When many work orders are generated each day, it’s easy for some work orders to be missed. The maintenance backlog consists of maintenance work that is overdue, or in other words, has passed its target start date. The maintenance backlog may include daily and weekly corrective repair work, preventive maintenance tasks, predictive maintenance tasks and jobs planned during periods of scheduled equipment downtime. Oftentimes, a growing maintenance backlog is a sign that maintenance technicians are performing reactive maintenance, rather than preventive or predictive maintenance. An important goal should be to reduce maintenance backlog.

Missed maintenance can result in equipment failure. The longer an item sits in the maintenance backlog, the more precarious the situation can become. While having a maintenance backlog of some level is unavoidable, the backlog should be stable and controllable. You can determine backlog based on the entire maintenance operation or by asset. A low-risk asset can tolerate a longer maintenance backlog, while a high-risk asset can only tolerate a short maintenance backlog.

The maintenance backlog is usually measured in terms of hours or days, representing the amount of time it would take to complete pending work orders. While a small backlog of work orders is usually the result of swings in the daily work schedule, a disproportionately large maintenance backlog may be the sign of an underlying problem. There are various reasons why a maintenance backlog can grow, including the following:

  • Deferring maintenance work
  • Not having spare parts available to complete the work
  • Maintenance technicians with the required skills aren’t available to do the job
  • Someone forgot about the work order
  • An outside specialist or vendor’s expertise is required for troubleshooting
  • A higher priority task came up so the work order was put aside

It is difficult to measure or control your maintenance backlog without a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or enterprise asset management (EAM) software. CMMS/EAM software can help you keep track of pending work orders and ensure that they are closed as needed. The system can even send you reminders when work orders are overdue.

The first step in reducing maintenance backlog is determining what the current backlog contains. If they are all approved work orders that are still applicable, then you need to find additional resources that will allow you to put a dent into the backlog. A head count increase probably isn’t an option, but you can free up your existing resources by converting non-value added preventive maintenance tasks to condition-based predictive maintenance tasks. By eliminating non-value added preventive maintenance tasks, you can free up additional hours to reduce your maintenance backlog.

Ideally, maintenance technicians will close work orders 24 hours within completing a job. This will help ensure that the information in the system remains current. It’s essential for maintenance technicians to use CMMS/EAM software to record adequate closeout data on work orders. Information about the work performed and lessons learned should become part of your maintenance records.

Maintenance managers can also generate reports that display long overdue work orders and then determine how they will control the backlog. Being able to easily share backlog statistics with maintenance management software enables managers to make more informed decisions and take action to improve the situation.

In order to reduce maintenance backlog, it’s imperative to develop an effective planning and scheduling process. With the help of CMMS/EAM software, you can set objectives and priorities, establish responsibilities, measure performance and audit the process. Contact DPSI today to learn more about our maintenance management software products and services, or sign up for a free trial below.

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