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  • Writer's pictureMichael Gill

Part One: Planning & Scheduling Bottleneck

This is the first post in a series of Planning and Scheduling.

Within plant operations, one of the biggest bottlenecks that exists is usually within planning and scheduling. What has been coined a “necessary evil” (Nyman, Levitt (2001). Maintenance planning, scheduling, and coordination. New York, Industrial Press Inc.) has certainly turned out to be evil and is no longer viewed as necessary. This is typically a result of incomplete implementation of processes, a lack of sustainability for processes, issues within the organizational prioritization model and planning and scheduling bias. But there is also a heavy emphasis on the expectations of good planning; good planning requires time spent to recognize what needs to be done on job. This means detailed walk-downs to gain adequate knowledge of the work so that the plan covers all of the appropriate details. The downside, however, is that this is typically seen as resource intensive and maybe a waste of time by some. This is also one of the areas where mistakes are introduced; not only does safety become a factor at this point, but there are potentials for rework.

Why have organizations lost the need for good planning? If there was a proper return on investment done to show the benefits of good planning, perhaps organizations could find their way back to do it right and embrace the old saying “the right work at the right time".

Sometimes a fundamental approach needs to be taken to ensure stakeholders are convinced proper planning is needed. But what are the benefits that would impress them the most? Right off the bat we can talk about the items that have become front and centre to organizations because of regulations, which include the health, safety, and environmental factors that we all need to abide by when operating a plant. Because there has been so much emphasis on this topic, there has been a lot of attention and value put into it. So why not carry over the same emphasis on the day-to-day planning and scheduling functions? The point being made here is a work order is a work order, no matter what the intended work is for or when it is occurring, the same due diligence should be taken. We are in such a rush to produce, that we lose sight of the positive steps that should be taken to stay safe effective and efficient. If we look at the inputs and outputs of the entire operation, are we losing major value because of short-cutting? Have we taken the time to analyze the true benefits of planning and scheduling functions? This includes looking into performing the right work, as well as ensuring the work is carefully planned and executed. Imagine a world where you had full-time planning and full-time scheduling, where the work was planned perfectly and there was a schedule to support the cycles of the organization. Now we are certainly reaching when we use the term work perfection, but why not strive for it through sustainment and improvement processes?

Planning and scheduling gets interrupted when an organization is reactive, where there is no control on work prioritization. Examples of this could include

  • Work being shifted into a black hole of a backlog because someone has an emotional tie to a certain asset.

  • Work being validated as time-based or calendar-based is sometimes pushed off, increasing the risks of plant outages.

  • Work that is performed under the guise of convenience and not under an overarching plant or field plan utilizing risk and prioritization.

These types of scenarios can cause plant disruptions, injuries, environmental impacts and in some extreme instances, death.

If there is an overarching schedule, let's call it a map of execution, plant operators would then know where work is occurring and when work is to occur. This type of approach and planning methodology would help with the scheduling of heavy equipment like cranes or the installation of scaffolding, which would then in turn help with the delivery of inventory needed for work. With all of these pieces in place, leaders would then have insight into potential delays that could come up as hazards are being monitored. A well thought out, planned schedule would also allow an organization to better determine the right place for break-in work or the ability to shuffle work accordingly to include without disrupting planned and scheduled work too much. As you can see, there is a significant cost benefit to having a strong map of execution!

Planning, coordination, and scheduling provide many benefits to operations, maintenance, asset resilience, and overall production. This is a broad topic, and there's much more to discuss, we're keen to continue diving into this topic with you!

Have questions on your planning and scheduling functions? Want to learn more about how you can make your organization more resilient in this space? Reach out, a call doesn't cost a thing!

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