Planning for Maintenance Project Success
Clear, effective communication is essential for success in any undertaking, and facility maintenance and engineering work is no exception.
“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.” — Charles R. Swandoll
Clear, effective communication is essential for success in any undertaking, and facility maintenance and engineering work is no exception. Specifically, departments need accurate information in order to schedule, plan and carry out daily tasks effectively.
Unfortunately, many departments struggle with this process and, as a result, don’t provide enough details when planning and assigning work to employees and others under their supervision.
How much detail is enough? How much information should planners and technicians receive, and, in turn, how detailed should the planning be for a particular day or task?
I’ve heard the phrase, “The devil is in the details” my whole life, and I’ve tried to look up its origin. One definition I saw for the phrase was, “The details of a plan, while seeming insignificant, may contain hidden problems that threaten its overall feasibility.” That’s a lot of words that basically translate to, prior planning prevents poor performance.
Focus on failure
The simple answer to the “How much detail” question is, technicians should receive enough to ensure the job goes smoothly. When I am trying to determine how much detail is enough when it comes to scheduling, planning and performing maintenance tasks, I begin by asking myself, what are the consequences of failure? In other words, what will it cost if the technician can’t complete the task properly, in a timely fashion and safely?
Think of the detail that goes into the process of astronauts performing a spacewalk or a surgeon performing open-heart surgery. They go through hundreds of details because the consequences of failure are unacceptable and because failure more than likely would result in death.
I was installing a new rain gauge in the backyard recently. The 2x2 post from the old gauge was still there, so that was done. The gauge was lying on the back deck, so I just needed tools and screws. My shop is 500 feet from my house, so I got my cordless screwdriver, screws — with a couple extra in case I lost one — and the proper bit for the screw heads. I got down to the post with everything I needed, only to find out the rain gauge’s screw hole pattern was wider than the width of the 2x2 post. Details, details.
So I head back to the shop for the cordless drill and a bit so I can change the hole pattern to fit the post. The consequences weren’t too bad — just a little lost time. But think of your $35 per hour technician walking or riding around with their partner just to get a drill, screws, or other materials.
To ensure technicians end up with enough information to maximize their productivity, managers should consider these tips:
• Develop a professional planner position if your organization is large enough.
• Support a part-time planner for the tough or complex tasks and jobs.
• If you don’t have a planner, make notes before starting a job.
• Save all of your notes and task lists for the future.
• Develop tasks for jobs you repeat, such as preventive maintenance.
• Take lots of pictures.