Poor work order time & material estimates can be an expensive headache!
When there are several different maintenance tasks to do every day, it is quite important to estimate how much time each work order will take. Underestimating the time required will frequently result in extra overtime, maintenance team burnout and dropped work orders. This will also get the maintenance team quite a bad reputation and they will be seen as ineffective! Maintenance team burnout will result in high turnover of your maintenance technicians. Hiring new people to replace them will further compound the problems since newly hired replacements will not yet be familiar with many of the jobs and procedures and will take more time doing them. Having too much overtime will add costs to your maintenance budget. Hence it is important to have a good idea how much time each type of maintenance task will take and to schedule work appropriately.
How to improve your maintenance management estimates
- List all the different types of maintenance tasks you do – both planned/ preventative as well as unplanned/ breakdown work. You should have an idea of how much each of these tasks will take if there are no unexpected problems. Besides this you should know the spares & supplies as well as the technicians/ skills you will need. A good CMMS/ maintenance management software program can help you create such a listing.
- The CMMS/ maintenance software could use your maintenance task definitions as templates to create work orders. It could also use the estimates of time, people & parts to give you an idea of what work can be completed in a regular working day. Planning reports will help you properly schedule work orders and detect possible schedule conflicts (someone needs to work on two different work orders at the same time) as well as possible spare part shortages.
- Check the CMMS/ maintenance software reports and compare work order estimated time vs. actual time spent. Occasionally you may see major variations because of unexpected problems. However, in general you should see a close match between the estimates and actual time taken if you have estimated the size the job correctly. Over estimates can be bad too – since it means that you will plan for less work than you are able to. So if you see much variance between the estimates and the actual time, check and see why this is happening and update the estimates accordingly. Doing this on a periodic basis will over time give much more reliable estimates on how much work is involved in doing most maintenance tasks.
- Try to get work order estimated times to a day or less. Avoid having multi-day work orders. For very large jobs that may take several days you can try to break them up into smaller work orders and chain them one after another (e.g. completion of one work order will schedule the next one). Having a finer granularity of task estimates makes it easier to pinpoint areas which can produce estimation problems as well as identify critical paths (a problem here will delay all other work).
- Estimates should be based on the time taken for a technician of average skill not on time it would take a highly experienced technician. If you have many inexperienced technicians you may need to add additional time. This time can be reduced as the technicians become more skilled and familiar with their jobs.
Using CMMS/ maintenance software for estimates
CMMS/ maintenance software makes it much easier to collect and manage estimates. You can define the tasks in the CMMS/ maintenance software and adjust the estimates over time. It should be possible to chain tasks together so that you do not end up with very large multi-day work orders that can make estimation difficult. Reports from the CMMS software can be used to compare actual vs. estimated values. If you are looking for a CMMS/ maintenance software program you can download and try out a fully functional 30-day trial of FastMaint CMMS Maintenance Management.Download CMMS Software
- “Defining Work Order Priorities” from PlantMaintenance.com has tips to help you define critical and non-critical maintenance work.
- “Plant Maintenance Shutdown” from IMPO magazine has useful information on items to consider when doing a maintenance shutdown.
- “8 Steps to Success in Maintenance Planning and Scheduling” from The Maintenance Phoenix has a variety of useful scheduling tips.