Equipment malfunction is nothing new for companies that operate a lot of heavy-duty manufacturing machines. When it does happen, the maintenance technicians, maintenance managers, and mechanics are informed and the maintenance activities or upkeep. However, maintenance personnel require the right tools, at the right time. That's where a maintenance planner comes in.
Maintenance planners are an important part of the coordination effort that comes before repairs. In a way, they are involved in the pre-maintenance planning aspect of a repair job.
However, anyone looking through maintenance planner job postings today should know that the role comes with a myriad of traditional and new responsibilities.
In this article, I'll explain:
- what a maintenance planner does
- what the responsibilities are
- the average salary and perks of maintenance planners
- how to be successful at the job
Let's take a look.
What is a Maintenance Planner? [Job Overview]
A maintenance planner is someone who schedules, organizes, and documents the maintenance process. Based on the equipment reliability needs of the company, they plan and put the maintenance system into motion.
Also called maintenance schedulers, they are directly responsible for maintenance planning and scheduling, clearing repair backlogs, as well as maintaining an inventory of spare parts and tools.
Planners report to maintenance managers (maintenance supervisors, in some cases). This puts them in the center of the maintenance department, in terms of rank.
The 'planner' aspect of the job applies to several disciplines, including plant maintenance, facility maintenance, and general equipment maintenance.
Here is a brief overview of their responsibilities:
- Maintenance scheduling and creating work orders
- Improving maintenance management systems
- Creating predictive, emergency, and preventive maintenance schedules
- Ensuring optimal maintenance performance and workforce productivity
- Working with senior engineers to develop more cost-effective repair solutions and lower overall maintenance costs
- Developing manuals for technicians and mechanics
Additionally, a maintenance planner may be responsible for operating the CMMS system integrated into the maintenance framework of many modern companies.
Experienced maintenance planners also order next-gen equipment for workers on the ground, while maintaining a list of tools in active use.
Development and operation streamlining methodologies have enabled maintenance planners to reduce the effort it takes to get a repair job done. Additionally, CMMS software lets them perform most, if not all of their duties remotely, or with a minimal presence on site.
Primary Responsibilities of a Maintenance Planner in 2020
As mentioned a lot of maintenance planner jobs have partially gone down the remote-work path due to the current pandemic situation.
Today, a number of planners are remotely organizing maintenance work and creating data logs, with some even coordinating with outside contractors and managing several levels of technical labor.
However, before they take on more diverse tasks, modern maintenance planners need to take care of some basic responsibilities.
Here are the three prime responsibilities of today's maintenance planners.
Maintenance Plans and Schedule Generation
The main responsibility of any maintenance planner, as soon as they arrive on the job, is developing maintenance plans and repair schedules for the company.
Maintenance plans decide how the technicians will approach the repair work, how many resources will be applied, and what steps will be taken to ensure equipment runs at optimum efficiency.
Maintenance planners take several things into account when developing the plans.
- Individual repair and upkeep needs of each type of machine
- Number of production cycles that the machinery has gone through
- Available resources for that specific type of maintenance
- The expertise of the maintenance staff
Companies also need a maintenance schedule to stick to as a preventative/preventive maintenance. This is developed after considering the viability of the maintenance plan in the long term and deciding on the ideal intervals between each repair session.
Maintenance planners work closely with coordinators and engineers. This gives them insight into the type of tools needed for the job, and where to procure such tools.
After determining the short and long-term needs of the workers, planners generate purchase orders for equipment or third-party services.
These purchase orders are issued after confirming existing resources in the inventory, as well as the best rates available in the market.
To perform resource procurement, planners have to:
- Run confirmation by the mechanics, technicians, and assistants regarding the need for tools and equipment
- Observe the frequency of maintenance intervals over the past year or more
- Find out which vendors are offering the best equipment and service rates
- Work with the coordinator to allocate sufficient finances to purchase orders
Procurement is a vital aspect of the upkeep framework and both maintenance planners and coordinators work together to make sure the company has all the tools it needs to repair machinery and reduce downtimes.
Procedural Manual Development
As technology progresses, the traditional approaches for repair and upkeep become obsolete, in favor of new and more streamlined methods.
Planners are responsible for looking at the specifics of each machine and determining the best way to maintain it. These methods are then compiled into procedural manuals that the repair crews follow.
To develop and implement procedural manuals, a planner has to:
- Examine the disassembly and repair process associated with various machines
- Eliminate extra steps to create more efficient repair methods
- Train technicians and mechanics on the newly developed procedural manuals
Procedural manuals are very useful in cases of emergency maintenance as they prevent prolonged downtime and resume production quickly.
Soft Skills for Maintenance Planners in 2020
Being a successful maintenance planner requires a broad set of skills, including some vital soft skills.
Here are some of the most important soft skills for modern maintenance planners:
- Communication Skills: Good communication skills are a necessary requirement for any planner that's managing workers. They are often responsible for training staff as per the procedural manuals, for which good communication is key.
- Observation skills: Aside from organizing tools and resources, maintenance planners are also responsible for making sure maintenance becomes more efficient than ever. This requires a keen eye for details that could save time and money on maintenance.
- Financial Sense: Planners may have to purchase a variety of equipment at a budget. This requires a ton of financial acumen in order to procure the ideal equipment at the best prices.
- Collaboration and Teamwork: Field planners are often working with maintenance personnel on-site. To be effective, they need to know the pain points of the crew, and give clear instructions, while maintaining a teamwork-based environment.
Additionally, all planners need to be able to integrate operations into maintenance management software with each new equipment that arrives in the company.
Typical Qualifications of a Maintenance Planner
Almost all planner jobs require a technical management degree or advanced diploma in a relevant field.
Generally, a maintenance planner should have the following qualifications:
- Bachelor's degree in technical management or engineering
- 4-Year diploma from a technical college, with adequate on-site training
- Associate degree with at least 4 years of experience in a maintenance team
- Online certification in a maintenance management program with extensive work experience
- High school diploma with credentials from an engineering certification authority
Furthermore, a modern planner should also be certified in the use of basic software such as MS Excel and maintenance software such as CMMS systems.
Maintenance Planner Salary and Perks
According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a current maintenance planner in the United States is $58,560, per year.
This can vary based on a candidate's individual qualifications and work experience, as well as the company's salary offer.
Additionally, different companies offer job complexity and performance-based benefits. However, all planners get some benefits such as life, health, dental, and injury insurance as standard.
How to Become an Ideal Maintenance Planner
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the maintenance planner job will see a growth of up to 6 percent by 2024. This makes it an ideal position for anyone who wants to make a career in industrial management.
In order to make craft themselves into the ideal maintenance planners, professionals have to make technology the base of their workflow. The result of this is an increase in the productivity of the staff.
In conclusion, any prospective maintenance planner who wants to succeed in this position should upskill themselves into an efficient and observant professional who has the skills to streamline company maintenance operations in the long term.