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Planning and Scheduling is More than Changing Dates: 8 Maintenance Scheduling Areas to Examine

Posted under Blog by VIZIYA

The world today is not like it was 20 years ago.

The pressure for businesses to spend less and keep their profit margins as large as possible is dramatic.

As profit is the very small difference between two very large numbers: revenue and expenses, businesses are carefully scrutinizing every dollar spent.

It doesn’t take much for revenue and expenses to become larger but it has a dramatic effect on your profit.

Production costs are not always controllable.

As a result, when your company is trying to minimize expenses, focus shifts to where costs can be controlled.

Maintenance has the ability to control organizational costs which in turn causes maintenance budgets to face constant pressure.

So how does your company save money in maintenance?

There are 3 methods:

  1. Stop doing maintenance – If you stop doing maintenance, you will save money, until something breaks.
  2. Indiscriminate spending cuts – “I don’t care where you cut it from, but cut 5% of your spending”
  3. Strategically Invest in Good Maintenance – When you strategically invest in good maintenance strategies and maintenance scheduling software, you can better control your maintenance spend. 

We discussed Planning and Scheduling is More than Changing Dates at Mastering SAP EAM in Queensland, Australia.  Watch the presentation now: 

Why Maintenance Scheduling Matters

Maintenance is more important than people realize. It helps control your costs and helps your assets perform. Scheduling is one of the most effective ways to Control your Maintenance Costs.  

When talking with customers about maintenance scheduling, many will focus on assigning and altering the date associated with a work order and will miss the broader importance of maintenance scheduling.

If your scheduling goals are strictly focused on changing dates, this is not hard to achieve; you can export your work orders to excel, change the dates and reload it.

It is hard but critical, however, to utilize maintenance scheduling to maximize your production and in turn your profits.


In his book, Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook, Doc Palmer discusses how in an 8-hour work day, after lunches, breaks, etc., the absolute most maintenance time possible, is 6.5 to 7 hours.

If your organization is not doing any planning or scheduling, Doc’s studies show you get roughly 2-3 hours of useful wrench time from your maintenance team.

He also shows that when you implement a basic scheduling method, wrench time almost doubles. 

Going further and implementing a comprehensive planning and scheduling strategy gives you both high utilization, and the additional benefit of ensuring that the right work is being done on the right equipment.


There are 8 keys things to consider when examining your maintenance scheduling software and strategy.

1. Resource VS Asset-Based Scheduling

Right now, you might be saying to yourself “We already have a maintenance scheduling software and strategy, we’re utilizing our people, isn’t that good enough?”

If your maintenance team consists of 50 craftspeople and your goal is to make sure those 50 craftspeople are fully utilized for the entire day, then you are doing resource-based scheduling.

While it is important to ensure your people are working, it is vital to also consider your assets when discussing your scheduling strategy. 

Ask yourself questions such as: “What preventative maintenance do our assets need?” and “What do we need to do to ensure our assets perform optimally?”

The foundation of asset-based scheduling is understanding what is important in relation to your assets: what are your critical assets, is the work on this critical asset essential or can it wait?

With asset-based scheduling, your maintenance team may not be fully utilized 100% of the time but if your assets are running optimally, does that really matter?

You don’t have to fully utilize your people to properly maintain your assets.

The ultimate goal is a balance between asset optimization and utilized craftspeople. Most importantly, however, your maintenance scheduling software and processes should do more than just utilize your people.


2. Saving Money with Asset-Based Scheduling

When you understand your asset criticality at a deeper level, there is an opportunity for cost savings.

Not necessarily because your craftspeople will always be fully utilized, but because you will have a better understanding of the cost of breakdowns.

The nature of the work you do and when it is completed has a massive impact on utilization.

For example, a metals manufacturer assessed the asset criticality methods used at three of their plants and found that only one of the plants consistently focused its maintenance on high criticality assets.

That plant had profit margins “tens of millions of dollars” better than its peers, not because of utilization which stats were roughly the same, but because the equipment that directly impacted production output received the greatest attention.


Asset criticality can be simple.

The same metal manufacturer took their both their assets and work orders and ranked them and gave them a priority number.

The asset ranking was based on production need, the cost to replace, and the lead time of parts, whereas the work order ranking was based on work order priority, health and safety regulations, maintenance work order, etc.

They then multiplied these together to create a priority index for each work order.

