Reliability Engineers and Maintenance Planning/Scheduling

Reliability Engineers and Maintenance Planning/Scheduling

 Reliability Engineers and Maintenance Planning/Scheduling

The goal in this section is to present a concise description of the planning and scheduling process in order for Reliability Engineers to become familiar with the process and know how to interact with it in order to leverage their reliability improvement efforts. In order to keep it short, I will keep this at a very high level and only delve into more detail where it will be of particular interest to the Reliability professional.  
A properly designed and executed P&S (Planning and Scheduling) system can be one of the most effective means available in aiding reliability initiatives and inculcating reliability practices into the daily execution of maintenance activities. As a Reliability Engineer you will be well served to have a good understanding of how maintenance planning and scheduling works ideally, as well as how it has been applied in your plant. Most importantly, by understanding the P&S process, you will then understand how you can use it to leverage your reliability improvement efforts.

The purpose of any P&S system should be to eliminate delays in the maintenance process and coordinate the schedules of the maintenance resources and the production schedule. You may wonder how a process with these goals can be of interest to reliability professionals, however if you will continue, I will attempt to show you how P&S not only aides reliability initiatives, but how they form a complementary relationship and flourish when implemented together. In the following text I will discuss the P&S process in the same order that a work order flows through it and will attempt to illuminate the areas where reliability can be leveraged.

All jobs are not good candidates for planning. Very simple jobs do not have much value that can be added via planning so they normally would not go through the planning process. This practice frees the Planner up to focus on jobs where planning can leverage his time by two or even three fold. Additionally, jobs that have low predictability are not good candidates since a Planner would not be able to accurately predict the resource and part needs for the job. Every organization involved in a P&S effort should identify the jobs that should not be planned. However, all jobs are good candidates for scheduling as long as a reasonable time estimate can be made.
As far as P&S is concerned there are two basic types of work, 1) urgent work and 2) non-urgent work. Sounds simple enough, but the key difference is urgent work must be attended to without delay, whereas non-urgent work allows a window of opportunity to take the time required to plan and schedule the work and given that time a tremendous savings can be created and that is the ultimate goal of P&S. 

Urgent work is fraught with delays, misdirection and confusion, but by its very nature we can't take the time to investigate the needs of the job, estimate the resources, develop a plan and obtain the necessary parts that will be needed. Instead, we run headlong into the fray and figure out what we need as we go and sometimes we have to back up and try a different route. As you recognize, this approach adds an unnecessary cost to the job, but when production has been put on hold or threatened you must demonstrate a bias for action. Putting an end to work such as this is a goal that is common to both Reliability and Planning and Scheduling and the two should be linked together.

The primary roles in a P&S system are the Planner, the Scheduler,(or Planner/Scheduler) and possibly Maintenance Coordinator (dependent on size of organization). In general, the Planner identifies everything that will be needed to execute the job, the Scheduler arranges and communicates all timing aspects of the job, and the Maintenance Coordinator enables maintenance to attend to the most important work at the optimum time relative to production scheduling. Usually the Planner and Scheduler both report through the Maintenance department whereas the Maintenance Coordinator should report through the Operating department. 
Some organizations will have one or more persons assigned to each of these roles and at the other end of the spectrum some may have individuals responsible for more than one of these roles. Either situation can work effectively as long as the roles are looked at as distinct and ample time is allotted to fulfill each individual role. We will now embark on our journey through the P&S process.

As maintenance work requests are made from the Operating department, it should be a continual process for them to be "funneled" through the Maintenance Coordinator. As I mentioned above, one of the Maintenance Coordinators primary tasks is to enable Maintenance to work on the most important work. When all work for a given maintenance organization goes through a single Operating department person (the Maintenance Coordinator) priorities can be leveled and unnecessary or duplicate work request can be eliminated.  
The benefit this provides to the Maintenance organization can not be overstated. Rather than having everyone in the Production department who initiates maintenance requests setting priority based on their current needs and limited perspective, a Maintenance Coordinator who has a larger perspective by virtue of seeing all maintenance requests and knowing the overall production scheduling needs and constraints can provide a much clearer focus for the Maintenance organization to respond to. The Maintenance Coordinator will delete unnecessary or duplicate requests and adjust the priorities of the remaining work request to reflect the needs of the production department while recognizing the limited capacity of the maintenance organization before the requests are sent to the Planner.
The Planner is next in line to receive the work request once the Maintenance Coordinator has performed his review. The Planner's most important role is to identify and quantify the resources that will be required to execute a given job. Categorically, these resources are:
  1. Number of maintenance personnel and man hours required for skill level and crafts required     
  2. Steps required to complete the job     
  3. Part needs     Tool and equipment needs     
  4. Information needs including drawings and specifications. 
  5. In so doing, Planning prevents most delays from materializing and thereby greatly improves maintenance effectiveness. 
The Planner is usually one of the best craftsmen who also has the additional skills of excellent written communication, information management, computer skills, managing multiple priorities, and is methodical and well organized, to name a few.

