Hugh Tran

5 ways to improve your maintenance planning and scheduling

Did you know that a maintenance team’s time spent actually ‘on the tools’ is around 20% – 30%? In a typical 10-hour working day, only 2 to 3 hours is used to do the actual maintenance. The rest? Usually comprised of triage / prioritisation task, reporting, administration, and prep work (particularly ahead of work in dangerous environments). It’s not the fault of your maintenance staff, it’s often the fault of process glut and lack of planning – well, inability to plan – at least. Maintenance technicians’ days are simply filled with too much inefficiency and waste.

But there is good news; we can follow the example of top companies and consultants like Erik Hupjé of Road to Reliability. Those who have already invested countless hours into refining their processes into ‘best practice’. You may be surprised to read that these best practices can be boiled down to, ‘Do the basics well.’

And it really is the basics: planning & scheduling.

Good maintenance planning & scheduling can eliminate the unnecessary tasks that waste your team’s time, and most importantly – they can increase productivity by up to 45%. That’s staggering when reports have shown that increasing productivity by just 15% , effectively translates to “hiring” 35% more people for your workforce for no cost. 

So how can this be achieved? Here are 5 tips to help you master the basics. Let’s get into it!

Tip 1: Good plans aren’t made behind a desk!

A good plan enables accurate, simple scheduling, efficient execution, and solid quality of work. Therefore, it is necessary to put in the effort 1) talking to people, 2) physically observing how work is currently completed, and 3) mapping out processes for review (with the team ideally).

A good maintenance planner’s work should involve identifying all the resources, materials and services required for workers to perform tasks. A finished plan for maintenance tasks should contain a work pack that includes:

  • drawings
  • procedures
  • OEM documentation
  • list of spare parts and consumables
  • list of special tools or equipment
  • special safety considerations
  • shutdown requirements
  • access or lifting requirements

As you can see, planners need to pay thorough attention to even the smallest details, in order to minimise errors during the course of work. This is infinitely more difficult to do remotely – maintenance planners NEED to get up from the desk and visit the job site when developing the scope of work.

Even if the planner has significant info on a site, things can change and disrupt even the best-laid plans. Having been on site, and aware of any errors/changes/roadblocks that may occur would enable the development of a plan that is much closer to the actual execution.

During site visits, planners should take photos of the job site, equipment and access constraints. This will come in handy when designing job plans back in the office.

Tip 2: When scheduling, use 100% of every available hour.


Scheduling is the next big thing after planning. It involves grouping the planned work into an optimised, coordinated sequence. Considerations such as reducing travel time between jobs, or shift crossover periods are imperative.

Schedulers have to know the available hours for the following week and distribute work to their teams based on that.

When we say using 100% of every available hour when scheduling, we mean it! You shouldn’t allow emergencies or buffer time in your schedule. This ensures that you utilise 100% of the maintenance crew time.

Emergency work or extra work that occurs during the execution phase should be decided ad-hoc. The maintenance team themselves should be empowered to decide whether to work on it straight away, on another shift in the day/week (time permitting) or push forward to the following week if it’s not urgent. Pre-planned buffer time is dead time.

Tip 3: Once the crew start work, let them own it until completion

The maintenance crew pick up the work based on the work packs provided by the planner. However, during the “work in progress” phase, it is – or at least, it should be – all up to the crew and their supervisor to execute the task as they see fit. Have confidence in your team around their ability to execute. This level of trust has positive flow-on impacts in the workplace.

If there is a requirement for extra materials, extra time (as mentioned above) or extra hands, the supervisor needs to be empowered, and encouraged, to source these for their team. In some cases, crew members might find out that work needs to be completed in a differently from the original plan. Encourage and empower your crew to discuss this with their supervisor. Allowing the people closest to a problem to solve it builds expands experience, builds resilience and cuts out time-consuming bureaucracy.

Of course, it’s important that the planner gets feedback at the end of a job, so that they can mitigate or keep in min similar issues for future work plans.

Which brings us to a tip for an often overlooked step…

Tip 4: Always close out!

The ‘close out’ is one of the most important steps in maintenance procedures, yet it’s often skipped. Without this step it’s hard to improve let alone keep equipment condition data up-to-date (if recorded at all).

As part of the close out, the supervisor should:

  • Confirm all work is complete and meets the required quality standards;
  • Review and approve the technical history in the CMMS;
  • Make sure the Planner receives feedback on the quality of the job plan;
  • Initiate a Root Cause Analysis (to investigate the causes of a problem or error) if required;
  • Ensure unused materials are back in the warehouse;
  • And payments are initiated.

Take this to heart: If work isn’t closed out, it isn’t finished.

Tip 5: Continuous improvement is planning & scheduling process


The best maintenance plans are ones that allow for continuous improvement through regular, and on-the-fly feedback from all stakeholders. By encouraging your teams to compare methods agains the status quo and enabling them to make changes when issues arise, you can make mitigate roadblocks – or at least make them easier to overcome. Sometimes, plans are just not perfect – and that’s okay, as long as you learn from imperfection!

We recommend having feedback loop be a key part of your team’s routine and built-into your regular meetings. For example, inviting comments from all stakeholders during the review of Schedule Compliance at a weekly Schedule Review meeting. Or maintaining an instant feedback loop from the on-site maintenance crew to the Maintenance Planner via a team communication app.

So there you have it – 5 tips to improve your maintenance planning and scheduling by focusing on the basics. If you’d like to learn more, we highly recommend you head over to Road to Reliability who have some great assets & training available to upgrade your planing and scheduling. Once you have that covered you can begin to look at transforming your maintenance toolkit with the latest tech. Your teams (and asset) will thank you!