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Deferred Maintenance: What It Is & How It Affects Your Facility  


Learn about deferred maintenance including what it is, how it affects your facility, and what you can do to overcome your maintenance backlog.

Modified on

September 7, 2023

Deferred Maintenance: What It Is & How It Affects Your Facility  

Your company may be in a situation where a piece of equipment either breaks down or starts showing signs, but needs to wait for repairs. It’s not uncommon. Companies that delay necessary repairs to their assets and maintenance activities are choosing deferred maintenance. This decision could be for numerous reasons, such as limitations in the budget or issues with infrastructure. When this occurs, any problems are backlogged which may cause additional problems in the future. 

Overcoming deferred maintenance is very important because it can cause risk and harm to staff, visitors, and customers. It has a direct impact on asset performance and unplanned breakdowns. While some deferred maintenance tasks may be minimal, facilities managers must care about avoiding major issues and risks down the line. 

What is Deferred Maintenance? 

It’s important to understand the types of repairs that can wait, and which ones are a priority. Deferred maintenance is moving certain tasks to the back of the maintenance list due to maintenance costs, lack of priority, inaccessibility, or even lack of availability of parts needed to correct the problem. It’s a delay in scheduled repairs or maintenance. 

This is important in the overall role of facilities maintenance because if the facility doesn’t have the budget, labor, or material, it is difficult to prioritize needs. The facility manager must work to have adequate resources on hand to keep safety and liability as a top priority, avoiding ineffective maintenance management

Examples of Deferred Maintenance 

Facility maintenance has many moving parts. A few key examples of deferred maintenance include postponing painting offices in a commercial building and delaying the landscaping or pressure washing. On a more serious note, avoiding getting much-needed plumbing repairs due to a lack of funding also falls under deferred maintenance. 

Another example would be waiting to get an asset inspected even though there are signs of an imminent breakdown. Another instance would be when there are planned maintenance tasks being taken care of and a major breakdown occurs, which pushes other important tasks down the line. 

Deferred Maintenance Workflow 

A deferred maintenance workflow deals with when maintenance tasks are due. The facility manager’s job is to decide if these tasks are going to be scheduled for completion or placed into a backlog. These are usually the steps: 

  1. Look at preventive and reactive maintenance tasks and capital renewals. 
  2. Determine if there are enough resources and bandwidth to complete the tasks. 
  3. If there are enough resources and bandwidth, the maintenance tasks are scheduled. 
  4. If there aren’t enough resources or bandwidth, the tasks are added to the maintenance backlog. 

Common Reasons for Deferred Maintenance

There may be times when the workload is seemingly unmanageable due to tasks in the queue. This can lead to major problems in a number of areas. Deferred maintenance is not an uncommon occurrence in facilities management. In fact, there are multiple reasons why maintenance is deferred. If there is no sound preventive maintenance program in place, this can easily occur, causing health and safety risks, issues with compliance, and employee burnout. Facilities using deferred maintenance often have high repair costs and their equipment is not run efficiently. 

Some of the common causes of deferred maintenance include: 

  • Company policies. The policies in place may be run-to-failure based, which means the assets and equipment run until they break down.
  • Lack of information. If the maintenance strategy is unorganized or the facility does not have one, maintenance managers cannot make educated decisions on the budget needed to successfully run the department. 
  • Lack of trained staff. There may be certain assets and equipment that require specialized training and knowledge that the current team does not have. In cases of large assets breaking down, there may not be enough people to complete the repairs. 
  • Lack of parts. Depending on the asset or equipment, there may be a backlog on certain parts needed to repair the assets and equipment. 

How to Manage Your Maintenance Backlog 

Effectively managing a maintenance backlog starts with knowing what should be prioritized and closing out work orders as the assets and equipment are repaired. It is not uncommon for backlogs to become outdated if not carefully monitored. The backlog should be broken down into different categories: plannable, planned, and ready. 

Once the information has been distributed, it should be easily identified. Everyone on the management team in charge of assets and equipment should meet on a regular basis to reprioritize, erase, and add to the backlog. Each report should be further broken down into timelines of 30, 60, and 90 days on the list. This helps readjust and reprioritize as needed. 

How to Decrease Deferred Maintenance 

One of the best ways to decrease deferred maintenance is by seeking additional resources to avoid backlogs. Meeting with upper management to outline the current challenges like the budget, training, lack of staff, and materials needed to get the job done should be clearly presented with current data. If the company uses a CMMS, the data can be pulled in different ways that highlight the current situation, inefficiencies, and how the backlogs are hurting the company. 

1. Log All Maintenance Activities 

This is crucial in effective maintenance scheduling. Every maintenance task and activity should be logged, not only to see where the problems are but to better understand the needs of the company. 

2. Develop a Preventive Maintenance Program 

A preventive maintenance program is a good solution for deferred maintenance, as it minimizes costs, risks, and enhances productivity. Preventive maintenance helps in being proactive, increasing the control your team has in acquiring the resources needed to succeed. 

3. Utilize a CMMS 

A CMMS is a good solution for keeping track of all the maintenance tasks, scheduling, and backlogs. This also provides accurate data for future budgeting for upcoming purchases and needs. 

Prioritizing Maintenance Orders 

Knowing the urgent needs of the facility helps in creating feasible backlogs. Make sure each maintenance order is prioritized in order of need to make sure the backlog doesn’t get out of hand. Maintenance orders should be prioritized in order of importance, usage, and need. This keeps the most vital assets and equipment operational without significant downtime. 

Understanding how this works within an effective preventive maintenance program minimizes risk, improves safety, and highlights where resources are most needed. Placing a high priority on how deferred maintenance can assist in your maintenance management strategy is key to preventing additional expenses for the company. 

Your Trust Maintenance Partner

ServiceChannel as your maintenance management solution can help in developing a preventative maintenance strategy that works effectively, efficiently, and productively. For more information, explore our platform today.

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