The Planner (Planner/Scheduler) will 

  1. Review the work requests to see that they are written on the correct item in the CMMS, otherwise correct them and then determine if he will need to do a field visit or not     
  2. Planner should conduct a field visit on any work that is not obviously routine and straight forward.      
  3. During a job site inspection the Planner will identify the resources required by the job and also note ancillary repairs/equipment needs that should be resolved during work order execution. 
  4. Any other delays that are likely to be present will also be noted. Sources of other delays can be 1) job preparation, 2) permits, 3) lock out/tag out,  and physical access problems to name a few.      
  5. The Planner will determine how best to prevent each identified delay from materializing and take the steps necessary to prevent the delay. 
  6. For example, a job may have very difficult access that scaffolding could resolve; the Planner identifies the need for scaffolding and an estimate of the time that would be required to erect the scaffolding. 
All of this information will be documented in a standardized form called a Job Plan for each planned work order. In this example, when the job came up to be scheduled, the need for scaffolding would be recognized and the job would be scheduled allowing sufficient time for the assembly of the scaffolding. If the Planner believes that a particular job is likely to be repeated again and again in the future he will likely store the plan, thus cutting the time required for him to process similar work orders in the future.
It will serve the Reliability Engineer well to familiarize himself with all "Stored Plans" on equipment involved in a reliability focus. Sometimes stored plans are for a particular piece of equipment, but more often they will be for a category of equipment. An example of the second type would be a stored plan to rebuild an ANSI mark III group 2 pump which could apply to dozens of individual pieces of equipment.
For the Reliability Engineer, here is a critical point to use the P&S system to leverage your efforts. These job plans will contain instructions on the steps required to complete the job. The level of detail will vary, depending on the job. The instruction contained in the job plan may support reliability or they may not. Using seal replacement as an example, if you are trying to implement a plan to improve seal life and have identified best practices you would like to see adopted in the field, here is a good place to aid that effort. You can get with the Planner, review what he has historically documented for seal replacement job plans, and then amend that with your best practices. 
You may find that the Planner in the past has lacked sufficient detail, only listing the major steps such as "replace seal". Or it could be the case that you want to specify a new seal type or brand, or require laser alignment. The point is that if you have identified a change in practice, second only to your communicating to the field personnel themselves, you need to work with the Planner to incorporate the new practices into his job plans. These revised job plans will serve as an excellent reminder to field personnel of what it is you want them to do and how you want it done. 
They will also help the Planner in the event that the time required to do the job will be different and/or there are changes in part needs. Usually, job plans do not need to be very detailed, but should simply remind field personnel of what needs to be done, particularly on routine jobs. The less routine the job is, the more that details should be included in the job plan.
Job status codes are used throughout the P&S process to segregate work into its various stages as it is progress through the process. Common status categories are:
  • In planning             
  • Awaiting parts             
  • Waiting for approval             
  • On Hold             
  • Ready to be Scheduled - Planning complete            
  • Scheduled 
The Planner normally reserves parts that will be needed for jobs and places orders for any that will come from off the plant site. Once the job plan is complete and all part needs have been resolved, meaning that they can be available in less than 24 hours, the job will be coded as "Ready to be Scheduled" signifying that the planning phase is now complete. The on-site parts will actually be ordered and all required parts put in a kit a day or two before the date the job is scheduled to start. 
The job will now go to the Scheduler who will, working with the Maintenance Coordinator develop a schedule that optimizes production needs and schedules to the availability and capacity of the maintenance resources. Different organizations use different strategies, some use weekly schedules only, some only daily schedules and still others use both. The nuances of these various strategies are beyond the scope of this chapter, so we will just assume that a schedule is created and communicated to all parties.

A common problem reported by reliability professionals is that, too often preventive maintenance work and corrective maintenance work that was identified by predictive technologies linger in the maintenance backlog unattended until a failure develops. The scheduling process presents another opportunity to aid reliability and prevent this malady. 

