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Maintenance planning and scheduling

March 12, 2010

I went past my local bicycle shop last week (I needed a new seat post and got a fine aluminium one) and saw this work scheduling solution on the wall.  It got me thinking that some of the concepts that we work with in enterprise wide workforce management solution are being addressed in the St Kilda Cycles workshop (the St Kilda Cycles Solution – SKCS) – and also that a clear view of the business requirements is critical in determining the right solution to workforce scheduling problems. 

It’s become a bit of a bug-bear of mine over the last year – and I’m sure to blog about this in the future so here are some terms of reference.  I’ve been in far too many meetings and workshops where there is an amazing amount of confusion on the basics of work planning and scheduling.  The meetings I’m in are usually at a fairly high level and people from across the organisation get invited, everyone attending understands what their role is in the planning and scheduling of work but as soon as the teams are combined to discuss an enterprise wide view of this it all collapses into a debate on terminology and misunderstood timeframes.  In this blog  on maintenance planning and scheduling I’ll talk about one of the most important aspect of this: TIMEFRAMES.  


  • The long-term is far enough into the future to be able to change any of the factors which could cause a constraint when we get there.  For maintenance planning this could mean increasing the number of people you employ, changing the types of machinery you use, outsourcing some of your maintenance, preparing for corporate strategic objectives or legislated requirements or any other of a number of factors which usually have a long lead time.  Generally this is more than  two years into the future and in the case of public sector (electricity generation, infrastructure, dams and roads can go out to 30 years).  A company would usually use Strategy Management or Project and Portfolio Management tools to manage long-term maintenance, shutdown and project requirements.


  • Medium term – this is little self-defining: the medium term is between the long and short-term!  That said there are some features to look for in deciding whether or not you are planning for the medium term.  You’ll ask questions like: is this within the current budget cycle?  If yes then you are probably in the medium term.  Are you able to change any of the constraints? If you can change only some of them then probably in the medium term.  As an example, in the medium term you probably couldn’t change the size of your workforce, you wouldn’t be able to change the equipment you’re working on but you would be able to change the planned dates and probably also change any dependant activities to optimise the plan around other constraints.  The medium term is usually between a month or 2 and a year or two into the future.   Any maintenance reliability initiatives would be executed with a medium-term view and the results fed into the short-term plans.  Project managers would develop detailed planning on projects that have been approved in the long-term plan.  Detailed planning for shutdowns will also be performed.  Maintenance budgets would be created based on historical or zer0-based budgeting principles and work orders will be generated to support this budget.


  • Short term – In the short-term most, if not all, of the constraints are fixed.  Your work force is fixed (although you may have a sub-contractor workforce which could take up any slack).  The dates and dependant activities are fixed.  The spare parts and special tool requirements are fixed, in the short-term it’s probably too late to order longer lead time spares or book job specific tools.  The short-term looks at anything from a day or two to a month or two into the future.  Where we’re doing work on ‘fleet’ type of assets we should, at this stage, known the exact day the machine (Backhoe Loader, Train or even Bicycle!)  will be coming into the workshop.   All materials and spare parts needed to execute the work orders and projects would have been ordered, or at least the requirement with a delivery date would have been defined so that the Material Requirements Planning can pick these requirements and create purchase orders for the materials.  Sub-contractors would have been advised of the work requirements.  Work will be allocated to specific people and qualifications will be checked.  The “St Kilda Cycles Solution (SKCS)” covers the short term – the workshop manager has created ‘work orders’ – he know what needs to be done, he can order in parts and make sure that not too many bike mechanics are needed on a Monday! Sure it’s not a high tech bit of scheduling and optimising software but at the cost of a piece of board and a few pegs it probably works just fine. 


  • Immediate – this is an important category in maintenance planning and scheduling, this is where the scheduler responds to what is happening here and now.  It’s at this stage that the planning (or lack of it) has been done.  It’s how the scheduler responds to events as they happen; it’s entirely reactive with the scheduler only able to respond to events as best she can.   To be able to respond to these events as effectively as possible the scheduler needs access to real-time information such as who is the closest alternate technician, which warehouse has the part available,  are other jobs are going to slip because of unplanned events and  which jobs can we let slip and which ones do we absolutely have to get done?  Immediate is from now to a few days into the future.  The value in a software solution covering this timeframe is  the ability to see demand coming in from the short-term time frame and also in being able to track all the constraints (the things we can’t change at this stage) and optimise the allocation of demand to resources based on these constraints.

As you build up an enterprise view of your maintenance planning and scheduling process it’s important to contextualise the discussions you’re having – and allocating the activities within a process to one of the timeframes above is a good way to do this.   A good solution will be able to track the initial requirement, through each of these timeframes, as it gets approved, executed and completed. 




From → EAM

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