Critical Chain Applied to an MRO – Surface Repair Facility

Earned Value Management Track


The project management methodology of Theory of Constraints, called Critical Chain, is examined for application to Scheduling, Planning and Control (SP&C) for a defense-related Maintenance Repair Operation (MRO).

The opportunities for Critical Chain, as an extension of Theory of Constraints (TOC), have been reported for well over a decade. With this proven record comes a proposal for similar application in the SP&C at the Surface Repair Facility (SRF) at Cecil Field, Florida.

The SRF has established reporting systems such as Earned Value Methodology (EVM) – mentioned here to distinguish the differences between execution and reporting in SP&C.

At the enterprise level, Lean (called Lean+) has been applied at the SRF with the following realized or potential opportunities:

1. Clear priorities for induction, processing and delivery of assets
2. Limits/controls on WIP in controlling inventory ready for processing
3. Immediate issue resolution with concentration on constraints
4. Daily driven execution for working the plan and working the problems

Lean and Critical Chain have a long-standing, symbiotic relationship.

Critical Chain, as a common methodology in both the organization and the industry, offers the following opportunities for SP&C performance:

1. Supplementing Lean+ enhancements
2. Managing uncertainty and inherent process variability
3. Isolating and exploiting the current “critical constraint” of workflow
4. Reducing turn-around time (or time to repair) and WIP

Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM) not only supplements Lean but, as the proposal will describe, attacks the inherent variability of project/process duration.

At the submission of the proposal, the SRF is undergoing some changes that, pertinent to the paper, are described as integrated planning-scheduling. This recent development coupled with the success of CCPM (in maintenance and repair operations) is reason to consider the proposal, its content.


Howard Rainer
Howard “Kirk” Rainer is currently on contract as an industrial engineer with Boeing at the maintenance repair facility, Cecil Field, Florida. Prior to this contract, he has worked with such companies as Global Aeronautica, Northrop-Grumman, Honeywell and the former Pemco Aeroplex (Birmingham, AL)in a similar capacity of scheduling, planning and control (SP&C).
Within the profession of industrial engineering, Kirk’s primary interest and development has occurred in the areas of SP&C and operations support. Applied strictly to a discrete manufacturing and/or maintenance environment, this interest has enabled applications and contributions ranging from master scheduling to shop floor control, proposal development to operations support.
Academically, Kirk completed his B.S. in industrial engineering at Auburn University (1983); and later, acquired masters’ degrees in aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle (1991), and in operations research at the University of Central Florida (1996). Certified in planning and scheduling with the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a PMP-SP, he has carried his interest into the broader applications of programs and projects. Other professional memberships include the American Society of Transportation and Logistics (ASTL) and the Society of Cost Estimating and Analysis (SCEA). He has taught as an adjunct instructor in allied areas of operations management and methods.