Who Is This Maintenance Planner Person and Why Do We Need One?

Since we have discussed the details of an efficient maintenance job planning process, let’s talk about what the profile of a planner looks like.

First things first – the maintenance planner needs to be a central figure. Also, the size of an organization plays a part in a planner’s daily tasks.

In small organizations, the planner might take on additional responsibilities. For example, that person might also be the scheduler and/or the material coordinator.

In large organizations, however, these three roles would be separated into:

  1. Planner
  2. Scheduler, and
  3. Materials coordinator

This structure is also based on the skill sets available within the organization. Sometimes you have the people you need in-house and sometimes you need to hire to fill the role(s).

A good rule of thumb here is to have one planner for every 20 maintenance team members.

So where does the planner’s role fit within the organization anyway? The short answer is that you need to determine this based on your organization.

You also need to figure out who establishes and administers the planning program. These are details that will have an impact on your organization and if you don’t think through this, you might find yourself in a situation where things are chronically failing.

One thing you should absolutely make sure of is that the planner reports to a member of the maintenance team who is at least one level above a supervisor.

The planner should not report to the crew he or she is planning for. This avoids the planner being assigned a tool box.

Another important piece to consider is that the planner should know the equipment for which they are creating job plans. They should be a trusted advisor to others who will be doing the work.

Think about the last time you received directions from someone who wasn’t fully aware of the topic.

For example, my wife was giving me a ride to the airport the other day in the rain. She was driving a new car that she had not driven in the rain before. She tried to turn on the wipers and the wiper in the back came on. She asked me how to turn it off and I started telling how to operate the wipers based on our other car… Well, that didn’t work, so I had to break out the manual and figure out how to turn off the back wiper.  

To Plan or Not to Plan – That Is the Question

Now you understand the organizational structure in terms of where the planner fits in. Next, let’s talk about what work orders should be planned, and what ones shouldn’t.

The way you consider your planner’s duties based on your organization’s size is how your planner should think about the size of the job. Planners want to make sure they do enough planning without wasting time over-planning a job.

You have to be careful, though, because planners can slip into thinking that the smaller the job, the less planning is required. This can lead to under-planning certain jobs.

Even a 1-hour job can have missing pieces if under-planned, and this leads to lost time and productivity. Remember: all work orders can benefit from some planning.

When you are starting to plan out jobs, think about the time you anticipate the job will take. So set a cutoff point for 2, 4, or 8-hour jobs. Small jobs, such as changing out one fluorescent light shouldn’t be planned, while you would want a plan if you were upgrading all the lights in the building.

It can be tough to plan every job when you first start thinking about them, but as your reference files grow, you will be able to plan more jobs. Then, by planning more jobs, you will be able to lower the cutoff point. Practice makes perfect, right? As long as you are practicing the right steps.

And by using your planning skills, you will continue to avoid unscheduled and/or emergency work. Staying on top of scheduled maintenance keeps everything running smoothly.

You also want to keep the emergency and urgent work planning from falling to your supervisor. They should help on occasion, but preventing unscheduled work by being proactive is a much better situation to be in.

If you need help with planning coverage, then you should loop in your supervisor and technicians. Ideally, your goal should be to have 80% of all maintenance hours planned and your technicians should understand that planning the jobs out is not an affront to their abilities.

Find That Happy Maintenance Planning Balance

How much planning is enough planning?

Here, you have to think about balance. When beginning your planning role, there will be times where you over plan and times when you under plan. It happens and there is always a learning curve in a new role.

I have heard from others and agree: there is no perfect plan. W. Edwards Deming developed the plan-do-check-act process for a reason. All job plans should be reviewed on a continuous basis and improved based on feedback from the technicians.

As your planning skills grow and mature, your planning will become more thorough. The same thing goes for your reference libraries—as they grow, the planning workload will decrease.

Determining how much planning you will need for each job is also based on whether the job is a one-time job or a repetitive job. You need to plan repetitive jobs more thoroughly to ensure smooth sailing on all ends.

One-time jobs differ because you need to plan them to a justified level of completeness. With all planning, make sure you fine tune your understanding of when to stop.

Who Is Responsible for Maintenance Planning?

Finally, let’s talk about what you really want to know. Who should be in charge of the planning?

In your ideal scenario, the planner role encompasses a lot of unique skills. This person is not necessarily someone who trained to be a planner, but is a professional with a broad skill set.

  • The planner must be able to reach across organizational boundaries, working with a variety of roles within the organization, and focusing exclusively on planning.
  • This person should have a better coordination of priorities, manpower loading and management reporting.
  • He or she should also make sure that only one planning process exists and continue to increase the planning efficiency for the entire organization.
The planner should be seen as a trusted advisor.

That being said, technicians still have a role within the job planning process. Jobs that aren’t planned (because they might be too small for the planner to invest time in) should be spearheaded by technicians.

It’s also important for technicians to understand planning basics and use them when necessary. Technicians are also great partners to the planner(s).

They provide specific knowledge that the planner needs to effectively plan out the jobs, and if the planner is bogged down with multiple jobs, the technician becomes a temporary planning assistant.

In this role, the technician:

  • Increases the planning capacity
  • Reduces the planning backlog
  • Gains perspective on the planning process and the benefits of planning
  • Shares their knowledge which helps keep the planner current

Looking for more of these valuable planning and scheduling tips? Download our free, detailed white paper on maintenance planning and scheduling best practices.