The ultimate criteria for a planner adding enough details to a job plan

Doc Palmer
November 22, 2017
Written by Doc Palmer
The ultimate criteria for how much detail planners should put into a job plan is simply that they must plan nearly all the work in time. The goal of planning is to have very helpful plans for experienced and new craftspersons doing frequent and infrequent work well and to a high consistent standard.

Unfortunately, the time required to complete maintenance tasks is many times at most a week or so, with many reactive tasks needing completion within a couple of days or less after notification. Planners can plan the work in time to support maintenance crews if they recognize both the skill of the crafts and the Deming Cycle.

Planners exist to move work requests to a WSCH (Waiting to Schedule) status in a timely fashion. Maintenance crews are going to work on jobs whether they are planned or not. If they run out of planned work, they will work on unplanned work. Furthermore, they will work on reactive work if it is planned or not. It would be great in an ideal world to require crews to wait on planning, but if there is not any planned work, the crews should not sit idle. In addition, the plant cannot afford to wait too long on a planner to plan reactive work. Planners planning for 20-30 craftspersons each simply do not have the time to plan each new work order with the level of detail that would allow a new craftsperson unfamiliar with the plant to carry out the necessary maintenance actions using a detailed recipe of a job plan. Yet, planners do want to create such detailed job plans because eventually the plant will hire new craftspersons and even senior craftspersons benefit from a ready reference.

The answer to creating well-detailed job plans is to recognize both the Deming Cycle of continual improvement and the present skill of existing craftspersons. The plant will execute the same maintenance repeatedly over the years. Planners can create better and better jobs plans over time with an increasing amount of detail. Moreover, craftspersons at most plants are skilled enough to execute many maintenance tasks even without planning. What is needed is a planner acting as a “craft historian” to preserve the knowledge and ideas of these skilled craftspersons to make future jobs plans that almost immediately serve as good (but always improving) references for current craftspersons and eventually serve as helpful guides to new persons.

In creating a job plan for new maintenance work, the planner should first clarify or specify the purpose and scope of the job. Next, the planners should put as much information regarding parts, tools, and steps as possible in the time available being mindful that nearly all the incoming maintenance work needs planning. This planning of most of the work with less detail is better than planning only some of the work with more detail. Using the Deming Cycle to improve maintenance over time requires planning most of the work.

Safety merits special attention in this discussion. If management dictates that plans must be “perfect every time” to keep craftspersons safe, plans are actually less safe than they could have been over time. Planners held accountable for everyone’s safety would spend too long planning each job to allow planning enough of the work to run the Deming Cycle over time to improve all the plans for information including safety.

Keeping in mind that plans are never perfect but always growing, planners can even plan a good amount of the plant’s reactive work. Many plants bypass planning for reactive work, but the best practice has planners trying to plan the reactive work is not already started or immediately about to start. Planners can know this status by briefly checking with the crew supervisor. Planners should never tell crews to wait. Planning can greatly help a lot of the reactive work: Attaching an existing job plan can avoid repeating a past problem. Simply estimating hours can help assign the work. If the work ends up not being done this week, it now has estimated hours to allow scheduling next week. But planners must plan quickly!

Finally, planners must avoid trying to plan work that requires changes to the design of the plant. Planners leading such investigations and coordinating meetings find themselves bogged down without time to plan normal maintenance work. Planners must push off such work using a work order status such as WMOC (waiting management of change) or WENG (waiting for engineering). Planners should instead be planning normal maintenance work to keep or restore equipment to the current design.

Being quick is a critical part of the planning process. Planners should put as much detail into individual jobs plans as possible, but subject to the time constraint of having to plan nearly all the work.

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 visit or email Doc at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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