5 Tips For Maintenance Work Order Estimates

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Bad work order estimates equals big headaches!

making maintenance work order estimates

The time estimate for a maintenance work order is critical, especially when there are many to complete each day. Underestimating the time required will cause many problems. 

It’s a familiar story and usually goes like this:

“We need extra overtime every week to complete maintenance work. Our maintenance team is stressed out and close to burn out. Many critical work orders are pending.  The maintenance team has a bad reputation and worst of all considered incompetent!”

Impact on maintenance budget

This large amount of overtime will blow up the costs in the maintenance budget. There is less money is for training, hiring new people and for better quality spares & tools. This makes it critical to have a good idea how much time each type of maintenance task will take, the resources required and to schedule work appropriately.

But that’s just part of the story…

Impact on maintenance staff

Maintenance team burnout will result in high turnover of your maintenance technicians. Hiring new people to replace them will further compound the problems. Newly hired replacements will not yet be familiar with many of the jobs and procedures. As a result they will take more time doing them and will often make mistakes.

So your problems start to get worse … 🙁

How to improve maintenance work order estimates

1. List all the different types of maintenance tasks you do

This includes both planned or preventative as well as unplanned or 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 and skills you will need. A good CMMS/ maintenance management software program can help you create such a listing.

2. Use a task library for maintenance work order templates

This works best with CMMS software. Use the list of maintenance tasks created previously to create maintenance task templates. These templates will have the steps needed, parts required, time estimates, frequency and so on. The CMMS program can schedule & create work orders from this task library. The task template’s estimate of time, people & parts can be used to calculate what work can be done in a work day. Planning reports in the software will help you properly schedule work orders. You can detect possible schedule conflicts. For example someone needs to work on two different work orders at the same time!  You can also find possible spare part shortages.

3. Check 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 of the job correctly. Over estimates can be bad too! 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.

4. 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. For example 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. You can also identify critical paths – a problem here will delay all other work.

5. Make sure that you get the right estimates for the work

Estimates should be based on the time taken for a technician of average skill. Do not base it on time it would take a highly experienced technician! If you have many inexperienced technicians you will need to add more time. You can reduce this time as the technicians become more skilled and familiar with their jobs.

Use CMMS software for estimates

CMMS software makes it much easier to collect and manage maintenance work order estimates. You define the tasks in the CMMS software and adjust the estimates over time. You can chain tasks together. That way you do not end up with very large multi-day work orders that can make estimation difficult. Use the reports from the CMMS software to compare actual vs. estimated values.

Just think about it.

Looking for a CMMS or maintenance management software program? Download and try out a free 30-day trial of FastMaint CMMS.

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Useful resources

  1. Defining Work Order Priorities” from PlantMaintenance.com has tips to help you define critical and non-critical maintenance work.
  2. How to Manage a Plant Shutdown” from Reliable Plant magazine has useful information on items to consider when doing a maintenance shutdown.
  3. The Secret Art Of Successful Maintenance Planning and Maintenance Scheduling“(from Lifetime Reliability)
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