Build a maintenance schedule in six steps

Manufacturers should build a weekly maintenance schedule that addresses potential conflicts and address overdue preventive maintenance (PM) tasks.

By Jeff Shiver, People and Processes April 5, 2017

Struggling to put together a complete weekly schedule? It may surprise you, but you’re not alone. Although the processes of work execution (preventive and predictive programs, planning, scheduling, coordination, storeroom and production partnerships) are foundational, many groups struggle to put it all together well. Without this foundation, more advanced concepts fizzle out quickly. Frustration ensues.

There are many pieces that need to be aligned to complete the entire work execution puzzle. To start, let’s focus on developing the weekly maintenance schedule. There are six basic steps that you should address to move things forward.

1. Quantify the maintenance backlog

The backlog represents a comprehensive list of all work yet to be completed. It may include overdue preventive maintenance (PM) tasks, corrective actions, safety items and so on. Overdue PM tasks in the backlog highlight problems in your work processes. Determine if the work is complete. If the tasks and frequencies are valid and not done, then we can expect failures as well as a reactive state with equipment availability.

Backlogged work orders should not have birthdays of the annual sort. If it’s been on the list for a year, most likely it is not important. Remove unnecessary work orders from the backlog. Now, place labor estimates on the work in the backlog. You need these hours to determine the how many crew weeks of backlog exist. The backlog metric should be trended at least monthly based on the hours, not the number of work orders.

2. Determine your ability to accomplish maintenance work

At the end of the day, the goal is to schedule more work. To do this you need to understand the available crew size for each week. Personally, I prefer the maintenance supervisor to work with the maintenance planner scheduler to provide those estimated available hours at least two weeks out.

Things may change—people take a vacation, get sick, have family emergencies—but you need a starting place. Maybe you’re too reactive and don’t believe you have the resources to schedule 100% of the available hours. So start with 60%. Just start.

3. Find windows for maintenance work

The planner scheduler role knows the maintenance backlog. As such, those individuals should be looking for and negotiating for maintenance work windows. This effort requires working with production or operations and planning in partnership. Some organizations have a production gatekeeper to help move things along. There are lots of windows for work that are often overlooked.

4. Build the draft maintenance schedule

Now we should understand the PMs that are triggering each week at least two weeks in advance. Future work has received some level of maintenance planning. We’ve identified the maintenance backlog. We know our estimated hours available for work. We understand the production windows. Time to build the schedule for next week.

Assuming a Sunday to Saturday schedule, this should be completed by Tuesday of the week prior. Ultimately, we want to get at least two weeks ahead, but start somewhere. Knowing available equipment windows, we can place that work on those days or windows. Once built, email the draft to the stakeholders, including production managers and supervisors. Ask for people to come with changes before the weekly scheduling meeting so those changes can be integrated early.

5. The weekly maintenance scheduling meeting

This meeting should be on late Thursday or early Friday so that the meeting time is close to the start of the schedule period. Fewer changes occur that way. Keep in mind it’s not a planning meeting but a scheduling meeting to confirm next week’s work as a minimum, along with any special coordination activities.

The planning part should have happened long before this meeting to ensure parts and time to plan. There are two main components for this meeting: next week’s schedule and a review of the previous week’s metrics. Part of the metrics review must include schedule breakers that prevented you from accomplishing the schedule. Keep it short and sweet.

6. What gets measured, gets done

While the metrics discussion is a longer subject in itself, make sure you have a progression plan using measures for continuous improvement.

Jeff Shiver, CMRP, is a founder of People and Processes, a consulting and training group.