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Work Orders: Managing Maintenance Backlog


During the COVID-19 pandemic, maintenance teams had the responsibility to help their companies operate through this major disaster. As businesses return into operation, maintenance teams are now facing the biggest challenges of our time. Added to their maintenance backlog and routine responsibilities, they now have larger responsibilities of minimizing risks to employees with new sanitization and safety guidelines.

Facing those maintenance backlogs from preventive maintenance routines, predictive maintenance tasks, to corrective maintenance work – where do you start? To get these tasks under control you need effective Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software to help you in your planning, scheduling, and organization of resources and tasks to keep your business operating. You perform these tasks for a reason: to prevent any safety issues, damages, and hazards that could put you, your equipment, your workers, or your customers in danger. A small investment into a CMMS to manage your work orders and maintenance tasks improves the operational efficiency of your equipment, reduces inventory costs, minimizes overtime, reduces downtime, and you’ll also have a more efficient and effective maintenance team.

Let’s look at why work orders are important and how they can help you get your maintenance operations under control.

What Is a Work Order?
Work Orders are a critical part of the management of an organization’s maintenance operation. A work order is a formal request for maintenance, repair, or tasks that need to be done and outlines the processes and procedures for completing those tasks. Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software automates and streamlines these processes from the start of the task to completion.

Some of the advantages of using CMMS work orders include:

  • Clearly define detailed instructions on what needs to be done.
  • Create, update, and manage work orders from a computer, Smartphone, or mobile device.
  • Attach invoices, documents, schematics, diagrams, files, or photos to work orders.
  • Access operation manuals, warranty details, images, and other documents.
  • Attach notes and other special instructions.
  • Provides real-time collaboration between team members.
  • Identify and record part numbers.
  • Record start time and end time.
  • Manage asset downtime, expenses, materials, etc.
  • Access and manage inventory.
  • Create checklists to ensure that processes are followed.
  • And a lot more.

What Is Maintenance Backlog?
Companies need to prioritize tasks based on their importance, not the date on which they’re entered. Because prioritization of work orders, companies must effectively manage their resources and plan efficiently to ensure maintenance tasks are performed timely while reducing the highest amount of risk possible. Backlogs are measured by the time it takes to complete all tasks on the list. This is usually calculated in workdays or weeks, the maintenance backlog as a metric quantifies the amount of time required for a defined number of workers to complete all pending maintenance tasks. Ignoring these backlogged tasks can result in breakdowns, extended downtime, increased costs, and disruptions in business operations.

What Causes All of These Backlogs?
During normal business operations, there are always some backlogs that occur, and the impact of COVID-19 has only made it worse. Situations happen but having the right tools in place can help you through these challenging times.

These are the things that can contribute toward backlogs:

  • COVID restrictions forced us to do social distancing, which means that service requests and work orders that have been on hold will now start to come in.
  • Reduction in staff and skilled technicians.
  • Limited resources, causing you to minimize preventive maintenance and only work reactively – emergency repairs.
  • Skilled technicians are not available.
  • Budget cuts and reduced expenses.
  • Downsized or closure of facilities that have not been properly maintained.
  • Spare parts or supplies are not available.
  • Equipment that needs special skills from a vendor or outside specialized technician.
  • Deferring maintenance work due to higher priorities.
  • Equipment not available.
  • Duplicate work orders.
  • Reactive maintenance.
  • And the list goes on.

Reducing Maintenance Backlog Tips
One of the most valuable tools to help you manage your work orders is Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software. CMMS software is specifically designed to create and manage work orders and maintenance backlogs. Using CMMS web-based software makes it easy to share backlogs with crews, assign work, and send messages, collect data, and other maintenance-related tasks. Being able to access this data from a computer, Smartphone or mobile device, teams can see at a glance what their responsibilities are and how long they have to complete their tasks.

A few tips to help you beat maintenance backlog:

  • Assess what your current backlog contains.
  • Availability and skills of resources to work on the backlog.
  • Free up resources who are working on non-essential preventive management tasks. These resources can be used to reduce the maintenance backlog.
  • Ensure that maintenance teams are recoding adequate closeout data on work orders to ensure that information is current.

