A predictive maintenance strategy can help prevent maintenance backlog.What is a Maintenance Backlog?

The maintenance backlog is a maintenance metric that assigns a numeric value to maintenance tasks that are still in the queue, expressed in number of work weeks.

The Importance of a Maintenance Backlog

The maintenance backlog comprises work tasks that need to be resolved to help prevent asset failure,  mitigate safety issues, and ultimately help prevent unplanned downtime. For maintenance personnel, it’s important to make sure critical tasks don’t fall through the cracks. This is where the maintenance backlog metric becomes a valuable maintenance key performance indicator into the effectiveness of your maintenance program, helping you keep a pulse on maintenance team performance.

The purpose of the calculation of maintenance backlog is to help:

  1. Manage the resources of your operations.
  2. Increase the efficiency of your maintenance program.
  3. Ensure maintenance tasks are resolved promptly.
  4. Reduce as much risk as possible.

You can calculate the maintenance backlog per asset or piece of equipment or for the entire maintenance operation. It is best to confer with your team members and stakeholders to determine the optimal approach.

How to Calculate a Maintenance Backlog

The formula for calculating your backlog is fairly simple. You’ll just need to know how many hours of technician time that you have available each week, as well as the number of hours worth of work in queue. Here’s an easy to remember formula:

Hours Worth of Work / Hours of Weekly Capacity = Maintenance Backlog in Weeks

For example, let’s say you have 3 maintenance technicians at your facility, each working 40 hours per week. This means your maintenance team’s weekly capacity in hours is 40 hours x 3 technicians = 120 hours per week. Now, let’s say you have 1200 hours worth of work orders planned. Let’s plug those numbers into the equation:

1200 hours of work orders / 120 hours of weekly capacity = 10 weeks backlog. 

You have 10 weeks of backlog. That’s a lot of work to be done, and many of those tasks in your backlog are probably time-sensitive, meaning 10 weeks is too long to get around to completing them. This is a signal that a) your backlog is too long, and b) you need an effective way to prioritize the tasks in the backlog to make sure no critical tasks are delayed.

What is an Acceptable Maintenance Backlog?

While a certain amount of maintenance backlog is not necessarily an indicator of a problem, too long of a backlog can mean you have fallen behind on critical maintenance tasks and your maintenance team is struggling to keep up with the demand. As such, this is valuable metric to help you identify if and when there is a problem. For example, you might be understaffed, or your equipment may require excessive repairs to keep assets running smoothly. As a general rule, two weeks’ worth of maintenance backlog per worker or technician is a helpful benchmark.

How to Manage Your Maintenance Backlog?

There are implications to consider when managing your backlog. Managing this backlog effectively and prioritizing the right tasks is key to ensuring smooth operations, minimizing the risk of unexpected breakdowns and unplanned downtime, and protecting worker safety.

While many maintenance professionals can and do manage prioritization of their backlogs manually, there are now more efficient ways to break down that 10 weeks of backlog and prioritize it as effectively as possible using a web-based CMMS software.

How to Reduce Your Maintenance Backlog?

The first step to reducing the backlog is to find consensus between the maintenance and production groups. The question that needs to be answered is, which tasks and equipment are tagged as mission-critical? Determine if a task falls under “corrective” versus “preventive” maintenance. The higher the risk, the lower the tolerance for maintenance backlog. This means that corrective actions will often need to be prioritized ahead of preventative activities.

You can further reduce your maintenance backlog and improve your maintenance team’s efficiency by leveraging what is known as predictive maintenance, which refers to the ability to predict maintenance requirements by monitoring critical measures of machine health (like vibration and temperature) in real-time.

Conclusion

Effective management of maintenance backlog can change the game for your facility’s operations. Keep in mind that this metric should be leveraged in combination with other maintenance KPIs such as Planned Maintenance Percentage (PMP), Preventative Maintenance Compliance (PMC), and others to give you a more comprehensive view of your maintenance team’s effectiveness.

By efficiently planning maintenance activities, you can optimize your maintenance team’s time, avoid unexpected breakdowns and unplanned downtime, and keep operations running as smoothly as possible, ultimately saving both time and costs for your business. Consider also leveraging a CMMS software solution to save time and keep your maintenance backlog organized.