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How To Shorten Your Maintenance Backlog in 4 Steps

The education sector has a significant problem with deferred maintenance. As institutions face declining revenues due to changes in enrollment and public support, public institutions are experiencing lengthening maintenance backlogs. These backlogs aren’t only an administrative burden: they create potentially hazardous conditions for the teachers, students, and support staff who frequent education facilities each day. In the US, 35% of higher education facilities were built in the Post-WWII construction boom between 1960 and 1975, and many of these buildings require significant renovations. According to an executive report by EAB, public institutions have seen a 24% increase in their deferred maintenance backlog per square foot from 2007-2015—meaning costs are rising 66% faster than inflation. The corrections industry has also postponed numerous maintenance tasks due to a lack of funding. About ⅓ of prison facilities in the US are over 50 years old. The Federal Bureau of Prisons reports a backlog of 185 major (projects that cost $300,000 or more) modernization and repair (M&R) projects with an approximate cost of $370 million. When essential maintenance tasks are put off long enough, organizations pay dearly in the long run. Sometimes, a “repair” becomes a “replacement” as an asset is subjected to continuous usage or wear-and-tear. According to FacilitiesNet, the cost of deferred maintenance can be 30x greater than the cost of early intervention. What is a maintenance backlog, exactly? A maintenance backlog consists of work orders that have been approved for scheduling but have not been completed. However, most maintenance backlogs aren’t simply a repository for reactive maintenance tasks or routine inspections—those seemingly insignificant tasks teams put off to fight bigger fires. Backlogs often consist of planned maintenance work—the crucial maintenance tasks that keep the lights on. For example, the backlog might list daily and weekly corrective repairs, preventive maintenance tasks, predictive maintenance tasks, and jobs planned during periods of scheduled machine downtime. Note: A backlog can consist of orders that are past due or planned maintenance work that is waiting to be scheduled. An excessively long maintenance backlog means your technicians are operating in fight-or-flight mode—everything they do is reactive, and planned maintenance is mostly out the window. Here are some reasons why organizations might build up a backlog over time: Deferring maintenance work due to emergencies or lack of funding Not having spare parts available to complete the work Maintenance technicians with the required skills aren’t available to do the job The facility is understaffed Poor work order management (someone forgot about the work order or there is no digital trail) An outside specialist’s expertise is required for troubleshooting When many work orders are generated each day, it’s easy for some of them to be missed—especially if you don’t use work order management software or have a maintenance planner. An overreliance on reactive maintenance also creates a backlog. When an emergency occurs, technicians are forced to drop whatever they’re doing to attend to it, which leads to work piling up. What’s wrong with having a maintenance backlog? A long list of unclosed work orders or deferred repairs can lead to more expensive problems down the line. A backlog also reduces technicians’ capacity to attend to current maintenance needs, leading to a vicious cycle. Furthermore, it usually signals a bigger problem such as understaffing, poor work order management, or a lack of inventory control. Maybe you don’t have enough technicians, or technicians don’t have the right information to complete and close out work orders, or they’re spending too much time hunting for parts rather than using a barcode system to find necessary parts and tools. Here are some potential causes for an extensive maintenance backlog: Low technician wrench-on time (the percentage of a technician’s shift spent on actual maintenance work) Lack of work order standardization Poor inventory control (parts are missing when technicians need them) Lack of planned maintenance (preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, and routine inspections) Understaffing Overreliance on reactive maintenance forces teams to defer scheduled maintenance How to shorten your maintenance backlog one step at a time Even if the situation might seem helpless, especially if your maintenance department is facing a funding shortfall, there are several ways to cut your maintenance backlog. Start by investigating what is causing the backlog— sometimes the problem has nothing to do but with budgets or staffing. 1. Identify what needs to be done Examine your maintenance backlog. What types of tasks are neglected the most? Which assets are being impacted? A low-risk asset (i.e. equipment not integral to production which is inexpensive/easy to repair or replace) can tolerate longer delays. However, high-risk assets should be tended to immediately. Organize past due work orders in your CMMS according to asset, type, location, available resources, or other criteria. Questions to ask: How important is each task? How frequently is the asset used? What is the potential monetary and reputational impact of asset downtime or failure? Another option is to organize work orders based on the reason they were deferred. For example, some work orders might be missing vital information. Every WO should at least include the name and location of the asset, a description of the problem, the scope of work needed to rectify it, required parts and tools, health and safety information, and a deadline. Standardize the work order request process to prevent technicians from contacting the original requester to obtain the necessary information. Only accurate and complete work orders should make their way to the schedule. If your maintenance planner or supervisor is approving work orders that are missing vital information, you may need to revisit the WO approval process as well. If you discover many work orders that weren’t closed due to missing parts, investigate the problem with your inventory management team. Just-in-time inventory management is a form of inventory control that requires working closely with suppliers so that parts and tools arrive shortly before maintenance is due. This is especially important for high-priority planned maintenance tasks—delaying these repairs can be financially ruinous. Tip: Watch out for duplicate work requests and work requests that are missing vital information. You will need to remove these from the backlog. 2. Schedule past-due tasks alongside new ones Establish a system for triaging work orders and assigning them alongside ongoing projects. Tasks related to safety should receive high priority, as well as any repairs that might impact production or the functionality of your facility. A high-priority job on a critical asset should take precedence over low-priority work on an auxiliary asset. If asset usage fluctuates seasonally, take advantage of equipment downtime to perform repairs. Also, review the due dates for each work order. Maintenance due dates are tricky because they are often meant to be flexible—except for high-priority assets or emergency situations. When a WO is initiated, the due date depends on its relative importance to work that is already in the backlog plus any WOs that may be generated in the future. Rather than making a subjective assessment of which WOs are critical, you can create a priority index. Assign a criticality number from 1-100 for every piece of equipment (the higher the number, the more critical asset). Next, assign priority to work orders based on the same scale. Priority Index = Asset Criticality x Work Order Priority Now, multiply the asset criticality score by the work order priority score. The result is the priority index. Now you can schedule work according to its priority index. Tip: Have the operations team check and approve your criticality rankings beforehand. Seeing as they use the equipment daily, they may have better insight into which assets are most critical. 3. Determine what resources you need Now you can move on to planning and scheduling. How many labor hours are needed for each work order? What tools or parts are needed? Are they all referenced in the WO? What parts are not available? Have they been ordered yet? What is their delivery status? CMMS calendars help with maintenance planning and scheduling upcoming tasks. Use your CMMS to assign WOs to team members and determine if you need to outsource any tasks. Remember, if you need to outsource work or increase staffing costs temporarily, don’t hesitate to do so if it means you can permanently erase your backlog. 4. Review and revise your plan Pick a time to evaluate how your plan to reduce your backlog is going. Are you creating even more of a backlog as new WOs come in but technicians are busy dealing with past due work orders? If so, you might need to increase headcount or outsource tasks. Use your CMMS to identify open WOs and update schedules.

