The challenges of maintenance planning

7 tips to get the most out of your process and people


Excerpted from SMGlobal’s Maintenance Software Blog

Planning maintenance work can be a challenge because it normally consists of two different types of maintenance:

  • Unplanned or emergency maintenance to fix equipment breakdowns or other urgent work as it comes up
  • Planned or preventative maintenance to keep systems/equipment running in peak condition

How does one consolidate and manage these two types of jobs? How can one allocate maintenance technicians and work hours in the daily calendar to get both types of work accomplished? Many maintenance programs have grown organically over the years and end up mainly doing breakdown/ unplanned maintenance. Technicians work in fire fighting mode and preventative planned maintenance typically takes a hit. Not doing preventative maintenance on time (or not at all!) results in further unexpected equipment breakdowns and further emergency maintenance work.

Maintenance Planning Tips

  1. Since unplanned/ breakdown maintenance by its very nature is unpredictable, try to build in buffer time to handle such work. Break each day or week into periods for planned maintenance based on category A (must be done), B (should be done sometime soon) and C (nice to do). Unplanned maintenance can be scheduled as needed around time for category C or even category B maintenance. This can help prevent cascading maintenance issues and associated continuous firefighting.
  2. Make sure to allot enough time and resources for regular preventative maintenance in the maintenance plan
  3. The operating principle when handling any large multi-day, multi-team maintenance job should be “divide and conquer”. Break the whole job down into separate tasks that can be done by different teams or personnel. Here a good CMMS program can help you split the job into separate tasks and “chain” them together so that each sub-task is completed when the prior one is done
  4. Get a good maintenance management software product (CMMS software) that will help you manage both unplanned as well as planned maintenance in a single interface.
  5. Remember that estimates should be based on the person who will be doing the job not on the experience of someone who may be an expert at this job. Inexperienced personnel will take more time to complete many jobs. Having unrealistic estimates will cause backlog and can completely ruin an otherwise well thought out maintenance plan.
  6. When making maintenance plans build in time for recording, updating & reviewing information. Otherwise these elements will be the first to be skipped.
  7. Put together a maintenance calendar of work to be done in the next month, quarter or year by equipment/ and location. This can be useful to show & discuss with production/ operations managers. Items may need to be rescheduled or grouped together to reduce the time equipment is unavailable due to maintenance work or identify conflicts due to production/ operations deadlines. This is another area where a good CMMS/ maintenance software can help since it makes it easier to reschedule and move around jobs.


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