Schedules are built by assigning dates to the most pressing problems first, then the large majority of the available time remaining in the schedule is filled with jobs that are selected due to management interest, secondary importance, age, or ease of execution. It should not be difficult to make the case for regular inclusion of reliability related work orders.  
Preventive maintenance and corrective maintenance are both very predictable activities, perfect examples of work that can be effectively planned and scheduled. Additionally, this work does not have to be done today, or even tomorrow. This being the case, you might want to provide a list each month designating the work you would like to see scheduled some time during the month. As you well know, often you will have a month or more to complete the work before risk to reliability starts to increase. These factors make these type tasks ideal to build an effective schedule. 
You should talk with the Maintenance Scheduler and the Maintenance Coordinator separately to get their perspective on the priority given to this type of work for placement into the schedule. If you are not fully satisfied that the appropriate level of priority is not being given, then ask if you can start attending the scheduling meeting. Not only will you have the opportunity to lobby first hand for inclusion of reliability related work, but will also hear first hand the reactive work that is making scheduling non-reactive work difficult. You may find new candidates for reliability improvements as well as improve your perspective on the issues involved with keeping the plant running.

Once a job is scheduled, as stated previously the parts will be kitted, placed in bin or staged in an appropriate area and the job plan package will be delivered to the individual(s) that will execute the job. When the scheduled time for the job arrives the maintenance personnel will have every thing they need for the job.  The job should already be prepared by Operations, meaning that the equipment has been shutdown, flushed or cleaned if necessary, tagged out and at least ready for lockout, and the permits should already have been initiated. There should be no delays when the maintenance personnel arrive at the job site, they should only have to complete the permits and lock the equipment out before starting the job.
Progress of the job should be similar with no need to leave the job site for anything other than breaks or lunch. Pre-work that should have been completed by other crafts, such as insulation removal or the building of scaffolds should already have been completed. Any required help should arrive when needed or be prepared to arrive upon notification.

 When a job can be prepared for and then executed without delay, maintenance effectiveness can be multiplied. It is not uncommon for the effectiveness of planned and scheduled jobs to be 25% or more than the same job without P&S. To see just how critical maintenance effectiveness is, consider the following: You may be familiar with a term called "wrench time". If not, this term is a unit of measure for the amount of time maintenance personnel spend doing the actual work for which their role is most responsible for. Wrench time is usually expressed as a percent and national studies typically put this number between 25 and 50% for North American industries. 
As an example to better define wrench time consider that a maintenance mechanic is replacing a mechanical seal and doing a laser alignment on a pump, his time doing this would count as "wrench time". However, the time for which he spent leaving the job to get the seal from the store room and the time he spent away from the job site to obtain additional shims for aligning the pump would not count as wrench time. As you can now see, wrench time is a measurement of effective time and excludes wasted or unnecessary time. The goal is to eliminate all delays and non-productive work so that maintenance personnel can work effectively none stop, never leaving the job once started until it had been completed, except for breaks, lunch or the end of the day.
In that ideal situation the only time that would not be counted as wrench time would be things like safety meetings, other meetings, break and lunch times, and travel time to and from the job. While this measure is somewhat idealistic, it does provide a clear way to assess overall effectiveness. P&S is the most effective way to improve an organization's wrench time. The power in improving wrench time is considerable. For example, if you have a crew of 10 people that has a wrench time of 30% and it is improved to 40%, you will have effectively added one mechanic and this mechanic has a wrench time of 100%!

When P&S and Reliability are implemented together a synergistic relationship develops. A properly designed and operated P&S system increases a maintenance organization's effectiveness, causing them to be able to complete a given amount of work in less time. This shifts the balance of the work system creating a void to fill in the remaining time. If well thought out reliability initiatives are used to fill that void, reactive work will be reduced which in turn will leave capacity to complete more planned and scheduled work, thus a virtuous cycle that will continue to improve itself until a new balance point is achieved. 
Planning enables Scheduling and Scheduling enables effectiveness. Effectiveness enables reliability and reliability enables planning. Without planning, scheduling loses its ability maximize the use of time. Without scheduling, planning lacks a means to orchestrate the activities required by the job. Without P&S, reliability related work is neglected for sake of the urgent work. Without reliability related work, the decreased flexibility in scheduling the job makes it more difficult to schedule 100% of the available manpower resources. 
Hopefully this overview of the maintenance planning and scheduling process has given you some insight into the value of P&S and also how you can use the process to facilitate your reliability efforts.

Just my thoughts.

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