5 Tips To Improve Maintenance Work Order Estimates

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Poor work order estimates can cause costly headaches!

making maintenance work order estimates When we have several different maintenance tasks to do every day, it is important to estimate how much time each work order will take. Underestimating the time required will cause many problems. 

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

“Extra overtime is required every week to complete maintenance work, the maintenance team is stressed out and close to burn out, many critical work orders have not been completed.  And the maintenance team has a bad reputation and are seen as very incompetent!”

This large amount of overtime will blow up the costs in the maintenance budget. Less money is left for training, hiring new people and getting 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…

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. They will take more time doing them and will often make mistakes.

So your problems start to get worse … 🙁

How to improve your maintenance management 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 maintenance task definitions as templates to create work orders

This works best with CMMS software. A CMMS program can 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 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. This time can be reduced as the technicians become more skilled and familiar with their jobs.

Using CMMS software for estimates

CMMS software makes it much easier to collect and manage estimates. You can define the tasks in the CMMS software and adjust the estimates over time. It should be possible to chain tasks together. That way 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.

Just think about it.

If you are looking for a CMMS or maintenance management software program you can download and try out a fully functional 30-day trial of FastMaint CMMS software.

Download CMMS Software

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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