They then sorted the work and did the high priority items first and worked towards the low priority items.

As a result of this, this metal manufacturer had fewer outages, less chaos, and overall positive outcomes.

Asset criticality is not hard to do, but it does take time to go through your assets and create a priority index.


3. Preventative Maintenance needs to be a High Priority

Preventative maintenance should be a high priority, but the reality is that the majority of organizations will reschedule or postpone preventative maintenance to accommodate emergency or break-in work.

Your maintenance scheduling software and strategy should have an understanding of where preventative maintenance work must take priority.

You need to know what resources you need and which are available in order to complete the preventative maintenance work.

You are making good decisions when you bring in contractors for overtime in order to complete your preventative maintenance work within the appropriate time period.

We all love being the hero of the plant and fixing the broken machinery that gets production back up and running.

We need to have a similar excitement about preventative maintenance. 


4. Don’t Waste Time with Poorly Planned Work Orders

Poorly planned work orders waste planner and schedulers’ time.

When scheduling work orders, it is important to reject work orders that are lacking the information necessary to accurately plan and schedule the required maintenance.

The more effort you spend on your work orders before they are sent for scheduling, the smoother your planning and scheduling processes will be.

This work ensures you have the right parts, the right craftspeople, at the right asset, at the right time.

Pushing back on badly planned work orders is a critical success factor for an organization.  


5. Availability

Availability can be difficult to track and manage, but having accurate availability information is key for maintenance scheduling.

It is impossible to schedule work without knowing who you have available to complete the work. Organizations often want to pull availability information from the HR module of their ERP. 

The problem here is, when you start tying availability to your HR module, it affects peoples pay.

For example, if a craftsperson is scheduled for training on Wednesday, he is not available to work.

However, you don’t want to say this craftsperson isn’t available on Wednesday in your HR module because then he won’t get paid for that day even though he is working.

It is important to be able to track availability separately from your HR module to ensure you know who is available and when.

Your scheduling system should simplify the complex but critical task of craftsperson availability.


6. Maintenance is Reactive Sometimes

Some amount of maintenance will always be reactive. This is a fact of life.

Assets will break and you will need to react and fix them.

When your planning and scheduling process is in control, it is easy to adapt your schedule when emergency work orders arise.

If your planning and scheduling process is already chaos, a change pushes the problems over the edge.

With advances in technology and a stronger industry focus on IIoT, you can now automate some of these reactive responses.

For example, a mining company has a sensor that monitors one of their bearings on a critical piece of production equipment.

When that bearing reaches a certain heat threshold, it will fail within twelve hours and the equipment will go down.

The cost of the bearing replacement, when it breaks down, equated to thousands of dollars plus three days of lost production. It is a large financial loss for the company.

With IIoT, a work order is now automatically generated, without the need for manual intervention, when that sensor meets a certain threshold temperature.

The maintenance team is automatically notified of a break-in work order and can react more quickly to prevent a breakdown.

Some of the changes you can automate within the context of a controlled process and sometimes you need a human being.

It is useful to get someone to adapt to change, but it is easier to do this when you have a scheduling process. 


7. Maintenance needs to be Mobile

Mobile is a great way to notify a maintenance team member immediately to adapt and act.

It gives you the opportunity to tell craftspeople that they need to stop what they are doing and switch to an emergency work order in order to prevent a breakdown.

Mobile devices give you the ability to react.

Your scheduling process should be aware of craftsperson availability and location, so you can react when you need to.


8. Don’t Skip Reporting

The real benefits of scheduling, and of scheduling well, come when you react to how you have done it in the past.

Once the WOs are out there, you want to track the execution and adjust the schedule based on emergency work.

You want to measure your attainments and non-attainments so you can do the analysis afterward.

This allows your reliability engineers to determine areas that need improvement. 

Truly analyzing work order compliance and preventative maintenance compliance help your team measure themselves and improve their practices in the future.

This is extremely valuable data to improve your processes.


In Sum…

Scheduling is more than changing dates and fully utilizing your craftspeople. When considering your maintenance scheduling software and strategy, you need to take a step back and look at the broader picture of how scheduling can impact and ultimately improve your company and your profit margins.


For further details on how to take your Planning and Scheduling processes beyond changing dates, Click Here to read our “Are your planning and scheduling processes using best practices?” White Paper or Request a Demo of VIZIYA WorkAlign Scheduler.


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