Is it possible to do planned work on an unscheduled basis?

The simple answer is “Yes!” Given that planning and scheduling are traditionally linked together in today’s business environment, it’s not hard to get confused about the difference between the two. When we look at planning and scheduling as a whole we tend to forget that it consists of two separate functions to accomplish work.

Planning is simply how to do the work. A job plan usually consists of a summary of the work to be performed, identified resources to do the job, necessary materials required, any special tools and job steps or tasks required to complete the job, along with any other pertinent details. The planning portion may be performed days or weeks before the job is ever scheduled to be executed. Once the job plan has been completed, the work order is kept in the backlog with a status that indicates it is “ready to go”. This is a pretty simplistic view of all that is actually encompassed in the planning process, a process that could take anywhere from a few minutes to days or weeks, depending on how complete and mature your work control process is.

The scheduling portion is a little different; it is simply assigning a time to when the planned work will be performed. Now all we have to do is get everyone to agree about when the work will actually take place. In the case of Preventive Maintenance (PM) or Predictive Maintenance (PdM), the schedule is usually worked out well in advance, usually involving in-depth studies by the reliability engineers and business, or production planners based on equipment and business needs.

But what about repairs and unscheduled or unexpected breakdowns – how are they treated? Let’s take one at the time. Unexpected breakdowns are, or should be, those things that we had no way of detecting beforehand. Yes, it would be nice if we could control every aspect of reliability, but sometimes things just “go bump in the night” and when they do, we have to address them. Unexpected breakdowns are often the main cause of production downtime, the one thing reliability processes are designed to minimize or eliminate.

When we talk about repairs, we consider these as a result of performing PM or PdM activities; these are the tasks we undertake to prevent unexpected breakdowns. When we use our findings from PM and PdM activities to plan a proactive intervention, we take the work through the planning process and when complete we meet with our partners in operations or production and discuss its value to the process and when it needs to be performed. In this meeting we talk not only about the needs of production but also the needs of the business as a whole. In a pro-active environment we will agree to a schedule that will support the overall reliability as well as the production demand. In a re-active environment, we will probably procrastinate until it fails, then apply the fix or maybe even just a patch.

To perform “planned” work on an “unscheduled” basis you need to consider these questions:

  1. Do I already have a work order, in the “ready” queue, for this work?
  2. Is this the same work I have described in my job plan?
  3. Is this work ready to assign resources and execute or will I have to modify something? 

If this opportunity is the result of an unexpected window of opportunity and all you have to do is just “pull” the work forward, then yes, it would absolutely be considered as “planned” work. If you have to make any changes or modifications to the job plan, it can’t be considered planned work. Remember, planned work, regardless of when it is performed, is still planned work but it must be work that has been requested and has a work order currently residing in the “ready” queue. Just pulling a job plan from the library and attaching it to a re-active work order does not qualify!

In today’s business environment, it is becoming more and more important that we take advantage of any and all opportunities we have to perform maintenance activities, especially if they involve downtime of production equipment. When those windows of opportunity present themselves it is to Maintenance’s advantage to interrupt the schedule and address planned work associated with the opportunity.

Ensuring we have a robust reliability process to support our facilities is as essential to our place in the world market as having a dependable product. As competition and market demands increase, we have to be able to step up to the plate and be prepared to hit a home-run. You can’t play in today’s market if you can’t get on base and having a robust reliability process gives you the advantage.  

© Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.

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