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4 Business Problems You Can Solve with Better Data Reporting

During the coronavirus pandemic, companies have downsized, restructured and gone through all manner of structural changes. Despite the turmoil, some departments like maintenance and operations have continued largely with business-as-usual. Why? They are deemed essential. Robust data reporting helps you prove your team’s impact on the bottom line, secure budgets for new projects and gain credibility—and therefore, leverage— with executive management. You wouldn’t hire a mechanic to fix your car until you’ve read reviews and compared prices—or, in other words, until you’ve analyzed the data to make sure you’re making the best choice. The same goes with business decision-making, which is far more high-stakes, where data should be the basis of every decision you make. Data reporting is the process of collecting and formatting raw data and translating it into a digestible format to measure the ongoing performance of your organization. Different industries use it for different reasons. Healthcare providers use it to optimize patient outcomes and deliver personalized care. Energy companies use it to achieve things like lower energy consumption by monitoring streaming data to make real-time adjustments in energy use and production. Using reports, dashboard widgets and live views, you can organize your data into informational summaries that monitor how different areas of the business are doing. Here are four big things you can achieve with better data reporting. 1. Improve your customer service Customer data has become an invaluable asset, used in everything from ad targeting to sentiment analysis and ecommerce personalization. But even if you’re not a major retailer, you still need insight into how your customers feel about your product or service, what pain points they’re encountering during purchase or after-sales care, and what factors lead to churn. Data reporting helps you piece together why customers are calling to complain, how much value a certain customer has brought to your business and whether that dollar amount has changed over time, as well as monitor how certain customer segments respond to various marketing or sales initiatives. Meanwhile, maintenance management data provided by a CMMS helps reduce unscheduled downtime. Delays in production can create a poor customer experience, strain relationships with suppliers and upset the logistics supply chain. 2. Control operational costs Using data to make more judicious budget allocations has obvious benefits in terms of cost control, but it can help you reduce wasteful expenditures. For example, proactive maintenance is an approach that uses historical data to predict when an asset will fail, and performing preemptive maintenance to avoid the massive costs of unplanned downtime (in the auto industry, this can be as high as $22,000 per minute). According to a study by Kimberlite, organizations that use a data-driven proactive maintenance approach see their downtime reduced by 36% compared with those who rely on reactive maintenance. Extracting insights from historical data also helps capital-intensive businesses use data to reduce their physical inventory and unsold stock. When it comes to a massive power plant or manufacturing plant, having the right replacement parts in stock can mean the difference between hours—or even days— of unscheduled downtime (and lost revenue) while waiting for a part to arrive or a quick and easy fix. 3. Secure budgets for projects Each department is responsible for demonstrating how their teams’ activities impact the organization’s bottom line. Data reporting provides teams with the ability to show tangible results, such as time saved by using a new project management tool or how much customer churn decreased since hiring a new customer success manager. Tracking data also helps you know where to allocate budgets to specific activities within marketing or sales. Are your display ads generating qualified leads, or are you better off using an account-based marketing strategy to target your most high-value prospects? Maintenance teams starting with a preventive maintenance strategy for the first time can use data reporting to show return on investment and cost savings from prolonging asset life cycle. Finally, it can be hard to secure budgets for untested initiatives, but data reporting helps you establish a track record of results, thereby making it easier for you to make the case to executive management. 4. Make better hiring decisions People analytics is the practice of using statistical insights from employee data to make talent management decisions. Over 70% of companies now say they consider people analytics a high priority. Some years ago, Google began distributing laptop stickers to new hires in the people analytics department with the slogan: “We have charts and graphs to back us up. So f**k off.” The main purpose of people analytics is to determine the root cause of HR problems like a talent shortage, high turnover or an excessively long hiring process, plan interventions and prepare for future staffing needs. For example, if the organization needs to cut down on workforce costs, you can identify where you are losing money. Perhaps your technicians’ wrench time is abysmally low (for most organizations, this hovers around 25-35%), which could mean poor work order management or even an incompetent manager. Digging deeper into the data helps you understand whether technicians are simply not working at full productivity, or if they’re simply not being assigned enough work because of an outdated maintenance management system. Access to workforce data also helps you determine the characteristics of high-performing employees so you can find similar candidates in the future, or create a training and development plan for your less able employees.

