Maintenance backlog refers to maintenance work that is overdue. It is usually measured in hours or days. It represents the total estimated time it would take to complete the pending maintenance work orders. As a facilities/ maintenance manager or maintenance planner this is something you need to keep an eye on and make sure that it does not go out of control.
Maintenance work orders can remain incomplete for a variety of reasons:
- Spare parts not available to complete the work: If these are preventive maintenance work orders you should be able to predict in advance spares & supplies that may be needed using maintenance work order reports for future periods in your CMMS software. Based on previous unplanned/ breakdown work orders you may be able to identify equipment that breaks down frequently and the parts that need to be available so that work can be completed. Keep track of vendors and try to have alternative vendors for all parts so that you have other vendors to go to in case of supply problems from some vendors. You may find the vendor management tips in “6 Ways CMMS/ Maintenance Software Can Improve Vendor Management” useful.
- Maintenance technicians (with required skills) not available for the job: This can happen when equipment needs specialized skills to fix/ troubleshoot but the technicians with those skills are too busy or not available because of sickness/ vacation/ other work. If this is one off or infrequent you probably can live with this. However, if you see it happen quite frequently you should plan to upgrade the skills of other technicians so that someone else can step in as needed.
- Equipment problems that require troubleshooting from vendor/ outside specialist: While similar to previously mentioned problems of technicians not being available, this is something you have less control over. If this occurs often to certain equipment, try to escalate the issues with equipment vendors so that they will send you help faster. Also see if it makes sense to replace equipment because it is too old or can be replaced with more reliable equipment. The article “Analyzing Machine/ Equipment Breakdown Reports From CMMS Software” may be useful in helping you do this.
- Task dropped because a higher priority task came up: This is something that can happen quite frequently. In fact in our “Maintenance Management – Tips For Success” e-booklet we recommend organizing a schedule where it is possible to drop lower priority tasks when higher priority unplanned/ breakdown tasks come up. For such dropped tasks you should try to catch up when you can and make sure that they get completed/ canceled in a reasonable time period.
- Work order no longer needed: For example you may have a monthly preventive maintenance check where a filter is replaced. The equipment breaks down just before this check is due and as part of the service the technician replaces the filter and does the other steps in the preventive maintenance check. The check is no longer required this month. Another cause could be that the equipment on which the work is being done is no longer in service or is out of service for other reasons. In such cases you need to cancel these unneeded work orders.
- Unable to get access to the equipment/ location because it is in use: You may be unable to complete work because another department (e.g. operations) is using the equipment and cannot afford to have it shut down for maintenance. If this is critical maintenance that is being delayed you need to escalate this to management because such delayed maintenance may result in premature equipment failures. At this point the maintenance department will most likely take the blame! Ideally you should use something like theEquipment Calendar Report to identify and schedule maintenance with other departments to reduce such missed work. Read the article “Equipment Maintenance Calendars & Scheduling Preventive Maintenance” for more information.
- Someone forgot about it: This can happen more often than not especially when you have many work orders to track. This is where CMMS software can be really useful and can help you keep track of missed maintenance as well as give you reminders as needed.
It is important to have a way to keep track of your maintenance backlog. Ideally over time it should decrease but due to factors mentioned above you may see jumps in some periods. CMMS software can be very useful to keep track of such pending/ past due work orders and help you ensure that they are closed/ canceled as needed.
Looking for CMMS/ maintenance software?
You can download a 30-day fully functional trial of FastMaint CMMS software and see how you can use it to manage your maintenance backlog. The one page Statistics report available from the main screen/ Home page (Web edition) shows how much backlog you have as well as check for pending work orders from prior periods. The maintenance work order history report can be used to locate only pending/past-due work orders so that you can complete/ cancel them as needed.Download CMMS Software
- “5 maintenance backlog traps to avoid” from PlantServices magazine covers issues that can trip you up when trying to reduce maintenance backlog.
- “Maintenance Work Backlog Management” from Lifetime Reliability Solutions has some useful tips on classifying and managing backlog.