It is rare that there will be a perfectly planned job with no room for any improvement. The only way to approach the nirvana of perfection is by continuously making improvements to the way we do things, no matter how small. Most, if not all, maintenance work management systems have some form of work order feedback as an integral sub process, but this seems to be the one part of the process that is underutilised if not completely broken.
The maintenance technicians, i.e. The ones that completed work, are the ones that know what cost them time, what was missing, and what would make the job go better, so they are the ones that need to provide the feedback. But this does not make them responsible for the feedback loop.
Feedback is a joint responsibility and must be sought by the planner and freely given by the execution team. It must not be seen as either criticism or whinging, but rather as a way to bring the maintenance team together and improve the department as a whole.
One thing that often stifles the feedback loop is the detailed feedback form. Maintenance Technicians, in most cases, are not interested in writing detailed reports, so we create a detailed feedback form to capture the information to make it easier for them, and in our attempts make everything standardised and part of "The Process" we try to categorise the feedback before it is even received. This will end up restricting the information given e.g. “There is no spot for xyz so they don’t want to know about it”. To combat this we add more detail until the form becomes so complicated that no one wants to fill it out, or receive it.
The best feedback is given face to face, this will allow for the details to be imparted and for the planner to ask follow-up questions to fully understand the issues. I have a couple of suggestions to facilitate this:
- Planners should go into the field and talk to the technicians, one to one on a regular basis. This will allow the planner to develop a relationship with the execution team that will ease the feedback process. It will also increase the credibility of the planner by making them one of the team rather than just an office worker producing paper work.
- The planner should attend at least one of the pre start meetings with the execution team and some time in this meeting should be dedicated to discussing planning issues.
Feedback is fundamental to maintenance improvement and should be a schedule part of the planners day. Campaigns to improve planning quality will often only produce short term results, but an embedded feedback process will always provide dividends.