Research & Best Practices

Maintenance Planners


Whether you’re operating preventive, condition monitoring or predictive maintenance, the actual tasks still need planning and organizing. Without this there will be no prioritization, every job will take longer than it should, and there will be too much equipment downtime.

If you’ve ever asked, “What is a maintenance planner?” because you think it might be the role for you, or if you want to improve how maintenance is done, this blog has the answers. It looks at the part the position plays in organizing effective maintenance, the skills needed to be successful and the certifications available. If you’re ready to learn, keep reading.

What is a maintenance planner?

A maintenance planner creates work orders that tell maintenance technicians what work to do. This is done in response to a work request from a production supervisor, a quality technician or by the computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

The planner’s job is to ensure the technicians have all the information they need to do the task required and that the task can be prioritized and scheduled appropriately. This often includes estimating the time needed, generating lists of parts, and obtaining manuals, schematics and drawings. This is added to the maintenance work order as a packet of information.

The plant maintenance planner also performs a liaison role, connecting maintenance technicians with production in a way that maximizes equipment availability while also minimizing unplanned downtime. Negotiation, communication and social skills are as important as detailed knowledge of the equipment being supported and the work needed.

What does a maintenance planner do?

A work request will often report a problem but won’t detail what is to be done. The planner uses knowledge and experience, and perhaps speaks with the requester, to determine if the work should be carried out, and if so, what priority to put on it. They then create a work order detailing what the technician should do and how long it should take. This forms part of a job packet, along with other notes and information.

In smaller organizations, technician scheduling is part of the maintenance planner’s responsibilities. Elsewhere, the planner will work with a maintenance scheduler who organizes the technician workload. Scheduling often requires some discussion with the production supervisor involved.

When the department operates a CMMS, the maintenance planner uses this to prepare the work package for the technicians. The planner is also responsible for entering records of maintenance work carried out.

Depending on the maintenance strategy or strategies used, the CMMS may generate preventive maintenance work orders for the planner to act on. If this is not the case, part of the role is to ensure preventive maintenance is carried out in a timely manner.

Maintenance planner skills

The main requirement is to have a good understanding of equipment maintenance work. An electrical or mechanical engineering background is appropriate, although a degree is rarely considered necessary. Experience as a maintenance technician is especially valuable.

Other useful skills include the ability to negotiate diplomatically, (because priorities often differ between departments within the business), and knowledge of CMMS packages.

Maintenance planner certifications

Certification is an excellent way to demonstrate competence in maintenance planning and scheduling. The two main forms of certification are:

  • Certified Maintenance Planner
  • Certificate in Maintenance Planning and Scheduling (CMPS)

Certification is available from several colleges and institutions. Most require taking a number of classes prior to sitting a formal examination.

For anyone wanting to obtain the Certificate in Maintenance Planning and Scheduling, the Life Cycle Institute, which specializes in training for reliability and asset management, provides this in partnership with many leading universities.

An important element of success in manufacturing

Manufacturing businesses, and quite a few others, can’t meet the expectations of their customers with unreliable equipment. This puts the maintenance function at the center of their operations, with the goal of maximizing availability while managing costs.

The maintenance planning role is an essential element in performing effective preventive, condition-based or predictive maintenance. Good maintenance planners ensure equipment issues are addressed and maintenance is performed as needed, while at the same time controlling costs in line with business objectives.

Maintenance planning is a multi-faceted, skilled job. If it’s one your organization wants to implement or where an upgrade to existing capabilities is needed, ATS can help. Contact us to learn how.

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