Serious software
for people serious about business

Why is a maintenance backlog a good thing?

On occasion, we come across maintenance managers that are hell-bent on reducing their maintenance backlog to zero.

Normally measured in hours or days, the maintenance backlog provides an indication of the efficiency of the maintenance department, the adequacy of the maintenance budget, and/or the capacity of the asset base being used for production/operations.

These managers spend an extraordinary amount of effort ensuring things are completed according to their schedules.

This is not a 
desirable outcome

The maintenance backlog is most often used to indicate how much work is overdue for attention. However, the most obvious conclusion one can draw from an empty maintenance backlog is that there is too much capacity going to waste in the maintenance department.

This begs the question, "What is the goal of the maintenance department?" Against popular opinion, the goal is not to complete all maintenance tasks when they fall due. The goal of the maintenance department is actually to ensure the most efficient running of the operations/production department.

To do that means the maintenance department will NEVER be a smooth-running, always-on-time paragon of performance.

You can expect your maintenance department to perform consistently and efficiently when operations never has a project go awry, when production never has an unexpected increase in demand, when employees never take leave unexpectedly, and when pigs can fly. The very nature of the role of the maintenance department means it has to juggle conflicting goals, clashing schedules, unexpected demands, and pressure from management to get it right.

So, given the opportunity, why is it a bad sign to reduce your maintenance backlog to zero? 

An empty backlog indicates one or more of the following:

  • The asset base upon which production and operational output is measured is far too high, meaning good money has been spent on assets that are not being used to their full potential.
  • Maintenance jobs are taking priority over fix/repair jobs, thus adversely affecting production/operations output.
  • Maintenance staffing is too high for the sustainable work coming through the workshop.
  • Customer service levels are too low to create pressure on maintenance staff.
So what should the maintenance manager focus on, if not the backlog? 

Foremost is the response of the maintenance team to unexpected interruptions to the established schedule. A flexible workman is a huge asset to any service department. Accepting unscheduled work without bringing the maintenance schedule to a crashing halt is a mark of a professional and well-run service department.

A close second comes the determined pursuit of on-time lubrication regimes to help minimize asset downtimes caused from wear and tear. The production/operatons teams will love you.

A vital third is to ensure documentation (job status/completion notes; parts used, etc. ) are recorded accurately and in a timely manner. Your boss will love you and you will love the superior information you can draw from your CMMS/EAM.

Get these three right and you will have a service department that is the envy of your competitors.

Posted by Mark Chimes
Powered by Kentico CMS