MRO Magazine

Weekly Schedule Compliance is an Easy Tool but a Bit Tricky

By Doc Palmer   

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Weekly schedule compliance is an easy key performance indicator (KPI), but a lot of people mess it up. We can use it to lock-in mediocre performance. However, when used properly, KPI can help boost our maintenance productivity.

Photo: Tatomm / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Let’s talk about KPIs first. What we ultimately want is a greatly profitable company (that operates in a legally, safe, and environmentally conscious manner). We all understand this basic measure of company success, the reason for its existence. However, if asked if you would rather have great schedule compliance? You should respond “only if it leads to great profits in a legal, safe, environmentally conscious way.” Perfect. You see that our primary objective is not schedule compliance itself.
From a maintenance perspective, what contributes to a company’s success? Well, we work on stuff, manage to fix most things that break, and do a good amount of preventive maintenance. As well as keeping the lines running that produce products that the company sells. Without any weekly scheduling at all, maintenance supervisors are good at keeping their crews busy doing this work. Nevertheless, plants starting their crews with fully loaded schedules actually have more productive crews. If a crew is more productive, it can do more proactive work, keeping things from breaking.
It can replace a bearing reported from the vibration route. It can repair an air leak reported from the ultrasound route. It can tighten an electrical connection reported from the thermography route. Such extra proactive work can be scheduled at more convenient times to minimize line down time, and increased uptime increases profit.
Having more productive crews contributes to greater company success though an increased completion of proactive work. The phenomena of fully loaded schedules driving higher productivity has a bit to do with goal setting. Think of it as the power of a list. If waking up in the morning with a list of five things that can be done, you’ll be more productive than if waking up with an intent to be busy. With the list of five, and completing three or four things, but without a list only two or three things, would be done. Do you see how the list helps focus and is more productive?
A good question here would be “how big should the list be?” With goal setting, if a goal is too high, it seems unachievable and doesn’t encourage extra effort. However, if a goal is too low, it doesn’t need extra effort. Matching the list with what could be done in a perfect world (with no reactive work) helps drive extra productivity, but only if it is okay not to get it all done.
Applying this to a weekly maintenance schedule, we would start with a crew of 10 people (each with 40 hours available) with 400 hours worth of work. Their resulting productivity would be higher than another 10-person crew starting with only 300 hours’ worth of work, a schedule that allows for 100 hours of break-ins. Both crews will take care of break-ins, but here is the key: the crew that starts with a fully loaded schedule will probably complete more work overall but with lower schedule compliance than the other crew.

Tip: If schedule compliance is above 90 per cent, we probably aren’t giving our maintenance crews enough work.

The fully loaded crew might have a schedule compliance of only about 60 per cent, but might complete 210 work orders. The less loaded crew might have 95 per cent schedule compliance, but might complete only 140 work orders. Both crews probably completed all the visible breakdown work and critical PMs. However, by sheer numbers, the more productive crew completed more proactive work, the key to better company performance.
Therefore, the schedule compliance KPI is a simple check on the loading of the schedule and not an end unto itself. Don’t make it much more complicated than that. The full loading of the schedule is the driver of productivity. Schedule compliance tells if you truly are fully loaded it. If the schedule compliance is above 90 per cent, that usually means the schedule is not fully loaded. In a good performing plant, we might expect 20 per cent reactive work (three per cent emergency and 17 per cent urgent), so 80 per cent schedule compliance would be about perfect.
However, if you had 90 per cent schedule compliance, it means you did not give crews enough work to focus and encourage them beyond the “keep busy” level. You are not doing as much proactive work as you could be doing. You are not as profitable as you could be. See how it rolls together up to why your company exists? If you set a “target” of 90 per cent schedule compliance, you are forcing yourself into mediocrity even if you think you are fully loading schedules. You are forcing people to over-estimate planned hours or under-estimate labour capacity.
“People with targets and jobs dependent upon meeting them will probably meet the targets – even if they have to destroy the enterprise to do it,” said Dr. W. Edwards Deming.
Refer to “schedule “compliance” as “schedule success” since we all want the schedule to succeed. Some people call it schedule attainment, but that leads toward giving credit to jobs worked on, instead of completed. Credit should go for scheduled jobs that were actually completed, not simply worked on. Also, quantity of jobs instead of scheduled hours for the measurement, is preferred. “We scheduled 200 jobs and you completed 120 of those jobs (60 per cent schedule success) and 90 other jobs. Good job.”
Schedule compliance is a great KPI, but certainly invites a lot of discussion about exactly what it is good for. It’s not too complicated even though, just the tip of the iceberg was presented here. Its primary value is in telling us if we are truly loading our crews with enough work each week. MRO
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 on-line help and currently scheduled public workshops, visit or e-mail Doc at



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