Research & Best Practices

Maintenance Planning Guide


Maintenance planning is a core component of any effective, efficient manufacturing maintenance program. In this article, we will explore what maintenance planning is, what it entails, and how it can help you to unlock greater efficiency and productivity in your operations.

What is maintenance planning?

Maintenance planning is the practice of identifying where, when and how maintenance will be carried out. To go into slightly greater detail, the maintenance planning process includes determining maintenance scheduling, maintenance tactics, maintenance approaches, maintenance goals and objectives, and the areas where maintenance will be focused. A comprehensive plant maintenance plan also involves inventory and purchasing strategies and methods, analysis of historical data to drive decision making, and development of maintenance processes and procedures.

Components of maintenance planning

Maintenance planning involves several primary components. These include:

  • Leveraging previously collected equipment data: Educated maintenance planning is effective maintenance planning, and any existing data or maintenance records can prove immensely useful in creating a targeted, tailored plan designed to address the documented needs of the facility. Industrial sensors and data repositories can help to collect more data and organize it for effective analysis to drive even more impactful planning.
  • Maintenance metrics: Equipment, processes and personnel should all have KPIs (key performance indicators) that can be tracked and measured in order to identify areas of need and improvement. Defining metrics can help in developing schedules, creating procedures and assigning work.
  • Work orders: A work order ticketing system is a key component in organizing, tracking and managing maintenance tasks and processes. With a work order system, manufacturers can create an automated request system that creates and stores records and allows managers and systems to assign work to technicians quickly and effectively. The work order system allows for straightforward task tracking and adds to the repository of maintenance data, which contributes to more effective planning.
  • Instructions: Instructions, in the form of procedures and processes, help to ensure that maintenance work is carried out correctly and efficiently. Standardized instructions and processes aid maintenance planners in scheduling blocks of work and can help ensure that work assignments are made regardless of who is on duty. Instructions should be written in a detailed step-by-step format to ensure consistent levels of quality and resource usage.
  • Scheduling: Scheduling is a component of planning, but it is distinct in when and how it is applied. Maintenance scheduling involves the timing of maintenance events or processes themselves, which typically occurs on a predetermined basis — daily, weekly, quarterly or annually, for example — or when a maintenance need is identified. The most effective maintenance scheduling happens before downtime occurs.

Maintenance planning steps

Maintenance planning steps — which can often be most effective when presented as a maintenance planning process flowchart — should include the following:

  • Understand and identify the issue: Any maintenance plan or strategy should have an objective, typically in the form of a problem to resolve or a goal to achieve, such as reducing unplanned downtime by 80% or increasing throughput by 50%. The first step in maintenance planning is to identify the issues that are acting as roadblocks to these goals.
  • Inspect and monitor assets: With an understanding of the issues and the preliminary plans to resolve them, the next step is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the state and condition of all assets that comprise the process – machinery, monitors, automation equipment, input interfaces and more. If a monitoring method, such as industrial equipment monitors, is not in place for equipment, this step should include implementation of a method.
  • Develop a plan for how work should be completed: With an understanding of the problem and the equipment at hand, you are now ready to develop a plan for maintenance: when it should occur, where it should be targeted and how it should be carried out.
  • Outline task prioritization needs: With your maintenance plan ready, you can now prioritize the most critical maintenance needs — those which are most important to keep the facility operating in good working order. Maintenance tasks should be ordered according to criticality to make the most efficient use of resources.
  • Schedule and complete maintenance work: Implement the maintenance plan as defined and prioritized, ensuring that it is properly documented so procedures can be carried out as scheduled.
  • Collect follow-up data and monitor the asset: Continue to draw upon the monitoring methods in use to track the performance of assets and identify or fine-tune additional maintenance needs. All data collected will contribute to more effective and efficient maintenance planning.

Maintenance planning strategy guidelines

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The following guidelines are useful for creating an effective maintenance planning strategy:

  • Identify clear goals for maintenance: Especially when implementing a new maintenance plan, it is important to identify clear, concrete, measurable goals and objectives. These goals can not only help to define the maintenance strategy and procedures put to use, but they are also critical in assessing the performance of the maintenance plan and whether further fine-tuning is needed. Without goals, a maintenance plan is likely to be unfocused, directionless and ultimately ineffective.
  • Assign and train planners: Maintenance planners should have a deep understanding of the facility and its assets, including equipment and personnel. When assigning someone without previous maintenance planning experience, look to senior engineers, technicians or logistics personnel, and ensure that they have the right training to succeed. Training should include planning and work order software training, reporting knowledge, and plan implementation and execution.
  • Provide clear instructions: Procedures and instructions should be as detailed and clear as possible to ensure consistency, accuracy and repeatability. Well-defined instructions can also create efficiencies by allowing a broader range of personnel to carry out procedures, regardless of training or specialty.
  • Focus on feedback: The most effective maintenance plans make heavy use of data and feedback for continuous improvement and refinement.

Benefits of maintenance planning

Maintenance planning can offer the following benefits:

  • More efficient, targeted maintenance
  • Less unplanned downtime
  • Reduced maintenance costs
  • More accurate inventory forecasting and usage
  • More effective use of personnel
  • Increased insight into equipment performance through data
  • Increased productivity and throughput
  • Technology to enable remote maintenance monitoring

As you can see, maintenance planning offers a clear path to more efficient maintenance through monitoring, data analysis and comprehensive maintenance forecasting and scheduling. ATS offers extensive solutions and services across industrial maintenance, parts and technology to increase your plant’s productivity.  Get started today!

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