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How to maximize the useful life of your assets

Anyone who’s ever driven a used car knows that the better you take care of it, the longer it lasts. The same goes for your organization’s assets. Understanding asset life cycle is the number one way to ensure the highest return on capital. This means tracking things like depreciation, repairs and upgrades performed on the asset. By doing so, you can maximize the asset’s useful life, thereby optimizing the profit generated from that asset. Here are the five stages of asset life cycle management you should follow to optimize the profit generated from your assets. 1. Procurement (purchasing the asset) The first step is to purchase an asset that meets business requirements and falls within budget constraints. This involves creating a purchase order, obtaining management’s approval for the purchase and adding the purchase to inventory. The asset must be properly accounted for by recording and reporting the receipt of the asset via data import or manual add in your CMMS or EAM software. Using asset management software allows you to easily create inventory reports and keep your asset management information in one place even if you have multiple locations or distributed data centers. Remember that insurers and auditors may require this information for compliance purposes, so always have it handy. 2. Deployment (preparing to use the asset in production) Before the asset can be used in production, it must be assembled and installed correctly. Preliminary checks are done to check for physical defects or design/engineering problems so you don’t wind up with an emergency work order shortly after deploying the asset. 3. Utilization During the asset’s useful life, it’s vital to schedule and keep track of regular upgrades, patch fixes, new licenses, scheduled scans and compliance audits. Continually check asset performance to prevent unscheduled downtime and get the most output from it. If the asset is expensive to replace and could cause significant production delays in the event of a breakdown, put it on a preventive maintenance plan (regular, scheduled maintenance regardless of asset performance). Extra tip: Maintaining accurate asset records is not only important for maintenance management but also financial accounting purposes. Calculating asset depreciation may be required for long-term, high-cost equipment. 4. Maintenance (repairs, calibration and preventive maintenance) Proper maintenance is crucial to keep the asset running smoothly. Corrective maintenance may be needed if unexpected breakdowns occur. With Micromain’s CMMS, you can generate a unique QR code for each asset. When you need to create a work order, simply scan the QR code on your mobile app and fill in the details. You can even attach images or documents if needed. 5. Disposal (getting rid of an asset at the end of its useful life) When an asset is no longer usable, it must be disposed of properly — and accounted for in financial records. The data must be wiped and the asset dismantled piece by piece. Store reusable parts and send parts to scrap. If certain parts can cause an environmental hazard, make sure you dispose of them as dictated by local environmental law. Image attributions: lego by Pham Duy Phuong Hung from the Noun Project launch by praveen patchu from the Noun Project Shop by LINDA WATI from the Noun Project build by Justin Blake from the Noun Project Garbage by David from the Noun Project

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