Win the Plan and Plan to Win


Billions of dollars of investment return have been claimed by business cases built around the principles of good maintenance and operations management practices.

Mary T.Bunzel

Mary T. Bunzel

Worldwide Industry Leader,

Manufacturing, Asset



The cost savings cited include reductions in labour, in on hand inventory and on better uptime that comes from organizing preventive maintenance work in alignment with strategic programs like RCM and predictive technologies. There is no doubt that these gains are likely and possible when good programmes are applied; often though they are not, or the focus of improvement is limited to a single aspect of process improvement instead of a more holistic approach. Over time, few of the teams that develop the case are able to fully realize the gains promised or expected from the project.

At a recent meeting of top automotive and manufacturing companies, key manufacturing maintenance specialists commented on how good scheduling processes contributed directly to the business case they had developed for their projects. Even in the most advanced of the global applications, the Scheduling process around how work is managed seems to be the process most closely tied to how much value they receive from implemented best practices.

Scheduling Process

There seem to be common elements: Planners, Schedulers, Equipment Risk Assessments, Work Risk and resulting Work Priority.

First there is the issue of Planners and Schedulers. Does the organization have Planners? Industry standards imply a ratio of 17 to 22 planners to artisans. Planners take on the role of work preparation through inspection, research, risk assessment, and collaboration to prepare the work stream so the Scheduler can then apply the work plan to the calendar based on resource availability. Less mature organizations seem to lump respnsibilities of both Planner and Scheduling onto one person, with more of the emphasis on Scheduling than Planning. In these places you will find schedule compliance at less than 50 % and large backlogs of work.

Schedulers must balance production requirements, skills availabilities, parts availabilities and work bay availability to determine how the supply of work should be applied to the most important parts of the organization.

Scheduling is the art of applying constrained resources at the right place at the exact right time to achieve the desired state of operation.

Here is where equipment risk assessment becomes important.

  • Not all equipment is created equal. Its size is not relevant to its value to the organization. A 400 lb press creating parts for WIP buffer might not be as important as the 100 hp motor, which is moving the main product line out of the oven. Asset risk is ranked in accordance to your exposure to risk when it fails. Asset or Location priority might be assigned based on the fact the equipment creates a bottleneck area, a key quality process area or a high risk of environmental or safety area.
  • How you assess Asset Risk Priority might be fixed or it might vary by the day or even hour. In a fixed environment where bottlenecks or safety risks are known, they can be tied to the asset matrix in the Enterprise Asset Management system and used to impact priority ratings for work queues.
Kuva 1

Table 1. An example of how a risk matrix might be used to determine work priority.


Some work environments are more fluid, where customer orders or downstream equipment downtime might cause changes in which equipment is used in the process flow. Changes to production flows in these instances might cause an adjustment to the Asset Risk exposure and as a result, change its Priority in the work queue. One of the large electronic panel manufacturers at this recent meeting said: “Our production flows change all the time. We have a team of one production coordinator who works one on one with the work scheduling coordinator so basically we are doing a manual application of work priority because of our fast changing environment.”

Prioritization of equipment gives teams an aligned focus on the parts of the factory that are most important.

A more complete assessment of Risk also depends on the type of work that is to be performed.

At one of the large automotive manufacturing sites, they decided to start using Thermographic imaging as part of their predictive maintenance strategy. The new camera was interesting to play with, so just for fun they took pictures from the outside of the building too. One of the images of the main transformer supply to the plant showed extremely high temperatures – well above the threshold the part was rated for.

The resulting work priority pushed the planning work ahead of others waiting in the queue so that parts, permits, drawings and safety plans could be reviewed and planned against the production schedule for the following weekend. The transformer was safely replaced with no impact to the plant or production.

In Table 1 there is an example of how such a risk matrix might be used to determine work priority.

Reason for Work factors (RFW) should be used as a factor in combination with Asset Priority to create a numeric value, indicative of the importance of the work. These ratings assist to determine where to spend your resources. Decisions can be made around how to manage the required work against the planned production schedule. This insight might lead to other strategies like vendormanaged parts and One Point Lessons and other predictive technologies.

The whole idea is gaining the insight necessary to focus the collective energy of the group to focus on the right work at the right time. In this way, you are not doing work that does not add value, and wasted steps are removed from the process. Visibility to Asset Risk, Good Planning and Good Scheduling are the heart of how you manage to the business case you promised at the beginning of this Best Maintenance Practices journey. The right focus gives you time to plan, and to win with the plan you make.

»»Who is Mary T. Bunzel? For the last 25 years, Ms. Bunzel has been serving the Enterprise Asset Management Community in a variety of roles helping organizations to better manage their assets and productivity. Today, as IBMs Worldwide Industry Leader for Manufacturing, Ms. Bunzel works with the world’s largest manufacturers in aerospace & defense, automotives, heavy equipment, electronics and industrial products markets, to understand their business imperatives for how they manage assets and to help turn those imperatives into successful projects. She works with a global team to ensure that IBM continues to lead the market for Asset Management in Manufacturing.