Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Planning vs Scheduling Maintenance

There are many sides to any industrial site, but two work more closely than anyone else: the "fixers" (Maintenance) and the "breakers" (Ops). More often than not, the only real problem between these departments is communication, because there is only one correct and optimum way to do things. Methods to better manage those out comes is a story for another day. Today we are going to cover a demon which I have heard a number of times in the last few years, and it is a key misunderstanding which can lead to a break down between the fixers and the breakers. "Scheduling" and "Planning" are not the same thing, but you can manage one to help the other.

Understanding resource demand in a maintenance environment is a reasonably quantifiable affair. If you understand how much preventative maintenance is required, you can keep any plant running with only strategic shutdowns aimed at optimal levels of availability, assuming nothing ever breaks. 

In an ideal world, you can even keep this plant running forever with enough redundant standby systems to cover periodic shutdowns of individual modules. Even better, such a plant would enable precise forecasting of spares, expertise and access, providing maximum return for your maintenance and operational spend. 

Wouldn't that be grand? 
Of course it rarely happens, and the cause of a failure to maintain perfect availability is usually attributed to one particular concept: unplanned maintenance. However, I've heard many professional breakers use the same term for unscheduled maintenance

What is it?
Unscheduled or reactive maintenance is not the same concept and as a result can not be managed with the same methods. Simply put, unscheduled maintenance is primarily an activity triggered by a breakdown (for example; a flat tyre) or a predefined condition identified during inspection (tyre worn beyond acceptable limits). In both of these cases, "Replace tyre" would be the likely remedial unscheduled maintenance activity. You can typically manage unscheduled maintenance by stopping the breakers from running the plant beyond it's intended function and design capability.... that's why they're called breakers.

Okay then, what is it really?
Unplanned maintenance is a maintenance activity which has not been analysed and integrated into an organisation's maintenance management system or processes. As a result, there is no PLANNED activity which would take place if a need arose through either scheduled or unscheduled maintenance.

Any maintenance activity needs to be defined by understanding and quantifying the necessary activities, resources, locations and limitations of the required task.

With proper planning, the impact of that activity can be known. There should be a Job Plan (which can have a number of names such as "Secondary Standard Job" etc.) describing the steps necessary to undertake the task, associated trades required, estimated time and spares, as well as (if you're organisation is really proactive) known safety risks.

Knowing all of these specifications contributes to faster and more efficient responses to breakdowns, and, informed decision-making in the heat of the moment. 

Planning maintenance is not just about understanding the impact of reactive maintenance though.  It also provides the information necessary to identify spares and resource requirements for longer term forecasting, which hopefully amounts to more accurate budgeting.

And finally, it provides an avenue for contingency planning. For example, if there is a shortage of supply on a particular pump component, you can calculate the specific cost impact of replacing a whole pump assembly.

Where to find Unplanned Maintenance
Predominantly, unplanned maintenance is usually the result of someone buying a piece of equipment and not informing the maintenance manager/department. These are typically auxiliary or temporary pumps or generators originally put in place to help out, but have now become part of the process.

A more disturbing trend, however, is the acquisition of new plant or facilities (yes, entire facilities!) which go from commissioning straight into service without formal planned maintenance strategies in place.

The proverbial "turn key solution". That is: turn the key and see what happens.

Why Should I Fix It
Unplanned maintenance is a time killer. Every second your maintenance team stand around talking about how to get something done, your plant may potentially be doing nothing. That's labour in $ per hour + lost production. Do you need anymore encouragement than that? 

How Do I Fix It?
This sounds obvious now but plan your maintenance! Most plant these days comes with maintenance information. Just to make sure, include OEM documentation as part of the handover phase for your new plant or equipment. 

Start with OEM maintenance requirements because although they are typically over cautious, your warranty usually depends on servicing compliance. Quantify the trade requirements, estimated time, spares and associated safety risks. 

Record this information and communicate relevant specifications to relevant departments (such as spares requirements to logistics, trade requirements to HR).

Monitor the effectiveness of your planned maintenance activities. This is best achieved through a work order style set up, where maintenance teams provide, feedback on the accuracy of your planned activities.

Continually review Maintenance schedule compliance as a Key Performance Indicator for your maintenance organisation. 

Better maintenance planning will reduce both scheduled and unscheduled maintenance downtime, meaning breakers can still hit their production targets on time without the need to run equipment beyond it's design capability. In turn, equipment is more likely to achieve inherent reliability and you get closer to that maximum return on your maintenance and operational spend.

Well, that's the plan anyway.

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