Effective maintenance planning and scheduling are critical components of a successful maintenance organization. The maintenance planning and maintenance scheduling functions serve as the logistical glue that enables maintenance to build professional working relationships with all other corporate departments and facilitate the shift from a reactive to a proactive environment.
Despite its importance, the contributions of maintenance planners and schedulers are often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of modern maintenance organizations. By recognizing the valuable roles that these individuals play and empowering them with the right tools and support, organizations can transform their maintenance processes.
Understanding the Roles of Maintenance Planners and Schedulers
Proactive maintenance strategies such as preventative maintenance and predictive maintenance rely on the coordination of many moving parts. This includes the planning and scheduling of people, tools, parts, assets, and documentation. SAP maintenance planners and schedulers are responsible for bringing it all together to orchestrate effective maintenance organizations.
The terms maintenance planning and maintenance scheduling are often used interchangeably. There are, however, some important differences between the two. According to Reliable Plant, maintenance planning defines the “what, why, and ‘how,” of maintenance processes. This involves specifying what work must be completed and the tools, material, and equipment required for the job. Maintenance planners must also justify why a specific maintenance task was chosen and the means of completing the work.
Maintenance scheduling, however, is responsible for the “when” and “who” of maintenance tasks, or the “work execution” side of maintenance. Schedulers prioritize maintenance tasks and allocate available resources. This requires collaboration with stakeholders throughout the organization to schedule maintenance tasks. For example, communicating with a production manager to schedule routine maintenance on a machine during off-peak hours.
Common Challenges that Maintenance Planners and Schedulers Face
In many organizations, the same individual may be responsible for both planning and scheduling. Given the large scope of responsibilities, it is difficult for one person to do both well. Scheduling requires frequent adjustments due to new, high priority or urgent requirements. This work takes precedence to the analysis and documentation requirements of the planner function. While they try their best to juggle these tremendous responsibilities, management can better position planners and schedulers for success by establishing each as dedicated job functions.
Often maintenance organizations are only able to handle reactive maintenance requests such as corrective and urgent breakdown work. In these situations, SAP maintenance planners and schedulers are placed under enormous stress to quickly triage situations and assign resources to effect the repairs. As a result, planners will struggle to create preventive work plans for the long term.
An ERP system like SAP is critical for maintenance planning and scheduling. Yet many organizations fail to augment SAP with automation solutions. This often results in schedulers and planners spending a good portion of their days performing manual data entry tasks. Planning with SAP PM requires preparing each individual work order for scheduling with details such as assigning the right technician, estimating time to complete, and checking parts availability. Scheduling requires downloading the work orders from SAP and arranging the schedule, then individually update each work order in SAP PM before it is dispatched to the technicians.
As a result of the tedious data entry requirements, many organizations underutilize SAP, resulting in incomplete and poor data quality. Without access to good data, SAP maintenance planners and schedulers and their organizations can struggle to make informed decisions, including robust preventive maintenance plans.
The Benefits of Effective SAP Maintenance Planners and Schedulers
Good planners and schedulers can yield significant benefits for their organizations. According to Doc Palmer, the author of McGraw-Hill’s Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook, the benefit of good planning and scheduling can result in a 57% improvement in wrench time and up to 90% schedule compliance. Additional benefits:
- Increased productivity. Technician resources are allocated efficiently boosting wrench time allowing for more tasks to get accomplished such as preventive work. The increase in preventive work will lead to higher asset reliability and less downtime in the long run.
- Reduced costs. The right quantity of parts and materials are ordered, leading to lower spare part inventories and waste.
- Improved safety and compliance. Maintenance planners and schedulers ensure that necessary maintenance tasks are performed and safety procedures are followed. This keeps equipment in safe working order and reduces the occurrence of accidents.
- Provide accurate forecasting. Good maintenance planners can provide solid budget and time estimates. Management knows what to expect and can make informed decisions.
- Improved job satisfaction. Effective SAP maintenance planners and schedulers improve the efficiency of workflows throughout the organization. Employees experience less stress, enjoy their jobs more, and stay with employers longer.
Empowering SAP Maintenance Planners and Schedulers
Maintenance planners and schedulers offer invaluable contributions. But with the right support and tools, they can work more efficiently and elevate the entire organization.
