Maintenance planners are responsible for coordinating all plannable maintenance work on their premises. There are hundreds of small tasks that need to be done to keep machinery and equipment in operating condition, especially for asset-intensive organizations such as manufacturers.
Maintenance planners coordinate maintenance personnel and available resources while ensuring jobs get done on time. In other words, they create and assign work orders for maintenance tasks and ensure the right resources are available (eg: parts and inventory) to get the job done. As such, planners are key to having an efficient asset management program.
They must establish strong relationships between key functions in the organization to avoid departmental silos, communication barriers, and increased downtime. Their goal is to reduce maintenance costs, minimize the maintenance backlog, extend asset life cycle, and increase output.
What Responsibilities Does a Maintenance Planner Have?
1. Create maintenance schedules and generate work orders
2. Maintain parts inventory
3. Create procedural manuals that explain how to do certain tasks
4. Estimate costs of labor and parts for industrial equipment
5. Adjust schedules to account for unexpected emergency work
6. Assist and support maintenance manager
7. Serve as a liaison between maintenance and operations
8. Maintain records and files essential to maintenance management
9. Coordinate with maintenance staff, contractors, and external vendors
10. Prepare preventive maintenance plans that are aligned with the organization’s maintenance goals
Maintenance managers often also lead communication between maintenance and other internal departments to ensure that everyone receives timely, efficient, and quality service. Unofficially, they must also resolve disputes between different departments. For example, say maintenance and production disagree about the urgency of a particular maintenance task. Maintenance wants to shut down a production line to do emergency maintenance while production says no way because they have a quota to meet. Part of the maintenance planner’s job is to communicate with the different departments involved and to come up with acceptable solution to the problem at hand.
What Makes a Good Maintenance Planner?
A good maintenance planner is so much more than just a scheduler. Their job is to advocate for the maintenance department, keep their employees happy, and enforce the maintenance schedule. However, they must also be adept at changing direction when emergencies arise.
Here are some essential skills that a good maintenance planner should have.
Strong communication – Strong verbal and written communication skills are essential for any good maintenance planner. Writing detailed work orders and manuals to explain complex processes is essential to maintaining safety standards in the workplace. Failure to do so can cause delays or even result in a technician missing vital safety information and risking injury.
Project management – Maintenance planners must schedule maintenance work so as not to interfere with operations or production activities. They must also use their best judgment to triage work orders in the event of an emergency or maintenance backlog. What’s more, their responsibility is to coordinate and oversee all maintenance tasks from start to finish.
Problem solving – Dealing with unexpected contingencies is commonplace in maintenance management. Solving disputes, reconciling competing objectives between internal teams, and creating emergency response plans requires the ability to think on the fly and come up with solutions.
Organization – As the person responsible for enforcing organization and timeliness with respect to maintenance tasks, maintenance planners must have extraordinary organizational skills. This means meticulously documenting maintenance tasks, assigning work orders to the right technicians, maintaining the budget, and continuously updating information in the CMMS.
Strong understanding of mechanical and engineering concepts – While maintenance planners in large organizations won’t be charged with doing maintenance tasks themselves, they must understand the job well enough to describe what needs to be done and to estimate labor hours, tools, and resources needed to complete different work orders. Prior experience as a technician or maintenance supervisor can help. They also must understand the organization’s maintenance goals and how they align with core business requirements. For example, what constitutes good OEE in the industry? Some unscheduled downtime is inevitable, but how much is too much?
Goals of the Maintenance Planner
The goal of the maintenance planner is to improve workforce productivity and quality by anticipating and eliminating potential delays. They do this by planning and coordinating labor, parts and materials, and equipment access. They know tasks well enough to describe what needs to be done and estimate the required number of labor hours. Some other specific goals on maintenance planners include the following.
- Minimize the use of contract and outside resources by effectively using internal labor
- Maximize technician wrench-on time while minimizing the maintenance backlog
- Ensuring maintenance activities interfere as minimally as possible with operations and production activities
- Reducing unscheduled downtime by using preventive maintenance
Important Tools for Maintenance Planners
To fulfill their growing list of responsibilities, maintenance planners need to have access to numerous tools and software solutions. Below is a look at some of the most important ones.
CMMS software helps make receiving work requests, creating preventive maintenance schedules, and assigning work orders to available technicians a breeze. A CMMS also enables maintenance planners to track inventory using cycle counts and provides a central repository for storing important documentation.
Shift Planning Software
Shift planning software is essential to effective workforce management. Scheduling software offers calendars that automatically update according to which workers are present or absent on a particular day and makes it easier for maintenance planners to calculate labor costs for a given shift. It also gives workers more predictability around their work schedules.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
ERP software integrates all the above software applications and makes it easy to reconcile inventory, labor, sales, marketing, and finance in one place. Maintenance planners may use ERP software to link maintenance data with other relational databases. This is what enables businesses to infer relationships between, say, the amount of downtime experienced during a fiscal year and revenue earned.
Who Needs a Maintenance Planner?
Large asset-intensive organizations, such as manufacturing plants definitely need a maintenance planner. Without one, preventive maintenance tasks are more prone to delay, which leads to an increase in equipment failures and a backlog of maintenance tasks. A good rule of thumb is to have one maintenance planner for every 20 maintenance team members. In a small company, the planner might take on additional responsibilities such as scheduler, materials coordinator, or procurements. In large organizations, these three roles would be separated into planner, scheduler, and materials coordinator.
For organizations that already have a backlog, maintenance planners help prioritize work orders in the backlog based on maintenance costs, available resources, and asset criticality. This helps the organization move from a costly reactive maintenance environment to one that is proactive, which saves the organization money in the long run.
Maintenance planners are often found at manufacturing plants in enterprise companies where planning maintenance work is a full-time job. They work closely with maintenance technicians and supervisors. In smaller companies, maintenance planning is overseen by maintenance managers or maintenance supervisors. As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected employment growth rate for general maintenance and repair workers is expected to be 6 percent through 2024.