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There is No Such Thing as a Perfect Scheduled Maintenance Plan

The following is adapted from Simplifying Mining Maintenance.

I’ve worked in mines for over three decades. When I was a planner, each week we discussed jobs that were scheduled but for some reason did not get completed.

We were targeting 90% schedule completion. The supervisor would often blame planning (me) when jobs could not be completed. I questioned the supervisor and held him accountable for executing the plan. After we discussed it, though, most of the blame would come back on me. I didn’t feel good causing problems for the supervisor.

I eventually realised that there is no perfect plan.

Planning is about continuous feedback and improvement. Every time the fault came to me, I put in place a solution to that problem so it wouldn’t happen again, and I would communicate with the supervisors so they would understand what I had done.  

As a planner, I learned the importance of over-communicating.

For example, we often experienced delays during scheduled service days due to other teams trying to work in the same area. To address this, I introduced GANTT charts for our scheduled service days showing what job had to be done at what time.

I also used a color-coded system to show critical requirements, such as when power would be turned off for the high-voltage electrical inspections.

Despite this detail, I continued to find mechanical jobs that were not completed because the power was turned off. At our weekly meeting, I would ask, “How did this occur? Did they follow the GANTT chart?” The response I got was, “What’s a GANTT chart?”

This is why I say it is crucial to communicate more than you think is necessary so everyone understands the details. There is no perfect plan, but with good communication between the planner and supervisor the plan can improve and become very good.

If you want to know how to kill planning and scheduling, it’s a two-step process. The first step is to believe that there is a perfect plan. The second step is to link planning and scheduling performance metrics to people’s pay packets. This second step ensures all metrics will be met, but it doesn’t necessarily improve planning and scheduling.

Schedule compliance metrics show how long the equipment was down compared to the schedule downtime. Schedule completion metrics indicate how much work was completed compared to the schedule. You need to use these metrics as indicators of performance.

When schedule compliance and completion metrics are not meeting targets, you must find and correct the real reasons for the delays. But when schedule compliance and completion metrics are linked to people’s pay packets, you find that the metrics are met but the maintenance is not efficient. It is common to see work orders opened and closed, just to indicate to the KPI system that the work got done. However, it is easy to achieve good metrics by eliminating the real problems experienced during scheduled downtime events and this drives real improvement in maintenance efficiency.

Planners who believe plans should be flawless will assume all failures are their fault and will attempt to fix it themselves immediately. However, planners should be planning for the future, not working on problems in the present. When supervisors experience problems during scheduled downtime, they must solve it themselves. There still must be at least a weekly improvement cycle where supervisors and planners discuss these problems and implement actions or mutual agreements to address them.

Planners and supervisors must discuss detailed reasons for the delays. I prefer to discuss these problems every day while they are fresh in everyone’s mind. It’s hard to remember what you did two days ago, let alone a week before. However, if people must follow a weekly review schedule, a maintenance-delay analysis can help them capture what occurred so the team can implement effective solutions to avoid future problems.

When I was a planner, the supervisor and I agreed that my role was to plan for the future scheduled period, not work in the current one. The supervisor would deal with whatever problems came up this week. This sort of working agreement is a crucial part of an effective team.

For more advice on creating effective (not perfect) scheduled maintenance plans for your mine, you can find Simplifying Mining Maintenance on Amazon, Play Books or www.simplifyingminingmaintenance.com .

Gerard Wood is one of the mining industry’s foremost authorities on proper mining equipment maintenance. In his long career, Gerard has been all over the world, working his way up from an electrician’s apprentice to a maintenance manager with advanced degrees in electrical engineering and business. As managing director for Bluefield AMS, Gerard helps the world’s largest mining companies keep their machines running with a simple, practical approach that saves money and improves equipment reliability.