Maintenance Work Backlog Management: A Start in Managing Maintenance Well

Maintenance backlog management and how to control your maintenance backlog


Maintenance Work Backlog Management: a Start in Managing Maintenance!  A maintenance manager can commence a maintenance improvement programme by simply creating opportunities for individuals and groups to make high performance contributions. One way to do this is to manage the Maintenance Backlog. Keywords: Maintenance backlog, backlog management


There are numerous definitions of Backlog. The definition I use is “planned maintenance work waiting to be scheduled”. Note: We only schedule 1 week at a time, therefore it’s the bucket of future work. However, if there is a high load of preventive maintenance about to occur then it is important to know about this work for planning purposes.

Others refer to Backlog as the work not completed by the due date. Personally, I use priorities, but not ‘due dates’ for corrective work. I believe that people raising work requests can rarely understand the planning processes required to be implemented to turn a request into an order.

It is important that whatever the definition used, be sure that everyone in the organisation knows the meaning. The caveat is, it is incumbent on the Planner to ensure that once work requests are authorised planning goes ahead to convert the work request to a work order. It has been known for planners to delay their planning activities so that performance indicators on Backlog look good.

Deferred Maintenance is usually high-cost work that must be postponed as a result of inadequate planning, lack of opportunity and/or funding. Examples include roof replacement, HVAC system replacement and window replacement. Deferred maintenance adds to the backlog of maintenance and repairs, but is not included in the backlog calculations. It tends to be specific to the public sector.

The key aspects of successful backlog management are:

  • Setting objectives
  • Setting/agreeing priorities
  • Establishing the organisation’s responsibilities and relationships
  • Implementing the processes to met the objectives
  • Measuring the performance
  • Reviewing the performance, and
  • Auditing the process

This framework for managerial action will produce a formal management system for the control of maintenance backlog, and is an essential component in managing maintenance.

The details of managing backlog involves:

  1. Managing work requests.
  2. Developing work orders, job preparation and repair procedures.
  3. Work scheduling.
  4. Job execution and follow up of work in progress

1. The first step in managing the backlog requires that the work be properly identified and prioritised by maintenance and operations together.
A rigorous examination of the work requested needs to be carried out. This will remove duplicate work, finished work, unwanted work and modifications (modifications need to go through the ‘management of change’ process, modifications need engineering and fiscal approval, a modification is not maintenance work) out of the list.

2. Planning maintenance, including, looking at resources, estimates and parts (how to do the job!). It is the development of a detailed programme to achieve an end.

  • It is the advanced preparation of a specific job
  • It ensures the task is performed in an efficient and effective manner
  • It ensures that all necessary logistics have been coordinated for the job execution phase to take place at a future date
  • It is the process of detailed analysis that determines and describes the work to be performed, the sequence of associated tasks, methods to be used for their performance, and the required resources, including:
    • skills,
    • crew size,
    • man hours,
    • parts,
    • materials,
    • special tools and equipment
  • An estimate of the total cost
  • identification of safety precautions
  • required permits
  • communication requirements
  • reference documents – vendor manuals, drawings, wiring diagrams etc


  • Encompasses the logistical efforts of assembling all necessary resources so that the job is ready to be scheduled.
  • Interfaces with:
    • Purchasing
    • Stores
    • Operations
    • Engineering
    • Maintenance
  • Reviewing all jobs ready to be executed and decides on priority.

Planners need to know how to estimate the work. A good planner is a good estimator!

Repair procedures save time when executing corrective work. Do you have any?

3. Scheduling (when to do the job!)

  • Is the process whereby the labour, resources and support equipment are allocated / appointed to specific jobs at a fixed time (often when operations can make any associated equipment / system available).
  • The schedule represents when the organisation expects the task to be carried out, and when the resources are available.

4. Job execution and follow up of work in progress.
Is the right maintenance work being completed at the right time with the right resources?

Managing Backlog involves getting the planning and scheduling right.

To help the planning process it is normal to run with approximately 2 man weeks of Backlog per technician. If you are constantly below that figure then you could be over-manned. If the Backlog climbs to 4 man weeks then consider overtime working or bringing on additional resources.

Trending the Backlog aids management decision making. There are several different ways to measure Backlog. These are:

  • Measuring Total Backlog
  • Discipline Backlog (Backlog be mechanical, electrical, instrument discipline etc.)
  • PM Backlog (the PM not completed in the month it was due), and
  • Safety-critical Backlog

All are excellent performance indicators and give you an overall picture where work is building up, scarce, or critical, allowing you to manage maintenance operations.


Best regards,

David Finch, MSc, MIEAust, CEng, FSOE, AIMM


NOTE: You can now do our online 10 module Maintenance Planning and Scheduling training course with certificate. Read more at Online Maintenance Planning and Scheduling Training Course.