What are you planning for? Surviving or thriving?
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What are you planning for? Surviving or thriving?

  Aug 5 2018

# Maintenance Planning and Asset Management

We have done a lot of maintenance reviews over the years and one of the key areas we check is how maintenance work is planned and managed. Most people recognise that good planning is essential for successful to good performance, but that doesn’t mean everyone has implemented effective planning processes. We generally see 5 levels:

Level 1:

People who are too busy to plan.

Level 2:

People who are struggling to implement a planned regime.

Level 3:

People who have implemented planning and achieved good improvements quite quickly, but then stand still.

Level 4:

People who have implemented planning and achieved good improvements and are now achieving ongoing incremental improvements year-on-year.

Level 5:

People who have implemented planning and achieved good improvements, but have then progressed to using an integrated approach to planning, to break down the boundaries between different teams, drive innovation and transform long term performance and stay ahead of the rest.

We are seeing a lot more people at level 2 or 3 than above and this is not surprising given the amount of focus on planning in recent years. So, why is it proving so hard for a lot of people to break into level 4 or 5? What are people who have achieved this doing differently? The answer lies in addressing the weaknesses in the planning processes themselves and the traditional approach to organising work.

One of our clients recently made a comment that, “We all try to achieve our plans, but we rarely exceed them”. This may have been a light-hearted comment, but it also cuts right to the heart of the problem. The original planning processes concentrated on breaking away from fire-fighting, which is essential to create a platform for good performance, but they are not suitable to help you move on from here. The initial goal of planning processes was to create stability, so it should hardly be a surprise to find that processes aligned to this goal are not suitable when the goal changes to continuous improvement.

One of our clients recently made a comment that, “We all try to achieve our plans, but we rarely exceed them”. This may have been a light-hearted comment, but it also cuts right to the heart of the problem. The original planning processes concentrated on breaking away from fire-fighting, which is essential to create a platform for good performance, but they are not suitable to help you move on from here. The initial goal of planning processes was to create stability, so it should hardly be a surprise to find that processes aligned to this goal are not suitable when the goal changes to continuous improvement.

Most of the companies we visit have planning processes that might lock in current good performance, but they actually suppress innovation and undermine long-term prosperity by excluding future improvements. We have focused for too long in the efficiency of the task rather than the effectiveness of the mission - it’s not good enough to be very slick at doing the wrong thing! We may be very efficient at planning, but this is not the goal for people in level 3 and above – the goal is to drive improvements in overall performance, so the focus needs to change and the planning processes needs to change with it!

So, the key question is fundamental – “What are we planning for?” Given that people generally have to transmission sequentially from level 1 to level 5 you need to understand where you are and ensure your planning methodology is designed to get you to the next level. Most people are still using processes designed to create stability and are then scratching their heads or blaming the planners when performance stands still. We need to stop blaming the people and adjust the processes.

Happily, there are tools and methods available for each stage of the journey and we have seen some very effective methodologies. Lots of people will argue about the best planning methods, but this is not the place to start and there is no such thing as a permanent solution. Just remember you cannot pick the right methodology until you know what you want to achieve.

Our role is to help clients improve performance through training, consulting or high impact health checks. We have spent years developing maintenance models, studying alternative methods and challenging ourselves to move the standards further every year. At the heart of everything is that you have to start with a well thought-through goal and once you have this, get your processes right to achieve it.

About the Author:

Laurie Dummett

Laurie is the facilitator for our Maintenance Planning and Asset Management courses including, Maintenance Planning, Scheduling and Control, Cost Effective Maintenance, Certified Maintenance Planner, and Managing Shutdowns, Turnarounds and Outages.

Laurie Dummett is an award winning consultant and trainer with over 25 years’ experience in maintenance. He has worked across five continents, in a wide variety of environments from the world’s largest oil refinery to a small bottling plant. Laurie has 10 years of maintenance management experience in the process industry, so brings a very practical approach to training. He moved into consulting with ABB Eutech as their global maintenance specialist where he led maintenance best practice panels, delivered a wide range of maintenance improvement projects and trained other consultants.

Laurie founded his own consultancy in 2002, to focus on maintenance improvement and best of the best methodologies. As part of this, he developed a range of maintenance “models of excellence” with inputs from authors, international lecturers and some of the world’s leading consultants and operators.

Laurie remains close to the industry and continues to help operating companies, testing and refining his maintenance models in the process. His work in maintenance improvement has been recognized as best-in-class winning prestigious awards such as the UK Chemicals Industry Association national award for Excellence in Engineering.

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