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Policy, Strategy, Plan, Instruction……. Which One and When?

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Pro-Reliability Solutions –

The terminology which different organisations use when it comes to discussing Maintenance and Reliability Strategies varies and is often dependent on an individuals’ own perception.

When you look at the definitions of the words, the meanings are very similar and hence why different terminology is currently in use. Factory A refers to the strategy as a plan, Factory B calls the policy the strategy and so the confusion begins.


Policy: a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organisation or individual.

Strategy: a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.

Plan: a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something

Instruction: detailed information about how something should be done or operated

Whichever terminology and approach are used, our recommendation would be to standardise, document and then communicate the wording. Everyone needs to talk the same language to avoid confusion and miscommunications.

The Policy

A company’s ‘Maintenance and Reliability Policy’ is the first step towards alignment, accountability, optimised processes, and proving the value of the maintenance and reliability effort. Using a ‘Maintenance and Reliability Policy’ as a guide gives an organisation the opportunity for implementing their vision and philosophy for maintenance and reliability excellence.

The policy will:

  • Detail and define the overall maintenance and reliability business process
  • Detail the key maintenance and reliability tools
  • Define the roles, responsibilities and accountabilities (RACI chart)
  • Define the continuous improvement processes to ensure the maintenance management system remains a living program
  • Define how maintenance and reliability interacts with operations and production to deliver uptime

In the absence of a documented ‘Maintenance and Reliability Policy’ various de-facto policies develop such as:

  • “Priorities are set by the loudest demander”
  • “Everyone stocks whatever parts they want”
  • “We are too busy to do Planned Maintenance”

A ‘Maintenance and Reliability Policy’ belongs to each site. The development of this must involve local management and gain commitment from all stakeholders.

The Strategy

The ‘Strategy’ documents the maintenance requirements which are needed to deliver the companies Maintenance and Reliability Policy. The strategy is normally developed using Reliability tools such as Reliability Centred Maintenance (RCM) and Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA). The strategy would be grouped into windows such as frequency, discipline, equipment, online or offline. The strategy will be responsible for delivering the planned maintenance activities and would be a combination of preventive and predictive techniques.

The Plan

The ‘Plan’ delivers the strategy from within the Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS) to the shop floor and is managed by the maintenance planner and scheduled according to business operational requirements and is designed to minimise disruption and maximise plant availability.

The Instructions

The ‘Instructions’ sometimes known as ‘Work Instructions’ or ‘Job Methods’ are documents on how we deliver the strategy, these are the ‘how to’ instructions and would be populated within a standard company template and show headings such as:

  • Materials
  • Resource
  • Tools
  • Access
  • Isolations
  • Instructions
  • Measurements
  • Commissioning

Job methods and work instructions have been around for many years but are often not used with a heavy reliance being put on the maintenance teams to deliver the plan based on equipment knowledge and experience.

Well documented instructions would support an approach to precision maintenance and ensure standardisation of strategy delivery.

Do all jobs on the plan need a work instruction? Not necessarily, it would come down to the frequency of task, criticality of asset and complexity levels of the required job. There may also be some statutory requirements that requires documentation to be populated for evidence of completion and historical record keeping.

If you need support or would like to discuss the implementation of any of the Policy, Strategy, Plan, Instruction approaches. Then please do get in touch.

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