Is your maintenance team struggling with time management? Does the backlog keep piling up? Are tasks getting missed? Not sure what your team is doing on their shift?
Often, time management problems for the maintenance team reflect underlying issues. When planning, scheduling, and communication get established, time management gradually falls into place.
The Benefits of Maintenance Planning and Scheduling
A maintenance planning and scheduling system benefits a parks and recreation agency and its visitors. Once established, you may notice:
- A safer, more orderly environment
- Assets and equipment last longer
- Increased maintenance productivity and decreased labor costs
- Better communication because crews know their daily expectations
- Less downtime and equipment failure
- A more productive, professional workplace culture
Let's take a closer look at implementing a planning and scheduling system for a more efficient maintenance team.
Maintenance planning involves addressing any specific needs, potential problems, or routine tasks necessary for a department to operate.
Planning addresses the questions of What, Why, and How. For example:
- What work needs to be done before the picnic event?
- What equipment is required for the park improvement?
- Why are we mowing this park on Mondays?
- Why are we waiting until spring to trim the trees?
- How should we replace the plumbing at the concession stand?
- How will we ensure graffiti gets removed in 24 hours or less?
Planners create job plans based on work orders, seasonal needs, upcoming programming, and future projects. A planner's entire focus should only be on future work. Planners should have at least one week of backlogged work read for the crews to tackle.
Ideally, the individual doing the maintenance planning is separate from the one scheduling maintenance tasks. The planner should be removed from the maintenance crew and focused on facilitating better planning, workflow, and preparedness for the future.
Although a planner should be a separate entity, they must have extensive knowledge of the type of work performed. They also need to understand the time required to complete tasks and the staff requirements.
If possible, the planner should have experience as a technician or manager for your agency. This experience provides valuable insights into the planning process and what systems may need improvement. Also, when planners spend time working alongside others in the crew, they understand the skills and strengths of each of the technicians.
A successful planner reduces downtime. The planning process helps ensure available equipment and supplies, procedures get clearly outlined, and an area is ready for work.
What's Included in a Job Plan?
Remember, a job plan addresses the What, How, and Why? It provides all the information needed for scheduling a task. Job plans should include how many technicians are required, the minimum skill level, work hours per skill level, and any other information that may affect the time needed to complete a job.
- How many technicians with an herbicide license are needed?
- How long will it take them to spray the area?
- How many non-licensed techs are needed for assistance?
- What herbicides are used?
- How much herbicide is necessary for the site?
- What weeds are we spraying?
- Why are we choosing the spray this area?
Maintenance scheduling involves taking the job plans and putting them into a timeframe. Planners are responsible for creating the projects. The scheduler makes sure it gets done.
Scheduling address the When and Who of maintenance. For example:
- When do we need to set up extra picnic tables for the event?
- When are we watering the new trees?
- Who is certified to apply herbicide to the weeds?
- Who knows the procedure to inspect mowers each week?
Scheduling revolves around the available technician hours, highest skills available, priority level, and the existing recreation program schedule. All this information allows the maintenance manager to schedule the most appropriate crew. Also, this information enables the supervisor to schedule tasks to minimize interfering with the public's experience at parks and facilities.
For example, a technician with carpentry skills should fix a downed wooden fence near a facility that's about to host a big event--not do garbage duty with a team of young seasonal staff.
Scheduling weekly allows the crew supervisor to focus on the current week--not the entire backlog of work. Then, each day, crew leaders or supervisors make any changes to the schedule based on new information or unexpected circumstances.
Unless there is an emergency, maintenance supervisors--or sometimes the technicians--resolve any issues during jobs. Remember: the planner is already thinking about the future.
The schedulers and crew leaders can review how accurate and effective the schedule was each week and make adjustments based on reporting and observations.
Making Planning and Scheduling Work: Communication
The effort put into planning and scheduling means nothing unless the details get clearly communicated.
Every team communicates a little differently. What works for one crew may not be effective for another. We all have those employees that seem to have the task done before we even ask them. Then there are those individuals who need gentle (or not so gentle) reminders each day.
It's easy to assume everyone knows what's happening in the department. Or, in contrast, to believe that everyone needs more information and reminders. These assumptions often cause under or overcommunicating.
Under-communicating can lead to missed work, misunderstandings, and a team's lack of direction. Overcommunicating may make it difficult for individuals to hear through the noise and determine the responsibilities that are specifically for them.
As with many things in life, finding the proper methods and amount of communication is a delicate balance. It often takes trial and error. And it constantly evolves as your team and agency evolve.
Ideas for Communicating Time Management
If your team hasn't quite hit that communication "sweet spot," here are a few things to try to improve it:
Schedule a Daily Briefing
Daily checking in with the team allows everyone to understand the day's expectations. Also, the team can alter the schedule if something unexpected comes up, like a call-off, equipment breakdown, or bad weather.
Daily briefings can be quick informal check-ins to start the day. It doesn't have to be a drawn-out meeting. Just make sure everyone is present and has a chance to voice any questions or concerns.
Listen to Your Team
Excellent communication is a two-way street. Managers can gain essential insights by listening to their crew. These insights can help the planning and scheduling process.
What struggles are they having in the field? What ideas do they have to make their jobs more efficient? Are there equipment or supplies that would help them work better? It never hurts to get ideas from everyone involved.
A team also communicates by the records they create. Logs provide the data and information necessary to make future decisions. Records also help keep people accountable. Detailed inspections, labor hours, and notes about a specific task help plan for the future.
Set up a system to make recording information quick and easy. Your crew worked hard all day; the last thing they want is to be burdened with mounds of paperwork afterward.
Finding the right system depends on your team's preferences and abilities for documenting their work.
Also, records should be easily accessible to those that need them. If a procedure is on file and easily accessed by the crew, include the file in the job plans.
Explore New Methods
Many parks and recreation departments are hiring a younger workforce. Since many of these younger technicians are skilled in technology, departments use maintenance management software to help with planning, scheduling, recording, and communicating daily tasks.
Having a centralized location where team members can easily access their schedules, quickly report their progress, and alert schedulers and planners about issues improves a team's efficiency.
Maintenance management software solutions customized to address your agency's needs could be the difference between struggling with time management and finally getting everyone up to speed.