Facility Maintenance Decisions

Harnessing the Power of Planning

By Thomas A. Westerkamp   Facilities Management

Staffing can be a touchy issue when budgets are tight, but all maintenance and engineering departments can benefit from having a planner on staff. Larger shops might have more specialized planner job descriptions. For example, one planner might plan only mechanical jobs, while another might plan only large construction projects. Smaller departments that do not require as many planners will have broader job descriptions for planners.

A particular department’s planning function will proceed smoothly if the manager uses job descriptions to define the scope of work each planner must cover. Will they be generalists, or will the cover only a certain type of work as they perform field checks?

In making this decision, managers might consider the typical job description for a mechanical planner. Among this planner’s duties: outlines all maintenance work after a request is made; obtains drawings for review; prepares detailed estimates; recommends equipment and facility improvements and cost reductions; investigates work request for feasibility and efficient labor use; sets and maintains labor time standards; coordinates work with originating department or other planners; determines material and equipment needed and availability in stores; assesses urgency of work and recommends priority; and prepares stores requisitions and allocates materials to work orders.

Consistency in Planning

A typical maintenance department can generate hundreds of work orders a week if workers are utilized properly, but planning that many work orders requires accuracy and consistency.

Two ingredients are necessary to maintain these characteristics: standard practices and a job-planning audit system. Why go to all that trouble? Managers will find that planners will adopt the method they feel most comfortable with — unless they are trained from the start to use standard practices for planning.

Planners should field-check jobs using a standard checklist to make sure they consider all requirements. They should use standard-time applications procedures so times are accurate and consistent. And they should check standard data periodically to ensure that their methods are still applicable to the work being done and that they are using the right data for the job being planned.

They also should perform checks of material and tool availability the same way for every job that requires them. They should plan and follow safety practices, and they should minimize the time required for effective planning because wasteful practices are eliminated.

After one year, if the planner’s accuracy still is not within plus or minus 5 percent of the true job time, managers should schedule more frequent audits until accuracy is improved. If the application rate is not at least 25 hours of work planned for each hour spent planning, managers should schedule more frequent audits until they find the cause and the application rate improves.

Thomas Westerkamp is a maintenance management consultant and CEO of Productivity Network Innovations.

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  posted on 9/1/2003   Article Use Policy