With CMMS software you can generate reports to show long overdue work orders and then determine what the cause was and create a plan to control the backlog.

Conquering the Backlog Challenge
Conquering maintenance backlog is definitely a challenge – especially gearing up after COVID, and then having to add routine tasks and emergencies, you can start falling further behind. It is important to have the right tools in place to help with the planning, scheduling, and resource-balancing to help you tackle those backlogs of tasks.

CMMS software is an effective system to help you manage all of your work orders, reduce backlog, manage resources, improve productivity and reduce costs.

Some things that CMMS software can help you to conquer work order backlog are:

  • Having the ability to manage and prioritize work orders, ensures that those work orders that have an impact on the business are addressed first.
  • Evaluating resources and skills and managing these resources through a CMMS, saves time and money. Being able to manage the availability of skilled technicians reduces downtime and increased productivity.
  • Some CMMS software provides calendars that make maintenance planning and scheduling of upcoming tasks easier.
  • CMMS stores all of the information that you need to help you optimize your maintenance operations, track work order trends, and develop standardization across your processes to prevent backlogs.

Put the information technicians need right in the palms of their hands so they do not have to go back to the shop for their next assignment or to look for technical documentation.

Maintenance Backlogs Aren’t All Bad
Having a maintenance backlog may be a sign that it is time to examine your maintenance planning, scheduling, and resources. It is time to analyze your work orders, get a better understanding of your resource allocation, get back some of those wasted hours, and have a more manageable work order backlog for both your business and maintenance workers.

Having a good system like a CMMS to help manage your backlog and get it under control is a prerequisite for effective planning and scheduling. With a CMMS in place to help manage work order backlog provides you with the necessary tools that ensure that all work requests have been completed and nothing has been forgotten.

The Advantages of Using CMMS Software To Manage Work Order Backlog
There are still organizations managing their maintenance operations and work orders using Excel spreadsheets, despite its limited functionality and the increase in available technologies. Excel is handy for performing minimal tracking of tasks, but it is severely limited compared to what CMMS software can offer.

Manual spreadsheets leave a lot of room for error. Not having the availability of information in real-time can have a major in making important business decisions. Managing your maintenance operations using spreadsheets is inefficient because it forces employees to look through mounds of records to review all maintenance data. This costs you a lot of time and money and can lead to inaccuracies and low productivity.

CMMS software automates processes and streamlines work orders from beginning to end, giving you the ability to easily set up work orders and preventative maintenance tasks so everything is done automatically in real-time, thus reducing confusion. You can easily set up an efficient workflow for managing incoming tasks – requests that go directly to your maintenance team in real-time. This gives you full control of your maintenance operations, giving you the ability to prioritize and keep things running smoothly – know the exact status of your work orders at all times. CMMS software simplifies maintenance processes, strengthens time and efficiency, and provides more accurate and up-to-date information than manual data entries. With CMMS software you can perform complex functions while producing much faster results. This dedicated work order system helps you plan, examine and report on all maintenance functions, giving you the information you need to easily assess your maintenance operation.

The advantages and benefits a CMMS can bring to any organization are extensive.

Maintenance backlog has a huge impact on business operations. It is important to minimize the maintenance backlog as much as possible. Using CMMS software to manage work orders will help you can stay organized and on top of your maintenance operations. When you are ready, implementing a CMMS can be accomplished in as little as a day. CMMS is a valuable tool to help you minimize your routine backlog of work orders and manage those work orders that have piled up while your business was disrupted and your team was safely social distancing during the COVID pandemic.

The bottom line is that computerized maintenance management software minimizes your risks, making it easy to stay on top of critical maintenance tasks. The benefits of implementing a CMMS far outweigh the risks of not using maintenance software to manage your maintenance operations.

Jeff Roscher is Co-Founder and President of eWorkOrders (Information Professionals, Inc.). eWorkOrders is an industry leader in computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software. Jeff can be reached at