MRO Magazine

Best Practice: Leave Supervisors Alone to Create Daily Schedules

April 30, 2020 | By Doc Palmer

Photo Credit: SeventyFour/Getty Images.

Photo Credit: SeventyFour/Getty Images.

Several years ago, a maintenance manager gave me critical insight into daily scheduling. He asked, “Isn’t the daily schedule simply handing out the work orders?”
Really, that’s about it!
We suffer from some kind of hypnosis when we hear the word schedule and imagine some complicated chart showing where everyone will be each hour for the entire next week. However, there is too much churn in the daily execution of maintenance to create such daily schedules a week ahead of time. Instead, leave the crew supervisors alone. Let them create daily schedules as the week unfolds. The first line supervisors should create the daily schedules, assign names, co-ordinate LOTO, and deal with new urgent work that cannot wait.
Many plants have weekly schedules that consist of super-detailed daily schedules a week in advance. These plants reason that the schedule should dictate exact days and time slots to set expectations and give the best co-ordination. These schedules should allow the operators to have assets prepared on time for maintenance to work on time. Managers should be able to hold operations and maintenance accountable.
Unfortunately, in real life, maintenance time estimates are not very accurate for individual work orders. Maintenance is simply not assembly line work. Often, a five-hour job takes eight hours, or a five-hour job takes only two hours. Most plants also have a significant amount of new urgent or emergency work. Operators continually call maintenance supervisors for help with issues that cannot wait. The resulting churn causes plants that create daily schedules a week in advance to waste a considerable amount of time meeting each day to totally revise the schedules. This wasted time is in addition to the time spent creating such precise weekly schedules in the first place. If not careful, the management focus is on watching fancy computer screens showing where work orders are moving every day (on activities, not completions).
Other plants accept the churn and so do not create weekly schedules at all. Do not accept the churn as a reason not to create a weekly schedule. Crews need the weekly goal of work to serve as a focus or a sense of mission.
Instead, a better practice is to give the entire weekly schedule as a simple batch of work to the crew supervisor. Then leave the supervisor to create daily schedules as the week unfolds.
For example:
• On Friday, the supervisor takes the batch of work and figures out what to do on Monday. The supervisor then co-ordinates with operations to see if these jobs could get LOTO.
• Later on Friday, after this co-ordination, the supervisor posts the schedule for Monday.
• On Monday morning, the supervisor might reshuffle some of the work, depending on what happened over the weekend and if any craftspersons are absent.
• Throughout the day Monday, the supervisor monitors how jobs are going and redeploys persons to new reactive work as necessary.
• About midday, the supervisor starts figuring out what to try to do on Tuesday and then meets with operations to request LOTO.
The supervisor then posts the schedule and comes in the next day to reshuffle if necessary. The supervisor repeats this cycle throughout the week using the weekly schedule batch of work as a guide. The management focus at the end of the week should be how much work was completed on the weekly schedule (on completions, not just activity).
The approach of letting crews develop their own daily schedules from a batch of work accepts the churn of real life and improves productivity. The inferior approach of dictating precise daily schedules a week in advance tries to solve the churn, but does not solve the churn and does not improve productivity. The other inferior approach of having no weekly schedule at all solves the churn but does not improve productivity.
Overly detailed weekly schedules that usurp supervisor authority to make daily assignments are also bound to create dissension. No one can assign particular jobs or craftspersons a week in advance because it is uncertain exactly when individual jobs will start or finish and, therefore, who is available when. However, allowing supervisors to create the daily schedules as the week unfolds helps the supervisors assign individual names for particular work orders.
Supervisors continually make the best assignments possible as the week unfolds based on criteria that cannot be presupposed by any weekly scheduler. These criteria include things such as who works well together, who doesn’t work well together, which persons work better by themselves, which persons need to be paired up, who is the best pump person available. now, and who needs pump experience, to name a few.
Finally, supervisors must be empowered to break the weekly schedule without seeking time-consuming approvals. The whole idea of productive maintenance is to work toward a goal of work for the week while understanding it is necessary to attack emergency and urgent work quickly. The idea of a simple batch of work as a goal encourages supervisors to try to meet the schedule, but readily admits that new urgent work must take precedence. A super-rigid schedule often discourages or slows response to take care of urgent work.
Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr’s book, In Search of Excellence, supports proper management thinking about weekly versus daily scheduling. Their concept of “tight and loose” means that successful companies focus on what they care about (tight) and don’t worry about the rest (loose). The application for scheduling is to start each crew with a full batch of work for the week (tight) and to let the crew hand out work orders during the week any way they want (loose).
Best schedule practice is to recognize the churn of daily maintenance and to let supervisors create daily schedules as the week unfolds (but using a batch of work for the week as a goal). Understand the difference between weekly and daily scheduling to have great productivity.
Tip: Improve productivity by not worrying about how supervisors create daily schedules. Focus instead on starting them each week with a full batch of work as a goal.
Doc Palmer, PE, MBA, CMRP, is the author of McGraw-Hill’s Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Handbook and, as managing partner of Richard Palmer and Associates, helps companies worldwide with planning and scheduling success. For more information, including currently scheduled public workshops, visit or email Doc at


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