The job of a facility maintenance manager is never done. There’s always maintenance planning, scheduling, assigning, and tracking, and that’s on top of all the on-demand work orders that keep piling up. But for all the unpredictability, maintenance teams tend to find themselves dealing with the same sets of top maintenance issues. 

And that means with the right combination of maintenance solutions, including the right people, parts, and standard operating procedures, it’s possible to take control of your maintenance operations. 

A good starting point, then, is looking at what tends to cause the most hassles for maintenance teams. From there, you can start to look at ways to fix your maintenance programs. 

What are the top maintenance issues? 

Not surprisingly, a FacilitiesNet survey found that the top concerns for facility maintenance managers are shrinking resources and growing workloads, followed closely by smaller budgets and disappearing maintenance teams. Altogether, these challenges mean maintenance managers face constant pressure to do more with less. 

Why are these the top problems for maintenance teams, both in the long term and short term? When you’re struggling to meet growing demand with shrinking resources, you’re setting yourself up for a series of predictable maintenance failures. 

To better understand the solutions, let’s look at the most common maintenance issues. 

What are the consequences of the top maintenance challenges? 

Some of the biggest impacts of your top maintenance challenges include: 

  • Out-of-control maintenance and repair costs 
  • Disappearing talent for the maintenance department 
  • Declining revenue for the overall organization 

Basically, if you don’t have good, dependable answers to these common challenges, you can expect to see some combination of these nagging problems. 

Out-of-control maintenance and repair costs 

One of the most important jobs of a maintenance manager is keeping costs under control. Companies typically spend 5-10% of their annual budget on maintenance. Unfortunately, poor maintenance management can force companies to spend more than they should to keep their assets and equipment up and running. 

One of the common signs of poor maintenance management is relying too much on or even entirely on reactive maintenance to keep assets online. While there certainly are some types of assets that are better maintained with reactive maintenance, most of your equipment, particularly heavy equipment, requires preventive maintenance. In some cases, it makes sense to invest in some of the more high-tech options, including sensor-based predictive maintenance. 

Disappearing talent for the maintenance department 

When you wonder about why people are leaving your department, all you have to do is ask yourself, “Would you want to work at a place that keeps you from getting your job done due to confusing, complicated, and inefficient processes?” 

One of the great things about working in maintenance is that feeling of satisfaction when you manage to find and fix an issue. For many techs, nothing feels better than that feeling they’ve made a positive contribution. But when your maintenance workflows are all outdated, techs rarely if ever get to come into work optimistic and drive home satisfied. 

It’s true for more experienced techs as well as for those just now entering the field. In fact, with younger techs who are used to doing everything seamlessly online, working with paper-based maintenance management is especially frustrating. 

Declining revenue for the overall organization 

Businesses is a hard game, and any organization can lose money through more ways than just increased expenses. The opportunity cost of missing out on lost revenue can affect an organization’s ability to grow. Companies rely on their assets to produce the things they sell and deliver the services they provide, but if those assets aren’t working properly, they can’t meet customer demand. 

Inefficient maintenance operations can quickly lead to increased equipment downtime for your company, which directly translates to lost money. If production lines aren’t operating, you’re not producing anything to sell. And if assets and equipment are down, your customers can’t get the services they expect. 

One of the best ways you can impress your upper management is by improving your maintenance operations to recover much of the lost revenue from assets and equipment being offline. When you get down to the numbers, it’s the purest way to prove your worth. 

Now that we know where these common maintenance issues can lead, it’s time to look at what they are and how to steer clear of them. 

What are the best solutions to the most common maintenance problems? 

Here are the most common problems and concrete, workable solutions. 

Resource shortages in maintenance 

A far-reaching, ever-present problem, resource shortages affect every aspect of a maintenance manager’s job: inventory management, space utilization, labor allocation, and task deadlines. From tiny replacement parts to heavy machinery to fleet vehicles, any type of asset can become scarce when you’re not able to manage it well. 

When it comes to work requests and work orders, resource shortages hinder the completion of essential nuts-and-bolts maintenance work. How can a crew perform routine maintenance when the only available tools are at another job site? How can a technician complete his job when replacement parts aren’t stocked? And most importantly, what are hourly personnel supposed to do when a lack of materials is the only thing keeping them from closing out work orders?  

Of course, as costly and inefficient as it is to be low on resources, overstocked inventory presents it’s own set of problems. Space can become scarce in even the largest facilities, and square footage used for stagnant inventory represents a major opportunity cost. Given that just about every organization is trying to run lean, excessive inventory also means tighter margins, less cash flow, and less capital to invest in higher-priority items. 

What are the solutions to resource challenges in maintenance? 

For just about any organization, the best place to start is a centralized, automated asset management software with work order integration. 

Instead of poring over spreadsheets and manually writing purchase orders, you can ensure parts are ordered as they’re used—and available when they’re needed. With utilization data stored in a single place, you also gain insight into which high-dollar equipment purchases will most benefit your company’s bottom line. 

Labor shortages in maintenance 

Human capital is often a company’s greatest asset, but for many facility maintenance managers, labor is in short supply. Relatively small maintenance crews are often spread out among multiple production facilities, job sites, or commercial properties, particularly in organizations acquiring physical assets faster than they’re hiring. 

While a labor shortage may seem like a mere growing pain in the short term, it can severely hamper maintenance efficiency in the long run. Preventive maintenance (PM) gets put on the backburner, as scarce personnel are constantly busy putting out fires. When that happens, major machinery eventually breaks down, and the company suffers the costs of unplanned downtime. 

