by Daryl Mather
All of the work of backlog management, planning and priority targeted capacity scheduling are focussed on efficient execution. To ensure that the tasks that need to be done, as per the true requirements of the plant, are done in a timely manner with as little waste of human and material resources as is possible.
These will ultimately be an exercise in futility if the processes governing execution of tasks are not developed and followed in a disciplined manner. Of all the works required to provide a sound base of planning, scheduling and execution, this is the most critical. Without enforced schedule compliance there can be no true measure of improved execution, and without effective methods for data capture future analysis will be based on incorrect, incomplete or insufficient data.
Execution is an integral part of the work order life cycle and relies on a series of processes:
- Work package preparation
- Daily Scheduling
- Data capture / Reviews
Work Package Preparation
Preparing work packages for efficient execution needs to be an integral part of the scheduling process. Accurate procedures and tips, required tooling and equipment, accurate estimates, relevant drawings and illustrations as well as safety information all need to be presented for the supervisor to assign the work to their team/s.
This can be a time consuming task and as much as possible needs to be automated. There are a number of software packages on the market designed for such a purpose.
This needs to be presented to the supervisor in a manner that is easy to use, as well as relevant. Forms can be integrated within this package to capture specific information relating to the tasks. (Eg: Durations, additional tools etc.)
Like all other aspects of the maintenance function, work package preparation requires constant feedback in order to continuously improve the information presented to work teams. For example without feedback as to the relevance or accuracy of drawings the same drawings will be called on every time the work is executed.
Once the weekly schedule has been passed to the supervisor it needs to be constantly updated to reflect changes to the operating environment. As most facilities or plants are still fighting with reactive style maintenance regimes, the probability of breakdowns and other unplanned events interrupting the daily flow of works is high.
The setting of levels for capacity scheduling needs to allow for these factors by leaving a percentage of man-hours for the rise of possible reactive works.
Daily scheduling needs to focus on:
- Unfinished works for the current day
- Planned/Scheduled works for the following days
- Changes to operations windows and accommodating these in a manner focused on priority.
Responsibility for this can sit either with the Schedulers or with the Supervisor. With the schedulers focussing on the following weeks work it is advisable for the supervisor to assume this role. However strict guides need to be set in place to facilitate this process.
For example breakdowns do not necessarily require attention, if there is redundancy built into the plant or if there is ability for operations to re-organise there works then a balance between the scheduled priorities and breakdown priority needs to be found.
Without either higher priority tasks arising, unexpected changes in labour availability or changes to operations plans there should be no reason at all to re-schedule works. Any changes need to be justified along these lines and reports put in place to measure and control this function.
The most common problem associated with execution is the Supervisor believing they are able to schedule works at their own discretion. Although they are the closest to the action and, in some cases, they may do this very well. It is not a sustainable manner for the maintenance departments to operate, neither is it focused on the systems of prioritisation and capacity scheduling that are used for delivery of the correct tasks at the correct time.
Data Capture and Reviews
This process needs to be developed to match the needs of the organisation. As much as possible the text of each completed work order should be in a standardised format. This can mean focussing on such things as:
- Failure causes per specific equipment coding
- Codes highlighting the work done
- Completion text containing further tips for execution, as well as any changes required to the work order template or planning information. This needs to cover safety areas also.
- Coding to identify any related work orders, or indication as to other work required
- Indication of the duration and man-hours taken to complete this works. (The majority of CMMS systems currently on the market will be able to perform this via timesheet functions, eliminating the need for man-hours indication at point of completion.)
All items are crucial to further improvement in the execution of tasks; they can also be vital to effective root cause analysis. Although these codes need to be highlighted at the time of CMMS implementation, they should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they are accurately fulfilling their role of providing a good base of data for future analysis.
Who enters the data?
This is an area where there is usually a lot of disagreement amongst maintenance practitioners. As the maintenance function has become more sophisticated the number of work orders has increased dramatically. This is necessary due to the focus on future analysis and improvement that the modern CMMS system has given us the capability to perform.
So who should enter the data? Some organisations use the planner / scheduler for this task, while others believe that allowing the tradesmen to do so is a form of empowerment.
I have taken the view that data entry is not a form of empowerment, nor is it a duty that the maintenance planner / scheduler should be required to perform. The sheer amount of data entry that modern CMMS systems provide requires the dedicated services of a technical clerk for maintenance. This role can also be used for many updating and data entry tasks, depending on the amount of training provided.
Use of craft employees and or planning / scheduling staff reduces the amount of time these roles can be focussed on their core functions.
A review process for ensuring the data integrity on closure of works orders could appear thus:
- Hand written works orders passed to the supervisor at completion of the days work or of the task itself
- Supervisor to review the data to ensure it accurately reflects the works done, and in sufficient detail
- Planner to review the data for the following purposes:
- Changes to planning templates (Estimates, durations, additional tips and changes to procedures, documentation or safety information)
- Review of coding for compliance with overall business objectives
- Raising of additional works orders to cover extra tasks noted by the craft workers or caused during the execution of the work
- Technical Clerk to enter the data into the corporate CMMS system
- Exception reports to be analysed by the planner / scheduler to ensure that no work order has slipped through the system.
By focussing on the areas outlined in this article, the maintenance department can move one step closer to a continuously improving environment. All of the preceding work on backlog management, planning and scheduling are focussed, primarily, on effective execution. While the data generated during execution needs to be focussed, at all times, on improvement.
Again, without the support and understanding of management, this area of the maintenance function will remain unchanged and less than optimum. Training in this process, as well as all of the codes and roles within the process, needs to be delivered regularly on a role specific basis. Neglecting this vital communication function will ensure that the system does not progress at all.