Your Maintenance Backlog Isn’t Necessarily a Bad Thing
The term “backlog” doesn’t exactly paint a positive picture. It tends to evoke images of bottlenecked production lines and chaotic warehouses, with manufacturers scrambling to firefight problem after problem. But, managed appropriately, they’re far from problematic. In many cases, they’re downright helpful — a positive aspect of healthy manufacturing operations.
Here’s a look at what differentiates a healthy backlog from a cumbersome one, and how to keep your backlog well-managed and under control as a positive force within your factory.
Backlogs have rippling effects across the factory
The term “backlog” can mean different things to different people, but there are two common definitions for the term in industry: production and maintenance.
- Production. Some (correctly) view a backlog as a list of all approved work that will be completed. In this sense, a backlog can be measured in trades-hours or weeks — a calculation of the time it takes to finish all the current work in the backlog.
- Maintenance. Others consider a backlog as overdue service work orders, but this definition isn’t entirely accurate. Most maintenance departments maintain a specific workforce who perform work orders, as needed.
Maintenance backlogs aren’t necessarily bad
Maintenance backlogs include both preventive and corrective maintenance projects, showing which jobs are due (or overdue) and which jobs require completion.
While some level of maintenance backlog is acceptable and even helpful in the manufacturing space, neglected tasks have rippling effects across the factory floor. Breakdowns lead to asset downtime and unplanned maintenance tasks can quickly disrupt scheduled activities. As the effects snowball, it can lead to even more backlogged tasks, turning into a vicious cycle.
Yet, a backlog is a healthy part of maintenance management, since producers can’t possibly perform every facet of required maintenance on the same day a problem occurs. In fact, a small backlog can be a good thing. It can be a sign of good workflow management. It’s an indication your team is approving and completing maintenance tasks at a steady pace. It shows you’re prioritizing your resources — like manpower and parts — effectively.
Manufacturers can keep backlogs manageable
How can producers maintain a good backlog? Traditionally, manufacturers have relied on spreadsheets and documents to understand necessary tasks, so nothing falls through the cracks. Now, modern solutions like cloud-based computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) make creating and maintaining backlogs much easier.
In a cloud-based platform, crews can assign work, collect data, send messages, and get all the information they need to keep maintenance on-schedule. Aside from investing in high-quality CMMS software, there are other ways to keep backlogs in check:
- Prioritize structure and organization to turn significant maintenance tasks into bite-sized ones that are easier to conquer.
- Convert non-value-added preventive maintenance tasks to condition-based predictive ones, to free up resources and put a dent in your current backlog.
- Analyze risks like major rebuilds or time-consuming projects and find ways to mitigate them, whether that’s through extra training for your employees or dedicating more resources to specific, high-risk jobs.
Ultimately, a maintenance backlog that’s under control and processed consistently is a healthy, well-managed one. When it becomes unwieldy or too big to keep pace with, you’ve got a problem.