The Maintenance Planning role can add great value by saving time and money on the job—if the planning and preparation are done in detail!

Great maintenance planning faces three challenges: lack of time to plan; lack of work quality details; lack of communication.

A Maintenance Planner needs time to plan maintenance work details task by task, they need a planning system that saves them time, and they need to clearly communicate the job plan to the people doing the work.


Hi Mike,

What are the challenges that a Maintenance Planner needs to address?



Hello Friend,

The real challenges for Maintenance Planners, any Planning role actually, is to plan and prepare to the level of detail needed to do top quality work, so that it can be done quickly, and done right-first-time.

When there is a vast backlog of more work to get planned then Planners will always rush the planning and never bother with the details. They leave the fine points to the technicians and tradespeople doing the job. That might work most times if the people tasked with completing the work are expert in it; if they already know all the answers to the tricky problems. But rushed, uncompleted planning will cause you much trouble in future if those doing the work do not know the details of how to do the job right.

When a Planner does not provide a detailed work plan, with all the tasks specified and with the proper materials and equipment to do a job right, you should mostly expect failure and not success. It is impossible to guarantee successful maintenance work if there is no plan to follow to do the job successfully.

You need a maintenance planning business system, not just a CMMS

A computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) is not a maintenance planning ‘system’. A planning ‘system’ is the complete way that you do the planning—how you turn a maintenance request into a ready-to-go maintenance job.

It is pie-in-the-sky to expect a Planner to plan thoroughly if there is no supporting system to help them do correct and complete planning. Building an information management system for great maintenance planning success is itself a big job. But without such a system, fully populated with necessary information and details on all plant and equipment, any planning you do is not truly planning. The Planner defaults to doing what is possible. When there is no information in your ‘system’ on how to do a job right, when there is no information in your ‘system’ about the details of your plant and machinery design, the Planner turns into a paper shuffler—they start pushing sheets of paper titled ‘Work Order’ out their door into the workshop, but they have added no value by their work.

Maintenance Planning means working through the details of exactly how a job will be done

This has to be said: Maintenance Planners must put specific details of how to do the work into the work plan. Unless there is are step-by-step tasks in a work plan for the maintenance technician to follow you have no control over the work outcome. Without the specific details of what quality of work the technician must deliver in a task you have no way of knowing the work is done properly. If you count on your technician to do the job as they see fit then you are running your business totally by luck; you are hoping that all will go well but you have no way to be certain.

To develop a detailed work plan with complete and proper task-by-task content takes exact knowledge and time. The person planning the job must be able to do the job right. I did not say that it must be the Maintenance Planner who plans the job, but the planner of maintenance work must know the equipment operation, the way to disassemble and reassemble it correctly, and how to do the job safely.

If you have Maintenance Planners who do not know the engineering of their plant and equipment then you must get them expert help with the plant design and its operation. If Planners cannot plan you will turn them into paper-shufflers.

Maintenance Planners need to explain their work plan and the risk of things going wrong

Too often Maintenance Planners only attend the scheduled meetings. They only talk at the weekly and daily get-togethers with supervisors and managers. They also need to talk to the maintenance technicians doing the work that they planned for them.

Most people use the chain of command in Maintenance. They tell the crew supervisor about a work order and expect the message to get passed to the maintenance crew. But the supervisor is a busy person and they will shorten the message. This is a classic situation for ‘Chinese whispers’ to lead to trouble with incomplete information being passed to maintenance technicians.

The planner of maintenance work (which may not be the Maintenance Planner) needs to talk directly to the people doing the work. Especially on high risk jobs it is vital that Planner and Technicians go through the tasks needed to complete the work rightly and safely. The opportunity to communicate and ask questions is important for everyone involved in a job.

Give Maintenance Planners the information and details on all the engineering and work requirements of their plant and equipment in a user-friendly business ‘system’. Get Planners to put work quality controls into the job tasks so everyone knows what is the right quality. Make sure Planners tell the people doing the work what their plan is to get the job done properly. The challenges of work details, work quality control and talking to the workers are universal to all Planners. There are good answers about to them all, but you must then build them into your maintenance planning ‘system’ so they become habitual.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ


NOTE: Find out how you can do our certificated online 10 module Maintenance Planning and Scheduling training course by distance education. Read more at Online Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Training Course.

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