Health of the Maintenance Planning discipline in Mining

A reflection on the health of this core discipline in mining

Willie Jacobs

7/27/20232 min read


In the open pit mining industry, maintenance planning plays a pivotal role in ensuring efficient operations. However, the health of this discipline often goes unnoticed until significant issues arise. This post aims to shed light on the current state of maintenance planning in the industry and provoke thought on how we can improve.

The Current State of Maintenance Planning

Maintenance planning is a complex discipline that requires a delicate balance of staffing levels, skills & competence, quality of planning output, and cross-functional engagement with operations and maintenance execution. It's about more than just building work order, scheduling repairs or even chasing parts; it's about ensuring that the interaction between reliability, planning, execution, and operations functions is seamless and efficient. However, based on anecdotal evidence, it seems that the health of this discipline in the open pit mining industry is in need of attention.

Challenges in Maintenance Planning

One of the most pressing issues is the high turnover rate among highly skilled planners. I have spoken to many top notch planners and they often leave companies due to a perceived lack of recognition for the value they add, the lack of skilled planning resources and the pressure from poorly configured and maintained systems. So often, in reactive maintenance environments, planners are seen as administrative support (read parts and paperwork chasers) for the "fixers" rather than the drivers of the process. This perception, coupled with sub-optimally configured systems, places an immense strain on planners, contributing to a revolving door phenomenon.

The Impact of These Challenges

These challenges have significant consequences on the efficiency and effectiveness of not just maintenance planning, but equipment up-time and cost, impacting the overall mining operations. As a previous maintenance manager, I can attest to the complexity that a poorly set-up and configured ERP system puts on planners. In some cases, I expected my planning team to "build the plane while flying", not fully appreciating the pressure I was putting on them. Now, with a better understanding of the complexity of ERP systems, I can reflect on the mistakes I made in ignorance.

The Need for Change

Addressing these challenges is crucial for improving the health of maintenance planning in the mining industry. By recognizing the value of planners, investing in their skills and competence, and improving the quality of planning output, we can enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and achieve better maintenance outcomes.

How Birchwood Advisory Can Help

At Birchwood Advisory, we understand these challenges and are committed to helping you address them. We offer services such as external reviews of planning functions, which can provide insights into the health of your maintenance planning and suggest practical improvements.


Reflecting on the state of maintenance planning in your organization is the first step towards improvement. Whether you're a planner, a supervisor, manager, or a company leader, it's crucial to recognize the importance of this discipline and the potential for improvement.

Call to Action

If you found this post thought-provoking, consider following Birchwood Advisory on LinkedIn for more insights. If you're interested in an external review of your planning function, reach out to us at or complete the contact form below. We're here to help you improve the health of your maintenance planning and pave the way for more efficient mining operations.