Maintenance Backlog Management For Equipment & Facilities

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What is maintenance backlog?

maintenance jobs boardMaintenance backlog refers to maintenance work that is overdue. Maintenance backlog is normally measured in hours or days. It shows the total time estimate it would take to complete the pending maintenance work orders. It is a very important maintenance metric for facilities managers, maintenance managers and maintenance planners.

Big increases in maintenance backlog should be taken seriously! o_O

What causes maintenance backlog?

Maintenance work orders can remain incomplete for a variety of reasons such as:

1. Spare parts or supplies are not available

If these are preventive maintenance work orders you should be able to predict in advance spares & supplies that may be needed. For this use the maintenance work order reports for future periods in your CMMS software. Use previous unplanned or breakdown work orders you to identify equipment that breaks down frequently. Also identify the parts that need to be available so that work can be completed in time.

Keep track of good vendors for parts and supplies. Try to have alternative vendors for them so that you have other vendors to go to in case of supply problems. See the vendor management tips in “6 Ways CMMS/ Maintenance Software Can Improve Vendor Management”  for more information.

2. Maintenance technicians (with required skills) not available

This can happen when equipment needs special skills to fix or troubleshoot. The technicians with those skills are too busy or not available because of sickness, vacation or other work. If this is infrequent you can probably manage this. If it happens often you should try train other technicians with these skills so that they can do the job as needed.

3. Equipment problems that need fixes by vendor or outside specialist

While similar to technicians not being available, this is something you have less control over. If this happens often to certain equipment, try to escalate the issues with equipment vendors so that they will send you help faster. 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” shows you ways to do this analysis.

4. Task dropped because a higher priority task came up

This is something that can happen often. In our “Maintenance Management – Tips For Success” e-booklet we recommend organizing a schedule where you can drop lower priority tasks when high priority unplanned or breakdown tasks come up. For such dropped tasks you should try to catch up when you can. Make sure that they get completed or canceled in a reasonable time period.

5. Work order no longer needed

For example you may have a monthly preventive maintenance check where you replace a filter. The equipment breaks down just before this check is due. As part of the service the technician replaces the filter and does the other steps in the preventive maintenance check. So you no longer need to do the check this month. Another reason 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.

6. Unable to get access to the equipment/ location because it is in use

You may be unable to complete work because another department (for example 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. The maintenance department will most likely take the blame!

You should use something like the Equipment Calendar Report to identify and schedule maintenance with other departments. This will reduce such missed work. See the article “Equipment Maintenance Calendars & Scheduling Preventive Maintenance” for more information.

7. 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. It can help you keep track of missed maintenance as well as give you reminders as needed.

Track your maintenance backlog

It is important to have a way to keep track of your maintenance backlog. Ideally over time maintenance backlog should decrease. But due to the factors mentioned you may see jumps in some periods. CMMS software can be very useful to keep track of such pending work orders and help you ensure that they are closed or canceled as needed.

If your maintenance backlog starts to increase make sure you have a plan to start reducing it soon. An ever increasing maintenance backlog will soon result in major maintenance failures and a leave a maintenance department in total firefighting mode trying to keep up.

Take action to reduce maintenance backlog!

Go through pending work orders to identify backlog causes. Find the most major causes of your backlog. Then take  appropriate actions to reduce them. If your maintenance department is overstretched, see if you can work with equipment vendors or outside contractors to get pending maintenance completed. You can use your maintenance software to reschedule jobs as needed and close out redundant work orders. If maintenance is being held up other departments not releasing equipment, work with them to set up a schedule to complete pending maintenance as well as future preventive maintenance.

Looking for CMMS/ maintenance software?

You can get a web demo or download a 30-day 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 or Home page (Cloud, Web edition) shows how much backlog you have and pending work orders from prior periods. Use the maintenance work order history report to locate only pending or past-due work orders so that you can complete or cancel them as needed.

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Additional Reading

  1. 5 maintenance backlog traps to avoid” from PlantServices magazine covers issues that can trip you up when trying to reduce maintenance backlog.
  2. Maintenance Work Backlog Management” from Lifetime Reliability Solutions has some useful tips on classifying and managing backlog.
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