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By Dan Hounsell, Editor
Maintenance & Operations Article Use Policy
The search for greater efficiency and productivity never ends in maintenance and engineering departments. From new technology to streamlined work procedures, managers are always on the lookout for tactics and strategies that can help them meet the constant demand to do more with less in institutional and commercial facilities.
One strategy more departments are exploring is the use of a maintenance planner. Among those departments is the Facilities Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) in Berkeley, Calif., where Melanie Woods works as master work planner for the division’s work planning and control (WPC) group.
“My mantra is to plan the job so that our crafts people can do what they do best — their trades,” Woods says. “If they have to stop their job and spend time ordering materials, waiting for support of another craft for multi-craft work or waiting for access or simply waiting, then we have not properly planned.”
The WPC is responsible for planning and scheduling work for the maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) crafts, which include HVAC and lighting technicians, plant maintenance technicians — who are similar to stationary engineers — carpenters, fire-alarm technicians, electricians, plumbers, roofers, painters and gardeners.
Woods has worked at LBNL for 13 years, starting as an administrative assistant and working her way up to her current position.
“I have always been fascinated with numbers, data, planning and executing jobs within the time and budget allowed and analyzing for process improvement,” she says. Her planning work focuses on these issues:
• generating data on the state of planning and scheduling within WPC
• keeping an eye on the current goal, which can change as improvements occur
• communicating within the group to write and standardize procedures
• communicating with others to plan and allocate for future work, keeping in mind the need to balance supply — craft resources — and demand — the work to be completed — as well as risks and safety issues
• generating the master schedule, including verifying whether a specific job will go on the schedule or not
• working with customers, MRO, engineering and projects to plan events concurrently so customers feel minimal impact.
In addition to Woods, the WPC includes six planners and schedulers who plan and schedule daily and weekly work and who bring a valuable set of skills and experience to the process.
“The planners and schedulers worked as craft workers or have experience in planning work, materials, permits, etc.,” Woods says. “These planners were chosen because of their craft and site knowledge. This knowledge makes them qualified to propose, prepare and sequence how a job can be done and identify safety issues that should be addressed. As these plans are written and standardized, these jobs can now be repetitive, as opposed to just knowledge from individuals (because) once the individual retires, the knowledge is lost.”
Preparing for Productivity: The Rise of the Maintenance Planner
Effective Maintenance Planning Produces Challenges for Managers