What is deferred maintenance?
Deferred maintenance is postponing maintenance work to a later date due to the lack of necessary resources.
Whether it is an unexpected issue or a routine preventive maintenance task, if you do not have sufficient resources to do it, it will have to wait.
Examples of deferred maintenance
Deferred maintenance can show up in a wide variety of industries and maintenance applications. Let’s look at a few examples.
Deferred maintenance in real estate
Deferred maintenance in the real estate sector can have real financial impacts.
Selling a home that has been neglected can be a challenge, negatively impacting the home’s value and your ability to close its sale.
Deferred maintenance in production manufacturing
Preventive maintenance tasks and current work orders have been prepared and assigned across your maintenance team. However, a machine operator error has caused an issue that stopped an entire production line.
As downtime and financial losses accumulate, it becomes an all-hands-on-deck situation for your maintenance team until the breakdown is resolved.
All other pending preventive maintenance tasks are a lower priority and are therefore added to the backlog.
Deferred maintenance in facilities
Every three months, you have a scheduled preventive maintenance reminder to change all the HVAC filters in your 10-story building. While you have ordered the necessary filters, they did not all arrive on time for you to complete the change as scheduled. Therefore, replacing the remaining filters gets added to the deferred maintenance backlog.
What is a maintenance backlog?
A maintenance backlog is the list of tasks and work orders postponed to a later date due to the emergence of higher-priority work and a lack of maintenance resources.
Many of the tasks on your backlog end up being preventive maintenance tasks. They are not urgent when scheduled, but they are essential to the safety and functionality of the equipment.
Preventive maintenance tasks are not optional, but other priorities can easily supersede them for a team with slim resources. And if the backlog grows too big, it can be challenging to catch up.
Common causes of deferred maintenance
All organizations face challenges unique to their situation. But there are some common issues that lead to heavy maintenance backlogs.
Lack of a maintenance program or strategy
One of the main reasons a maintenance task may get pushed onto the backlog is because other more urgent priorities get in the way.
If your organization relies too heavily on reactive or corrective maintenance, this becomes the norm. You can be caught in the loop of constantly evaluating priorities in order to address the most urgent need, and end up deferring the rest.
Poor inventory management
Whether you have a proactive maintenance program in place or not, you must ensure that you have the tools and parts on hand to complete maintenance work.
Striking the balance between having enough on hand but not wasting money on parts you don’t need is difficult.
Take the effort to implement an efficient spare parts management process so your maintenance backlog doesn’t get bigger just because your technicians have nothing to work with.
Lack of needed skills
If maintenance technicians don’t have the skills they need to complete their work, it will lead to inefficiencies or repetitive work.
For jobs or equipment that require specialized skills that you do not have on your maintenance team, ensure you have established relationships with the right vendors so they can jump in when needed.
Lack of needed manpower
Sometimes the issue is as simple as not having enough people to do what needs to be done. If maintenance tasks and overtime hours keep piling up, it is safe to say you fall in this category.
Leverage any maintenance reports you have in your CMMS to demonstrate your teams workload. Efficiencies can be gained through many strategies, but eventually, you may need to make the case for growing your team to meet the need.
Lack of funding
Lack of funding is often a common thread tying all the above issues together. If top management is unwilling to budge and provide more resources, you are left trying to optimize maintenance workflows to cut costs.
If you are in this boat, take a look at how a good CMMS can increase productivity and reduce maintenance costs while keeping you on top of your maintenance.
Costs and consequences of a poorly managed deferred maintenance backlog
Regular maintenance ensures the safe and efficient functioning of your facilities and equipment. That is why we do it in the first place.
Therefore, we can assume that putting off or postponing regular maintenance will have the opposite effect.
- Research from The Geaslin Group suggests that deferred maintenance will often result in exponential costs that can quickly escalate out of control.
- Rick Biedenweg, the President of Pacific Partners Consulting Group states that “every dollar of deferred maintenance will eventually cost $4 in future capital renewal.”
Here are some of the most common reasons why.
If your organization calculates metrics like overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) or machine efficiency (or even if you don’t), you will find that slacking on regular maintenance reduces how well your equipment works.
Increase in breakdowns and repairs
Continuing to use equipment without giving it the regular maintenance it requires is a surefire way to accelerate deterioration. It is a poor way to handle asset management.
Compounding damage will ultimately lead to the need for increasingly frequent and costly repairs, lost production due to downtime, and a shorter asset lifecycle.
Risks to health and safety
Maintenance isn’t just about efficiency and avoiding breakdowns or complete system failures.
It also ensures that equipment doesn’t pose safety hazards or health risks to your team. And the safety of your team should always be the highest priority.
Legal and regulatory risks
If you do not maintain your equipment or facilities properly and the unthinkable happens as a result, the fines and lawsuits that follow are an incredibly costly worst-case scenario.
Even when you are not facing a disaster, simple non-compliance with maintenance regulations can come with unpleasant consequences, too. Fines and other penalties such as loss of licensure are should be major considerations.
Good versus bad deferred maintenance
Too much deferred maintenance can cost you. But some is ok — beneficial, even. So how much is too much?
Let’s explore what separates the bad from the good before reviewing some steps you can take to get from one to the other.
When deferred maintenance is a problem
Here are some signs that the way you are using deferred maintenance may eventually end up costing you in the long run.
- An increasing frequency of deferring maintenance activities.
- Deferring essential maintenance or maintenance of highly critical equipment.
- Deferring repairs or other reactive maintenance tasks in addition to preventive maintenance activities.
- A deferred maintenance backlog that grows over time or becomes too large to ever resolve.
If any of the above sound familiar, you may be in the danger zone.
An escalation in the frequency or type of maintenance that gets pushed onto the backlog should be a sign that some additional resources or efficiencies could benefit your maintenance strategy.
When deferred maintenance is a solution
When used constructively, deferred maintenance can be valuable tactic.
It gives you the freedom to apply a more nuanced prioritization to your maintenance work. It can be a way for you to make the most of the limited resources on your team.
Here are a few characteristics of a productive deferred maintenance strategy.
- Tasks are added to the deferred maintenance backlog primarily as a result of unexpected issues that take time away from regular tasks.
- Maintenance backlogs are reviewed, prioritized, and assigned regularly.
- A maintenance backlog strategy exists to ensure tasks are reviewed and completed within a reasonable timeframe.
- Items on the maintenance backlog are mostly preventive maintenance tasks.
Consistency is key
A deferred maintenance backlog won’t disappear overnight, but with consistent work and a smart maintenance strategy, you should be able to keep it under control.
If you are interested in other ways in which Limble can help improve your maintenance department, don’t hesitate to get in touch, we’re always up for a chat.