Why don’t we train our plan­ners?


In an av­er­age main­te­nance or­gan­i­sa­tion, the ef­fec­tive work­ing time of our tech­ni­cians is around 35 per­cent of their day, which means that for 65 per­cent of their day they are do­ing some­thing other than pro­duc­tive work. With good work man­age­ment, their ef­fec­tive work­ing time can be as high as 70 per­cent. Work man­age­ment is some­thing ev­ery or­gan­i­sa­tion has to do, so why would we not want to do it well?

I have spo­ken to a lot of main­te­nance man­agers and plan­ners over the years and one of the ques­tions I ask them is, “Have your plan­ners been trained or did they just get dropped into the role?” Not one plan­ner had re­ceived more than on the job train­ing and most were tech­ni­cians that just picked it up as they went along. The main­te­nance man­agers weren’t clear on the need!

If good work man­age­ment has the po­ten­tial to dou­ble the ef­fec­tive work­ing time of our staff, why don’t we in­vest in train­ing for our plan­ners? As an in­dus­try, we of­ten put en­ergy and re­sources train­ing our staff in Root Cause Anal­y­sis for in­stance, even though the root cause of­ten turns out to be poor work man­age­ment. Surely it makes sense to get the work man­age­ment right first.

I’ve been think­ing about this over the last cou­ple of weeks and have come to these con­clu­sions:

• The role of plan­ner is un­der­val­ued within most or­gan­i­sa­tions.

• Man­age­ment does not un­der­stand the rigour and re­quire­ments for good main­te­nance plan­ning and the per­son fill­ing the plan­ning role.

• Train­ing for plan­ners is not as sexy as train­ing in things like root cause anal­y­sis, which means that few cour­ses for plan­ners are avail­able and even when they are of­fered they are not given pri­or­ity.

• There are few qual­i­fi­ca­tions for plan­ners so there isn’t a nat­u­ral route for up skilling. As en­gi­neers, we go to great lengths to solve tech­ni­cal prob­lems but we rarely give work man­age­ment more than a pass­ing thought. In fact, we of­ten use one word to de­scribe the whole process of work man­age­ment – the word is “plan­ning and sched­ul­ing”. It’s said as one long, all- en­com­pass­ing word! Good work man­age­ment should go through these five sep­a­rate and quite distinct phases.

1) Job iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and autho­ri­sa­tion.

2) Plan­ning.

3) Sched­ul­ing.

4) Job Ex­e­cu­tion.

5) Re­view.

If your or­gan­i­sa­tion is not go­ing through this pro­ce­dure with ev­ery job then you are prob­a­bly work­ing at the 35 per­cent ef­fec­tive work­ing time end of the scale, rather than the po­ten­tial 70 per­cent.

In New Zealand, we rank 22nd out of 30 in the OECD for pro­duc­tiv­ity. If the All Blacks were as good at rugby as we are as a na­tion at pro­duc­tiv­ity, we would be sit­ting be­tween Uruguay & Spain in the in­ter­na­tional rugby rank­ings rather lead­ing the ta­ble. I firmly be­lieve that one of the quick­est, eas­i­est and cheap­est ways we can im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity within main­te­nance is to in­vest in our plan­ners, as they carry out one of the most im­por­tant roles within the main­te­nance de­part­ment.

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