Planned or Scheduled Maintenance: Challenges, Opportunities, and Solutions

Published on 11 May, 2024

One of the core jobs of any Facility Management (FM) company offering hard services is running or managing Planned or Scheduled Maintenance for their customers.

While some maintenance activities may be outsourced to specialized teams or delegated to smaller teams, the majority of this responsibility belongs to the in-house team. In any case, the ownership of demonstrating quality service and meeting contract requirements lies solely with the FM service provider. And this responsibility is not without its challenges. However, there are significant opportunities too.

In this article, you will learn:

  • the challenges and pitfalls of how you run and manage planned maintenance today,
  • opportunities and practical solutions for progress, and
  • the role of technology and innovation in reshaping the current approach

Current Challenges & Their Impact on Planned Maintenance

Understanding the root causes of inefficient maintenance is the first step toward effective management. In the current scenario, FM teams face three major challenges that can compound over time to a point where maintenance backlogs spiral out of control and the quality of maintenance falls below the agreed standard.

1. Resource Constraints

A key challenge for FM teams today is managing workloads with a persistent shortage of essential resources and maintenance manpower. With the ongoing Great Retirement of FM & Maintenance professionals, organizations are facing massive labour shortages, skill gaps, and possibly smaller budgets today, a trend that will continue to exist in the years ahead.

If there aren't enough skilled maintenance technicians and engineers to handle the workload, tasks pile up. As a result, teams find it difficult to meet service demands promptly and are have to deal with an undesirable backlog of maintenance tasks. Inadequate access to necessary tools and equipment can also slow down maintenance work and increase backlog.

2. Poor Planning

Effective maintenance requires meticulous planning, and when this planning is lacking, backlogs increase. Two critical factors contributing to this issue are inadequate scheduling and unclear procedures. Unoptimized maintenance or inspections cause equipment to be left unchecked for extended periods. Ultimately, it diverts resources from their planned tasks, causing disruptions in scheduled activities. Technicians also face challenges in understanding and executing tasks efficiently when procedures are missing or unclear, causing productivity and financial loss.

3. High Degree of Reactive Work

Another big contributor to maintenance backlogs is the practice of reactive maintenance. Closing a reactive task always or in most cases has the highest priority in the Service Level Agreement (SLA). An increase in reactive work orders shifts the focus to completing them first, again leading to a backlog of planned and scheduled maintenance. It often results in unexpected downtime, leading to delays in other tasks and increased costs of repairing equipment after a breakdown.

Overall, a high degree of reactive work creates a vicious cycle. It reduces the ability to perform planned maintenance, which in turn, increases the likelihood of future breakdowns and even more reactive work.

An Endless Loop: Backlogs & Insufficient Resources

The combination of escalating backlogs and insufficient resources creates an endless loop that many companies find themselves trapped in today. They are a perfect recipe for the quality of Planned Preventive Maintenance (PPM) to decrease and often lead to increased reactive maintenance.

You also have set schedules or budgets for maintenance activities. So effectively, if you had only scheduled or budgeted for X trips in a year to an asset or location, you would have to do way more.

The allocated resources or scheduled trips might underestimate the actual maintenance requirements (because of the backlogs), leading to an inability to cope with the increasing demands. The disparity between planned and actual maintenance needs can lead to an overwhelming workload, amplifying the backlogs and resource shortages. As a result, you find it challenging to meet your goals, ending in a verdict of underperformance and further perpetuating the cycle of backlogs and insufficient resources.

Breaking the Loop: Better Planning & Process Improvements

As FM companies navigate the challenges of maintenance planning, resource shortages, and a high degree of reactive work, breaking this endless loop becomes imperative for continued success.

Technology cannot easily and entirely resolve staffing issues. However, other areas could be reimagined leading to improvement in the way the planned and scheduled maintenance is delivered. Here’s what can be done:

1. Establish Data Quality Checks

Establishing data quality checks on PPM submissions for a range of data inputs would go a long way in finding out if the overall quality of PPM activities is being maintained while the team is closing the tasks. A good data quality score also means fewer chances of going back to the asset (as a reaction), hence putting you in a position to take control of the workload.

2. Set Up Budgets / Targets for Max visits to Location / Asset

Develop a strategic plan for asset or facility visits, considering factors such as equipment lifespan, criticality, and historical maintenance data. Align budgets and targets with the available resources to maintain a sustainable workload. Most companies use this as an indicator while they are placing bids and never really bring this into action when they are operating on the bids. This simple change in KPI tracking could be of immense value.

3. Robotic Process Automation

On most sites, 'Too Hot-Too Cold' complaints cause distraction and take up more time and effort from the engineering team. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) could help save valuable time that teams otherwise spend from the help desk to engineering in addressing ‘false’ or ‘personalized’ calls or even be pointed to very specific issues that have resulted in the call being received. This would require Building Management Systems (BMS) and Internet of Things (IoT) data for more accurate and targeted issue resolution.

RPA can also be used to trigger automatic notifications for upcoming maintenance or missed tasks. This can be done via email, SMS, Slack, or internal system alerts.

Based on pre-defined rules, RPA can prioritize maintenance requests based on urgency, asset type, or maintenance history. This helps optimize scheduling and ensure critical issues are addressed first.

Technology Considerations & Gap Analysis

The existing challenges and opportunities facing your maintenance team should lead to a re-consideration or gap analysis of your current technology stack, vendors, and digital strategy. Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

1. What’s my ideal tech stack?

Consider platforms that provide end-to-end solutions, integrating various aspects of facility management and maintenance seamlessly. Choose the solution that can scale with your organization's growth and evolving needs.

2. Where is the gap?

Conduct a detailed needs assessment to identify specific pain points and areas where technology can bring improvements. Gather feedback from end-users to understand the limitations of the current tech stack.

3. Can existing vendors deliver?

Regularly assess vendor performance against predefined metrics. Are existing vendors delivering on expected outcomes? Is it financially worth it? Explore alternative vendors if current ones fail to meet your requirements.

4. What’s the best approach?

If you’re a digitally native FM, our best recommendation is to plan a phased transition from existing systems to avoid disruptions. Also, prepare your workforce to adapt to the new digital landscape with thoughtful leadership, user-centric tools, and a culture of continuous improvement.

In conclusion, by addressing these challenges and embracing innovative solutions, FM companies and teams like yours can break the endless loop associated with planned maintenance, and pave the way for a more resilient, efficient, and future-ready approach to their operations.

At Xempla, we care about the challenges FM O&M teams face when it comes to planned or scheduled maintenance. We're helping them focus on what matters and drive more efficient maintenance outcomes with dedicated software solutions.

Interested to learn more about our product? Let's catch up!