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- Monday, August 8, 2011

A Structure of an Effective Planner

Steve Bates

Reliability Excellence / Process Improvement Deployment Lead at Cargill
Liverpool, United Kingdom

Steve raised a question in our Linked in Group (Maintenance Planner/Schedulers)

This was his question:
Does an effective planner have a structure to thier day to day routine? If so can you share this with me? (Discussion Link)

Here are selected answers from Group Members:

Mohamed Ally

First write down every thing you can think of that you do as a planner ( Functional work, reports runs, meetings training etc etc. )
Next sort out into diff. catorgories
Sort in the following order time / day / week and Month for every thing
Type on an A4 paper using a matrix system
Laminate and keep under your keyboard.
Benifits you as a reminder and a focusing compass
Benifits the person that stands in for you from time to time

There should be level of routine, but it's somewhat dependent on the day. For example, on Monday's when the Planner comes in the focus might be the draft development of the schedule for next week and getting that out to the various stakeholders for review before the Scheduling meeting on Wednesday as an example. Most other mornings would start with an initial scan of the WO system to determine what is in the Awaiting Planning queue that requires research. Based on the need to create the job plans, I would go to the field to review the jobs. Then, I would return to my desk to develop the job plans and work packages. As part of that, I would need to research the materials required and get those ordered either via requisition or stock purchase. Wednesday midday might be slotted for the Scheduling meeting and I would need to do so prep prior to and follow up after. Hopefully, my managers don't have me attending the daily production or coordination meeting as that should fall to the front-line supervisors to address. Sometime before Friday midday, I've got to make any final schedule adjustments before we lock next weeks schedule. At this point, any addition items for next week are now the responsibility of the Supervisor. Each site has it's own unique characteristics that will affect the order.

I think it would depend on the way the planners job is structured at your facility. I have seen planners become glorified stockroom attendants and defacto buyers, and they are driven by the needs of the stockroom, and spend most of their time chasing parts. Other times I have seen them totally seperated from the day to day emergencies, and do nothing but work on job plans, and concentrating on future work. Others take the place of maintenance supervisors, and almost run the department. 
It will all depend on the structure. Those concentrating on the job plans would be able to structure their days far more than someone dealing with the everyday emergencies that come up in a maintenance department. Those that are supervisors in all but name will have a very difficult time structuring their time, since they are going to be driven by the needs of the moment. 
The challenge is to get the equipment to the point to where it operates in a reliable fashion so that you can plan the work, and not be driven by the failures.

I would probably start looking at the groundwork that needs to be laid down first so that your planners have the chance to develop a (good) routine. To me, the focus first needs to be divorcing (and I say divorcing, as sometimes it is a pretty harsh process for Supervisors who have usually become dependent to having the planners as overglorified secretaries) the Planners from the Supervisors (& in cases the Maintenance Superintendent) and defining roles, responsabilities & expectations of each function within the maintenance department. The organisation structure may need to be reviewed and restructured so that the planners report definitively to a higher authority, and not to the supervisors as has been tradition. 
The limits of these roles will need to be clearly defined and initially constantly enforced by management, and your planners will need to have the strength of will to say no to the Supervisors when asked. 
The roles of each position will vary widely and depend heavily on whether you are using an advanced CMMS (Ellipse, SAP, Oracle etc), a site specific CMMS or a paper based system. Depending on the commitment & motivation of your planners any of these systems will all work just as well but there is more cost control & reporting capability with a CMMS. Once that has been done planning periods need to be defined (are you a 24/7 or 12/5 operation?), reporting & forecasting requirements need to be determined. You also need to look at your planning staff critically; are they there because they can plan & schedule, or are they there because there is no other place for them (to put it harshly: sick/lame/lazy)? I like to think that in most cases they are there because they have the capability to plan & showed capacity for organising their work habits efficiently when they were on the shopfloor and just need to be given the chance. 
The planners workloads will need to be examined; there are various given ratios (planners/manhours, planners/trade group) for both fixed plant & mobile; in the case of mobile equipment there should also be a limit by planner/ "n" machines, though at present there hasn't been a "weather-eye rule" developed yet due to the variables (parts availabilities, reliability, trade skill levels, electric/mechanical drives, etc). This is something where currently there is no real rule. A planner could have 30 trucks of the same model and manage them without an issue. Alternately, a planner that has 30 different machines of different sizes & complexities (trucks, loaders, dozers, shovels, graders etc) on a 24/7 operation will probably need either a scheduler or a second planner to assist. 
As I'm writing a small novel here I'll cut off at this point, but in summary you need to start right at the very start and examine everything critically before looking at the daily routine. 
Both Lorne & Steven are right in recommending Doc's book, it is a very helpful guide & refresher. 
I would also strongly recommend Daryl Mathers (of the "Maintenance Scorecard" fame) work; I had the opportunity to work with his father Ron for a while, so I know that he has a very strong background in Planning & Reliability.

We have gone to Centralized Planning to get the planners out of the day to day Break-in/Emergency work, and let the supervisors do their work 
The planners still have to follow up and know what is the key issues that is causing grief, however, if the work is to be done "NOW", its on the supervisors plate, not the planner. 
The Planner must format his routine days to plan work and generate work packages for two weeks or more out to get quality tool time for the craftsmen and reliability for the equipment. 
I agree with the discussion noted above, to plan your day to day routine schedule by your companys job description/planners duties and attempt to stick by it. You will have obsticles from time to time however refocus on what the main objectives are when possible. 
If emergency and reactive work continues to haunt you, push harder on the PM/PdM Work Packages that you are generating.

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