MRO Magazine

Enabling maintenance planning and scheduling


February 7, 2011
By PEM Magazine

Maintenance planning and scheduling initiatives start with a work order system. It is essential to have the work order system used effectively so that all maintenance activities are captured in the system. While the level of detail that is captured may vary from company to company, the work order system should track the information highlighted in the last newsletter to insure there is a return on investment for using it; this includes the ability to track labour data, materials data and contractor information.

The work order should also be able to track this information to a functional location, “building-floor-room” locator or a particular piece of equipment. The work order system should then be able to provide this information in a format that is can be utilized for historical analysis.

Once the work order system is in place, the process for utilizing it should be developed and detailed by the departments required to use it. This includes decisions such as:

  • Who can request work?
  • What criterion determines the type of work?
  • Who approves the work?
  • Who assigns the priority?

When deciding who should request work, one of the considerations should be proper training of the individuals to initialize a work order. This could include computer training, software specific training on the CMMS/EAM system. The goal is to insure that when work is requested, the proper information is provided by the requestor. This will enable the approver and planner of the work to understand what is being requested so prompt and correct decisions can be made about the request.


The next decision is the type of work that is being requested. If this is clearly defined, it makes the planning of the work easier. For example, is the work being requested an emergency or is it a normal job that can be planned and scheduled. Clearly defining what constitutes an “emergency” can eliminate much confusion in the work order process. For example, guidelines such as the work must impact:

  • Environmental, Health, Safety Standards
  • Downtime criteria (cost, duration) will be exceeded
  • Collateral equipment/ facility damage will occur
  • Product or Service Quality will be impacted

Specifying and enforcing the work request (or notification) process will prevent the planner from becoming involved in jobs where they add little or no value. In many cases, a planner can become so involved in emergency (reactive) work, that they perform very little actual planning; in fact they become expediters or clerical assistants for a supervisor.

Once the work has been correctly submitted (emergency or planned), it is necessary for it to be approved. The approver of the requested work may be an operations supervisor (for work submitted by operations personnel) or a maintenance planner. In some organizations, any employee is allowed to request work; however, without an approval process, the planner may spend a considerable amount of time explaining why some work cannot be performed. If a work order is sent to planning and still has to be rejected, a detailed explanation of the reason for the rejection should be sent to the requestor. This will insure that, in the future, only legitimate work will be entered into the planning process.

With this information provided, the work request is ready to be converted to a work order and properly planned. What are the steps involved in properly planning a work order? This will be the topic covered in the next newsletter.

Terry Wireman is senior vice-president of Vesta Partners LLC. You can reach him at