Establish Each As a Dedicated Job Function
A maintenance planner can handle both planning for work and scheduling work but it is difficult to do both well, particularly within larger organizations. If an individual focuses his or her time on one function, then the other one suffers. Without adequate planning, an organization will struggle to implement a proactive maintenance strategy. Technicians will lack the information, tools, and parts that they need to complete maintenance tasks the first time. And preventative maintenance tasks will be put on the backburner to address more urgent issues such as re-scheduling to address breakdowns.
For these reasons, organizations should establish separate jobs for SAP maintenance planners and schedulers. It is also important to ensure that maintenance planners are not expected to also do maintenance tasks. Like the scheduler function, technicians must focus on responding to high-priority, urgent needs which would take precedence over planning work.
Provide Maintenance Planners and Schedulers with Access to Quality Data
To optimize maintenance planning and scheduling processes, stakeholders need access to reliable data and performance metrics. For instance, Planned vs. Actual (PvA) is a measure of how long a maintenance task should take versus how long it actually takes. Planners rely on this data to allocate time to work orders. If a job takes twice as long as the amount of time allocated in the technician’s schedule, then the organization will experience bottlenecks and inefficiencies in its workflows.
This data comes from effectively keeping SAP data accurate, complete and up-to-date. Replacing paper-based work orders with mobile devices for technicians improves data capture significantly. Mobile app drop-down menus replace handwritten notes on work orders to be entered manually back into SAP. The result is greater consistency in data to support effective analysis of the root cause of failures or the actual time to complete a task giving planners the information to create better plans.
Maintain Detailed Databases
In addition to ensuring that data is accurate and complete, it is important to collect and maintain the types of data that planners and schedulers need to perform their jobs. This includes:
- Equipment repair history. Equipment history data provide actionable insights to plan preventive maintenance tasks such as determining the right frequency to change fluids or replace worn parts.
- Technician skills and availability. This data helps ensure that the right technicians are assigned to the right jobs and that technician work hours are maximized.
- Parts inventory and vendor turnaround time. With this information, SAP maintenance planners can make sure that the right parts are available while minimizing the purchase and storage of excess parts.
- Production schedules and equipment availability. Schedulers use this data to minimize downtime and disruptions to production processes when scheduling preventive tasks.
Provide the Tools That They Need to Succeed
Manual planning and scheduling tasks are inefficient and eat away at the valuable time that planners and schedulers can spend performing higher-value tasks. With the right technologies, organizations can automate repetitive tasks. For example, a planning and scheduling solution for SAP can automatically check technician, parts and equipment availability from the detailed databases to create a baseline schedule. This frees up time for the planners and schedulers to refine the work plan and then submit the changes to be automatically uploaded back into SAP.
Adding it Up
SAP maintenance planners and schedulers play incredibly important roles that often go unnoticed. They are often forced to wear many hats, respond to emergencies, complete repetitive and time-consuming tasks, and lack access to reliable data. Effective planners and schedulers benefit their organizations in many ways. They can help boost productivity, reduce costs, improve safety and compliance, provide accurate forecasting, and improve job satisfaction across operations.
Organizations can support and empower SAP maintenance planners and schedulers in a variety of ways. For example, by clearly distinguishing the two functions, giving them access to accurate and complete data, maintaining detailed databases, and adopting technologies that automate repetitive tasks and streamline workflows.
How Sigga Can Help
Sigga has twenty years of experience in SAP, asset management, and industrial maintenance solutions. Our Planning and Scheduling solution integrates seamlessly with SAP, providing planners and schedulers with access to complete and reliable data in real-time. Key features include:
- Detailed databases. Maintain data to augment work order details from SAP to effectively plan and schedule work orders including technician skills, technician availability beyond work shift, parts inventory and turnaround time from vendors, equipment availability agreements with production and more.
- Automation. Sigga’s advanced scheduling algorithm creates schedules from SAP and detailed databases allowing the scheduler to simply evaluate the result, align with stakeholders and finalize the schedule.
- Mass updates to SAP. Maintenance schedules can be easily adjusted and loaded into SAP with mass updates without the need to update each work order manually.
- Dispatch. Keep data digital through the end-to-end maintenance processes by simply dispatching work orders for execution with Sigga’s integrated Mobile EAM solution.
As a result, organizations have been able to reduce the time to create schedules to materially free up planners' and schedulers' time to bring more value to their organization. Hear how one company, Ingredion, was able to cut planning and scheduling workload from 2 days to 2 hours in this Sigga webinar, Planning and Scheduling: A Strategic Approach.
Read more about Sigga Solutions and how we can empower your planners and schedulers for success.