready to be schedule is held.
Emergency work will go direct from work initiation to execution and planned as good as it can be in the given situation. Too much of emergency work will trigger the “Circle of Despair”. The more work done as reac?ve, the less work will be done as managed work (planned and scheduled work.)
Rules for prioritization, approval levels etc. and the roles of people involved must be clearly defined.

Front Line Management

Execution of the work management process has to occur with the front line organization. It is at this level of the organization results will be delivered or not delivered. The front line organization consists the following functions. In bigger organizations each of these functions are full time employees. In smaller organizations employees have to do all or some of these functions:

Figure 10.
Planning of work is always done by someone but often in the wrong order. Best practice is that planning of work is done before work is scheduled and executed. Most successful organizations have full time planners and the planners use more than 70% of their time to professionally plan work.
One point of contact between operations and maintenance.
A Maintenance and Operations Coordinator should coordinate work requests from operations. The coordinator will screen work and reject or validate work to be done. The coordinator should also set the requested priority based on an objective guideline. He/she is the person leading weekly and daily planning and scheduling meetings.
Scheduling of work.
Supervisors or team leaders in most successful organizations do scheduling of work. They are the best to assign people to work schedules, as they know the capabilities of the crafts people they manage. They will also follow up on progress of work.
Execution of work.
Crafts people and operators execute work and can do that much safer and more efficient than if work is not planned and schedule before the work is executed.

Justification for planners
I have worked with many plants where they have no planners because the maintenance organization said they needed them but was not able to justify planner(s) position(s). I like to offer some ideas on how we successfully helped maintenance organizations justify more efficient planning with planners.

With or without planners somebody always does planning of work, otherwise the work could not be done. In an organization without planners the following is a typical situation:

(Working hours 07:00 – 15:30)
• 07:00 – 07:30 Crew arrives and meet with supervisor.
• 07:30 All have been assigned what to do today. (E.g. “Pump 20-439 does
not pump”)
• 07:30 – 08:45 Two mechanics troubleshoot and find that bearing, seal and impeller
unit must be changed.
• 8:45 – 09:00 get rigging tools.
• 09:00 – 09:15 Morning break.
• 09:15 – 10:30 Finding parts.
• 10:30 – 11:30 Arrange rigging.
• 11:30 – 12:00 Lunch break.
• 12:00 – 14:00 Disassemble bearing, seal and impeller unit.
• 14:00 – 15:30 Impeller too big. Machine down to right diameter.
• 15:30 – 17:00 Install, test and start pump.

In summary, the scope of work had to be decided by the mechanics, tools, parts, rigging etc. had also to be decided by mechanics, adjustment of impeller was also decided by mechanics. All of this is PLANNING. The inefficiency in this example lies in that planning was done after scheduling and it must be done the other way around to enable people to be efficient.

The other scenario is that the problem with the pump was discovered during an established inspection route a couple of weeks before the problem must be corrected. A planner could then plan the job efficiently. It would take the planner about two hours to prepare all needed for work, arrange for pump impeller to be adjusted etc. The store would stage and deliver parts in advance. The mechanics would then do the work in a safe and organized way in about five maintenance hours instead of about 20 hours including overtime as in the example above.

We have done hundreds of evaluations of maintenance organizations all over the world and found that without organized inspections and planning followed by scheduling of work crafts people spend 40 – 60 % of their time on “planning activities” as given in the example above.

Number of Crafts people % of time they "plan" Total "planning" hours/day Target Hours/day Freed up Time. Hours/day
60 50 240 50 190

In this example the maintenance organization is very reactive and crafts people are put in a situation where they have to “plan” to get the work done. The implementation of basic inspections will change the situation so that a planner can plan before work is scheduled by a supervisor and executed by crafts people. The target is to get down to about 10% urgent work where the situation described in the scenario above would still be repeated. That would free up 190 hours/day from crafts people’s time. To be efficient in work management this organization would need about three to four planners (24 – 32 hours/day). This would enable crafts people to free up 158 – 166 hours/day. The number of planners needed is very dependent on disciplined priorities of work, access to an updated and accurate bill of materials and close cooperation with operations.

Roles of Front Line Management
Some of the most common questions I get from organizations all over the world include:
• Do we need leaders in the frontline?
• Do we need planners?
• How many planners do we need?
• How many frontline leaders do we need?
• Do we need Operations – Maintenance Coordinators ?
• How should we decide the roles of planners and frontline leaders?

These are the same questions I received when I started in industry many years ago and it is still today one of the first issues that need to be clarified when we help organizations improve reliability and maintenance performance.
Over all these years organizations have tried everything from combined roles, centralized planners, self-directed work teams, autonomous maintenance, no planners, no frontline leaders and so on. All these experimental attempts I have seen over all these years has reverted back to the fact that leaders and planning and scheduling are absolutely necessary to provide a safe working environment and efficient work execution.

In smaller organizations of up to about to eight maintenance craftspeople the roles of planner and frontline leader is by necessity often combined, but someone still has to do these functions. In larger organizations I know you need all of the above roles as positions to be efficient.

How many planners and frontline leaders?
To decide how many planners and frontline leaders an organization needs is not a simple answer based on ratio of planners to craftspeople and frontline leader to craftspeople. There are a number of factors needed to give the right answer including:
• How the role of a planner is defined.
• How the role of a frontline leader is defined.
• Quality and access to support systems such as a complete Bill of Materials.
• Skill level and participation in planning by crafts people.
• Implemented and disciplined use of processes for maintenance.

Figure 11. Leadership style and roles changes depending on Craft People’s Skill levels and Processes implemented and used. Upper X-axis shows leadership style as it relates to craft people’s level of skills. The upper Y-axis shows leader ship style from instruction to support. If the crew has low skill levels a frontline leader will be forced to use much time to instruct how to do a task. If the crew has a high level of skills the leadership style can, and should, change to more support and less instructions. The best way to support is to act more as a coach and use planning and scheduling of work as one of the tools to do this better.
The X-axis in the lower graph shows how well the essentialmaintenance management processes are instituted and used in a disciplined manner in the organization. (Work Management Process, Preventive Maintenance, Bill of Materials and Store Room support)
In an organization with a low craft people skill level and very few and/or poor essential maintenance management processes instituted the frontline leader have no choice but to use much time to instruct and follow up on execution of tasks. He/she can therefore not manage more than about six people. If a planner has no access to a quality populated Bill of Materials and bombarded with many “Do-It-Now” requests he/she will not manage to plan for more than perhaps four people.
On the left side of the graph the situation is different. Craft People’s skill levels are very high and essential maintenance management processes are instituted and used in a disciplined manner. In this scenario a planner can plan for up to 20 people and a frontline leader can lead up to twelve crafts people. You might even consider merging the roles of planner and frontline leader into one that can plan, schedule and lead teams of up to eight crafts people.

There are other circumstances that impact crew sizes per planner and frontline leaders such as the size of the physical area they manage. One frontline leader managing a central workshop might handle 25 to 30 people. In a very spread out manufacturing area the frontline leader can handle much fewer crafts people.
The function of Maintenance – Operations Coordinator will also enable the frontline roles to become more efficient.

For examples on Role Descriptions please contact