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Improving Business Productivity with Maintenance Planning and Scheduling

  • General News
  • 24th August 2018

The importance of maintenance

Planned and scheduled maintenance is a key part of failure prevention. While no business should be indifferent to failure, there are some sectors where it is critical to avoid it. Airliner engines, car seat belts, marine oil well blowout preventers and the electricity supply to a hospital are good examples. Some of the early research on reliability centred maintenance was undertaken for the International Atomic Energy Authority. It revolved around risks in the nuclear energy industry, where a failure can have very hazardous consequences.

The principle of planned maintenance to reduce failure rate is also relevant in less critical situations. More reliable operations help to increase productivity and may give the business delivering the product or service a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  

It is not just the immediate supplier that is exposed, as any failure further down the supply chain that leads to an interruption at the point of product or service delivery is likely to be equally important.

Embedding reliability centred maintenance into an organisation

Maintenance planning and scheduling can bring a range of benefits to organisations throughout the supply chain. These can include greater productivity, enhanced safety, increased reliability, higher quality and reduced costs. But how can a culture of reliability centred maintenance be successfully established in a business?

It can be notoriously difficult to introduce maintenance planning and scheduling into organisations that adopt a run to breakdown or ‘fix it when it breaks’ approach.  At worst, the leadership effort is insufficient and inertia or even internal resistance wins. At best, a short-term improvement soon fades and the long-term results are disappointing.  Some studies have suggested that up to 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their long-term goals. The Journal of Change Management has published many reviews and case studies over the years.

However, there are also success stories of initiatives that used basic project management principles combined with a strong focus on change management to secure a lasting change. One proven method is the six-step approach based around a framework developed by the Boston Consulting Group, called ‘DICE’. This advocates change management by addressing the four ‘hard’ factors and four ‘soft’ issues that are vital to success. The four ‘hard’ factors are:

  •      Duration of the change programme.
  •      Integrity and having the right skills on board.
  •      Commitment from top management and those affected by the change.
  •      Effort above normal workload.

The identified ‘soft’ issues that will need to be dealt with are:

  •      Have a clear case and articulate it well and often
  •      Communicate even more than seems necessary – explain every key message seven times in seven                 different ways.
  •      Actively listen to those implementing the change and those that are affected by it.
  •      Expect and plan for resistance. Highlight the good reasons for the initiative and be firm.

The six steps to successful change

Step 1: setup

The first step is to prepare the organisation for the introduction of a new maintenance planning and scheduling regime. This involves communicating the case for a change to key stakeholders, ensuring that the necessary resources are in place, and securing strong leadership support.

Step 2: define

Prepare a report that defines the current baseline situation (‘as is’) and clearly map out what the desired end state should be (‘to be’). Involve the people working at the maintenance coalface, perhaps in facilitated workshops where information can be exchanged and ideas bounced around.

Step 3: develop

With a clear focus on the ‘to be’ situation, develop and set out in detail the new work processes, roles and responsibilities that will be necessary for the transition and for the new routine. This may involve your supporting systems (such as the quality management system) and it will require training and coaching programmes for all of the staff and management involved. Produce a coherent and consistent communications plan and a schedule for implementation with clear, achievable milestones.

Step 4: implement

This is the active implementation of the change process in order to embed the new maintenance planning and scheduling regime. The organisation must be engaged, and training, mentoring and reinforcement from the leadership all brought to bear on the process. You gradually achieve the ‘to be’ approach.

Step 5: close out

The success of implementation must now be evaluated. Make an assessment of the durability of the change that has been introduced, reinforce it as necessary to ensure that the transformation does not unravel, identify and record any lessons learned, and formulate a plan to sustain the new approach to planned and scheduled maintenance.

Step 6: sustain

Achieving steps one to five does not guarantee long term success, and an ongoing effort is required to make the change stick. Step 6 never really comes to an end. The plan that was formulated to sustain the new approach must be implemented. This might involve annual process reviews and performance metrics or indicators.

A supply chain success

With careful preparation, good culture and leadership and the application of basic project and change management tools and skills it is possible to make a success of implementing a routine of preventative maintenance in a business. A coordinated effort right through a supply chain will provide competitive advantages for all of the organisations involved, from improved safety and equipment longevity through to significant cost savings and increased profits.

  Erik Hupje, Founder & CEO  | Road to Reliability |

Author Bio:

Erik Hupjé was born in Brunei but spent most of his childhood in The Netherlands. He graduated from the Faculty of Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and Management at the Delft University of Technology in 1997.  For the last 20 years he has worked around the world as an asset management engineer, specialising in maintenance and reliability in the upstream oil and gas industry. He is the founder of R2 Reliability and developed the Road to Reliability™ framework for effective preventive maintenance engineering.


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