Backlog Maintenance Management
Identifying Reasons for Deferring Maintenance
By definition, Deferred Maintenance includes: Incomplete Maintenance and Refurbishment, System Upgrades and/or Repairs that have been deferred to a future budget cycle or postponed until funding becomes available.
It is a known fact that, when funding is limited or being limited by some other factors, the list of postponed repairs and maintenance can become very long very fast. Projects that are put on hold, repairs that are neglected and preventive maintenance that is ignored add up to a very costly and complex problem. We see on TV or read in newspapers and magazines about the alarming results caused by deferred maintenance, but it appears as if nothing is being done about it and the real problem persists. What is the real problem? Is it:
- Politics or;
- Lack of funds or;
- Skill shortages or;
- All of the above and more.
There was an opportunity to answer questions pertaining to what the real problem with asset (maintenance) management is and to rate those answers in order of priority in the Asset Management Best Practice Survey 2013. Judging by the responses to the aforementioned survey, it appears as if the people responsible for the upkeep of assets and infrastructure are mostly content with the dilapidated condition of the infrastructure and poor service delivery should be the norm and those who complaint are in the minority and they should in reality be ignored.
They say that the primary reason that maintenance is deferred is because there is simply is not enough money to pay for it. If budget planning does not allocate adequate funding, or the budget is cut mid-year, an increase in deferred maintenance is inevitable. Additionally, if allocated funding is diverted to pay for emergencies and more visible projects shortly before national, provincial or local elections, the risk of equipment failure and asset deterioration increases.
One of the questions in the aforementioned survey was: Describe the general quality and productivity training at your agency/organization/company. One of the options was that it includes upper management, line supervision, hourly workers and support personnel. A follow-up question is: Is this being done at your agency/organization/company. Without a doubt, one can say that hardly any if at all of the Executive have ever attended an Asset Management course; and that is perhaps the primary reason for the dilapidated infrastructure.
Other reasons for postponing maintenance
Other reasons that maintenance is sometimes postponed:
- There is not enough manpower.
- Personnel do not have the expertise to perform maintenance.
- Repairs and upgrades can be addressed during a large-scale renovation or modernisation that is already planned for the near future.
- Maintenance would interrupt or interfere with business operations.
- The parts are not readily available when needed.
How and why is maintenance deferred
Several sections in the aforementioned survey dealt with the issues and rankings of the aspects of Asset Management mentioned above.
To prevent history to repeat itself, the maintenance manager must gain as much knowledge as possible about how and why maintenance has been deferred. In gaining a better understanding, the maintenance manager will become more capable of developing strategies to avoid many of these situations in the future.
How to address maintenance backlog
In order to address a deferred maintenance backlog, managers must:
- Identify why projects, maintenance and repairs have been deferred.
- Recognize and understand the scale of the problem.
- Quantify and communicate the financial impact of deferred maintenance.
- Prioritize projects and develop a strategy to secure adequate funding.
- Conduct preventive maintenance and complete repairs promptly to avoid backlog redevelopment.
This has to be done thoroughly to ensure that each and every asset is identified. If the correct processes are followed, it would not be necessary to repeat this afterwards.
Because of the expense involved, it is generally avoided, which means that any of the steps that follows is lacking subsistence, and, essentially, meaningless.
The Asset Register is a key to understanding in detail what assets are owned and controlled and, depending on the complexity of information entered, can be used to determine:
- The likely current condition of assets;
- When assets need to be replaced;
- Information required in meeting accounting standards and other regulatory requirements;
- Asset locations and asset custodians for stock-takes;
- The level and frequency of asset maintenance programs; and
- Life-cycle costs by asset, program and business activity.
Verification of Immovable Asset
A physical verification of assets is a process that is used to determine that the assets in the Asset Register are in fact in the possession of the company. Usually, the goal is confirm the physical existence of the assets and ensure that they are accounted for.
But that is only part of the process. For insurance purposes, you need to verify that the records match the asset's nameplate detail. Apart from the engine, gearbox and differential, the remaining part of a vehicle could have over ninety specification fields that have to match. Make, type, model and serial numbers are simply not enough.