Scheduling…Not Just A Maintenance Thing!

As appeared on www.PlantEngineering.com

Competitive organizations today have realized the need to make scheduling a formal maintenance work control process, but few are benefiting from a centralized manufacturing scheduling process. Yes, it’s true, scheduling is more than just a maintenance thing!

What A Concept!

If we examine the fundamental practices that have made scheduling instrumental in World Class Maintenance organizations we see that production forecasts played an integral part in establishing an agreed upon weekly maintenance schedule; however, schedule compliance metrics above 85% are unsustainable. We also find that material readiness was equally important when making decisions as to ready work; however, balancing Just-In-Time (JIT) inventories with the schedule of work has proven to be difficult in most industries, resulting in less than ideal inventory turnover rates. Additionally, these two factors of the maintenance schedule were derived from independent, silo processes within their respective departments, or multiple departments as is the case with Production, reducing the organizations ability to effectively coordinate, instead of bartering for, an agreed upon weekly schedule. Seems a bit off center, doesn’t it.

If we look at this process from the Meeting Alignment side of the Excellence Model we find that these same organizations are actually adding waste to their manufacturing process with the facilitation of multiple meetings, in isolation, all trying to achieve the same result. For argument sake, let’s assume that ten different production centers have ten different planning and scheduling meetings each week to reaffirm the operating plan for any given period. Congruently, materials management also has a weekly meeting to report, to themselves, the material readiness level within the plant. This is wonderful, but how have each of these departments, including maintenance, interlinked their different activities to ensure compliance to each others’ schedule and how have these meetings added to the “Lean Manufacturing” approach that so many organizations struggle to achieve? They haven’t. In fact, through these silos, the organization has also reduced its ability to effectively utilize equipment, labor and material resources.

Looking specifically at how these organizations utilize their equipment, we can see that the term utilization only refers to their ability to manage operating availability, with little to no consideration as to the shutdown capacity. This is often clouded by Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) figures that are improperly calculated, but is evident when Direct Labor Utilization metrics are consistently below 55%. Additionally, many organizations are structured to support 80% of the scheduled maintenance during the same period that Production has planned for 80%-100% “uptime”. This operational structure is suitable for maintenance programs that are predictive or condition based, however, this represents less than 3% of all manufacturing organizations operating worldwide. The other 97% need to find a more coordinated or centralized approach to scheduling.

The concept is basic, a single, centralized scheduling function to determine the master schedule of activities for a given period, two weeks ideally. The process is fundamentally designed to first evaluate the Asset Utilization Rate, in both running and shutdown capacities, and then allocate resources to achieve the desired rate. The results are extraordinary, more direct labor utilization, higher turnover of inventory, greater and more sustainable levels of OEE, not to mention reduced maintenance and operating costs.

Manufacturing Approach to Scheduling

The approach to scheduling at the manufacturing level is based on the Central Scheduling Hub concept, which is built upon a firm foundation bound by Schedule Management. The principles of Schedule Management are grown from plant wide prioritization methodologies, backlog management best practices, risk management modeling, and activity-based budgeting. The Hub serves as the center-lining element for the rotating business needs, incorporating Maintenance, Production, and Materials Management operating plans, as well as plans from Marketing, Engineering, Accounting, and auxiliary service providers. Again, the expectation is that the Hub will provide a master schedule of activities that the entire organization has coordinated and agreed upon in a single forum. Maintenance, therefore, is merely one of seven owners of the schedule, proving that scheduling is a whole lot more than just a Maintenance thing.

The Central Scheduling Hub process is fully designed to support the Manufacturing organization, beginning with the identification of customer needs, or market demand, and concluding with a formal budget review that proactively evaluates the schedule’s financial impact. Additionally, this ideal process is designed to produce an operating schedule over two weeks, with a subsequent six week forecast of activities, allowing managers to more accurately manage operating budgets, proactively predict equipment needs, and effectively utilize labor and material resources.

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