The most straightforward reason for having a maintenance backlog is clarity and awareness about tasks to be performed. Without it, many important activities may be neglected. Maintenance backlogs keep tabs on the technicians’ workload and are indispensable to planning resources accordingly. Besides, a clear overview of backlog tasks can also help to prevent work safety incidents, equipment breakdowns, and other unanticipated failures.
Backlog activity can also come in handy when making hiring and contracting decisions or allocating payroll budgets. For example, if your organization does not have any maintenance backlogs, it might indicate the excess of staff. And the other way round – too many backlogs mean not enough human resources to tackle all the activities.
How to calculate maintenance backlog?
To calculate the backlog metric, you need to take into account all the pending, planned, and in-progress maintenance activities, as well as the maintenance department’s capacity. Therefore, the backlog value equals man hours of available work / total available man hours (only productive time – your technicians do not perform work orders from 9 to 6).
Backlogs can be too small or too large. When the backlog is too small, companies experience difficulties in prioritizing and notice an increase in unplanned tasks. Meanwhile, excessive backlogs are very difficult to control and increase the risk of duplicate work orders. The global standard for backlog, measured in working days, is 2 weeks. For companies that work 24/7, it may be between 3 to 4 weeks.
How to keep the backlog clean?
Managing backlogs efficiently needs some ground rules and discipline.
It is important to prioritize to-dos based on their importance, not the day they enter the backlog. Backlogs should not be cluttered with completed tasks, low-priority activities and duplicated work orders.
For an accurate backlog calculation, you can apply some limitations to the above mentioned formula and the work reflected in this KPI:
- Exclude the work to be performed by outside contractors;
- Consider the preventive and predictive maintenance work that fits in the normal scheduling horizon (5-12 weeks), not a whole year’s worth of it;
- Break standing or permanent work orders, if any, into weekly chunks and enter them into the backlog in a similar logic like PM and PdM tasks (5 to 12 weeks timeline).
Managing the backlog
While backlog components related to maintenance operations are relatively forgiving, neglected interventions eventually cause breakdowns and generate extreme downtime. To avoid this, efficient planning and forecasting is a must. That’s where dispatching software solutions step in. They provide service managers with a framework for planning, forecasting, batching and intervention decisions:
- Planning – 7 interventions and 5 maintenance operations are due today. They have to be assigned to the technicians available – who are they? If needed, some action items may be postponed – which ones?
- Forecasting – a piece of equipment is burning approximately 40 hours per week. At this rate, what maintenance operations will be required in the future?
- Batching – multiple interventions in 10 construction yards. To be efficient, the operations must be grouped together. How to do it?
- Interventions – a piece of equipment has a small outstanding issue to be sorted. Should a technician be sent to fix it immediately, or the problem can wait for the scheduled maintenance upcoming in 3 days? Which way is more efficient?