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4 Ways to Optimize Your Maintenance Planning


Maintenance planning is the secret ingredient that takes your overall approach to maintenance from patching holes while the boat is sinking to running circles around your competitors. The goal of planning is to tamp down equipment downtime and labor costs for maintenance work from the perspective of people, place, time and tools. This process involves identifying the parts and tools necessary for routine maintenance work, making sure they’re available and located in the right place, and preparing job plans with sufficient instructions on how the work order should be completed. 

Consequently, even if you’re still in the phase of doing “firefighting” reactive maintenance instead of proactive maintenance, you can use maintenance planning to optimize labor hours —  increasing wrench-on time by determining maintenance scheduling at least one or two weeks in advance.

Here are four steps you can take for effective maintenance planning. 

1. Make a job plan

A job plan contains a set of instructions and specifications for how a routine maintenance task should be done. It should include metadata like number of technicians required, job duration, a list of tools and equipment needed to complete the job, as well as any files or notes left by people who have completed the job in the past. If the job requires welding, how many welders are needed? How many assistants does the engineer require? 

Outlining a thorough job plan allows maintenance planners to focus on key “housekeeping” activities to ensure jobs run smoothly, such as:

  • Ordering non-stock parts
  • Staging parts
  • Managing breakdowns and vendor lists
  • Quality assurance

2. Create weekly schedules

Weekly schedules enable your maintenance workers to focus on top-priority work orders without having to worry about the backlog. Make sure to assign work plans for 100 percent of available labor hours to prevent over- and under-scheduling. 

Even with the right planning and organization, s**t happens sometimes. Define ahead of time what constitutes emergency work and document a process for how to prioritize and handle non-urgent work vs. emergency work. In general, it’s best to postpone a job that hasn’t been started than to interrupt one that is currently in progress. Creating different types of maintenance plans for various scenarios means you’ll know what to do if disaster hits. 

3. Focus on future work

Plan ahead as far as you reasonably can. For a large enterprise, this could mean running maintenance scheduling 12 weeks in advance, especially in anticipation of major scheduled downtime (also known as “shutdown maintenance planning”). For a smaller business, a one or two-week frontlog is sufficient. Long-range maintenance planning allows crews to work primarily on planned work instead of reactive work, thereby increasing wrench-on time and labor efficiency. 

The more data you have, the more accurately you can plan ahead. Provide feedback to the planner after each job is completed so they can improve their estimates of labor hours and costs for future work. The best way for a maintenance planner to self-evaluate is to put some meaningful KPIs in place, such as:

  • Task duration
  • Materials/quantity of materials
  • Labor requirements (are you overstaffing or understaffing?)
  • Unanticipated requirements (eg: scaffolding, extra labor, cranes, etc.) 

4. Understand your logs

Your backlogs are instrumental to maintenance planning, because you can’t forge ahead with new maintenance work until you’ve handled your backlog. The backlog refers to any work that has an execution date prior to today’s date, which can occur for two reasons: either the work wasn’t completed before its scheduled date, or there’s a cost settlement issue preventing the closure of the work order. Maintenance management software can help you keep track of your backlog by assigning different priority levels to unfinished tasks. 

This list needs to be monitored regularly to ensure backlogged work is rescheduled accordingly. While some backlog is unavoidable, try to keep it as small as possible. 

How to Learn More

With so many CMMS options available, you’ll want to find the right maintenance solution that pays for itself, makes life easier for your maintenance team, and helps you stay on task and on budget. Watch our demo videos to see MicroMain’s CMMS software in action.