What are the solutions to maintenance labor shortages? 

While hiring more maintenance personnel might seem like the ideal solution, you can often improve your team’s overall effectiveness without having to bring on more staff. From the maintenance manager’s perspective, more people means better preventive maintenance, faster work order completion, and fewer breakdowns. Other stakeholders who are trying to keep labor costs in check may not agree, however. That’s why it pays to gain the most productivity out of all available labor hours. 

Here, flexible work order software works wonders. If everyone on the team can access the same central work order repository, where the maintenance manager is able to prioritize and assign maintenance inspections and tasks, there’s now zero confusion over who does what and in what order. Likewise, with the ability to access the system via any Internet-connected mobile devices, on-the-go maintenance crews can transition to subsequent tasks quickly and seamlessly, rather than wasting time waiting for new instructions or running back to the office for paper-based work orders. 

Out-of-control maintenance costs 

Pressure to cut costs is often a major reason why resource and labor shortages are so prevalent. One of the maintenance manager’s responsibilities is to avoid spending too much on maintenance versus spending while still spending enough to prevent breakdowns that cost their companies even more. 

What are the solutions to out-of-control maintenance costs? 

Arguably the best way to find the right balance is with a preventive maintenance program. By proactively scheduling maintenance and inspections, organizations can drastically reduce equipment failures and the unplanned downtime that follows. Avoiding equipment rentals and rush charges on replacements also deliver additional reductions in overall maintenance costs. 

That said, not every asset fits the PM bill. For smaller, cheaper, and non-critical items, a run-to-failure approach may make the most sense. On the other hand, the most important, most expensive machinery in an organization may warrant a cautious condition-based maintenance approach or even predictive maintenance, using sensors to monitor pressure, electrical charge, hairline cracks, and other signs of eventual failure. 

Unclear maintenance priorities 

Work requests and work orders are the essentials of a maintenance manager’s workflow. Even so, most organizations are still managing them with email, spreadsheets, pen and paper, or even whiteboards. In small organizations, this is a time-consuming, inefficient approach. In a large enterprise, manual processes like these make the job all but impossible. 

Like inventory management, effective work order management requires centralization and automation. Maintenance needs are constantly evolving, and for any given set of priorities, the tasks at the top of the queue are going to change—oftentimes before they’ve even been started. 

How can you quickly assess which work requests take priority? How do unplanned failures fit into your preventive maintenance plan? How will your field operators even know when they’ve received new assignments, or when they need to shift gears to respond to an emergency? 

To answer these questions without hunting down documents and sifting through files, you need a centralized work order tracking system that surfaces data in real time. 

By centralizing your work orders, you can seamlessly convert work requests into data-packed work orders, which you can then prioritize and assign to available crews. A central, flexible database also allows you to attach all manner of supporting documents, from images to standard operating procedures to manufacturers’ manuals. With the right information in the hands of the right people, priority tasks finally get done. 

Lack of employee training and certification 

Even in organizations with dedicated safety or training staff in distinct roles, facility maintenance managers still have plenty of employee-facing interactions. Whether or not they’re officially responsible for carrying out training tasks, they do have to make sure the right people are trained for the right jobs. 

One simple reason for this requirement is that work orders should only be assigned to technicians who have the qualifications to complete them. If a technician hasn’t been trained for a specific task, and if including instructions in the work order isn’t sufficient, they need formal training. Of course, it’s far better to understand this need ahead of time than to realize it right when the work request comes in. 

Similarly, regulations or industry standards may mandate that only certified employees perform certain tasks. Again, the maintenance manager’s job becomes more difficult when they don’t have insight into current certifications as they assign work orders. Can you get the new tech to work on the electrical panel? Does the more senior tech have the right tickets to install the new plumbing, so everything is up to code? 

Doing work always costs money, so the last thing you want to do is do the work only to have to pull it all down and redo it because someone didn’t have the right paperwork. 

Finally, as far as equipment maintenance is concerned, properly trained operators deliver better asset return on investment (ROI). They can do more work in less time with a given piece of machinery, and their efficient operation of that machinery leads to less wear and tear. This benefit alone is reason enough for maintenance managers to take as proactive a role as possible in keeping their technicians’ training up to date. 

How can you support training and certification for maintenance techs? 

While training management may only seem tangentially related to asset management, it’s all a part of the same goal: improving productivity, safety, and asset performance within the enterprise. So, large companies need to consider enterprise asset management systems, which allow maintenance managers and other business leaders to track a variety of related metrics. 

Unreliable data capture and lack of data leverage 

From preventive maintenance software to inventory automation to centralized work order management, there are plenty of strategies facility maintenance managers can use to do more with less. When implementing any of these measures, however, there is a constant, overarching question: Is what I’m doing working? 

With this question in mind, perhaps one of the greatest challenges maintenance managers faces is the collection and utilization of data. Take preventive maintenance, for example. Based on manufacturers’ recommendations, historic maintenance data, and insight from veteran personnel, you might implement a variety of time- and usage-based maintenance triggers. Perhaps you inspect trucks every 5,000 miles or shut a production line down for maintenance every 100 runs. 

Are these triggers ideal? They may be a solid starting point, but the program can always improve. Some assets may perform better with a run-to-failure approach, while you may be missing out on major savings by not inspecting a certain machine, job site, or vehicle more often. 

The only way to know is to collect, aggregate, and act on the right data. Then aim for continual improvement based on the trend lines the data reveal. 

How can maintenance management software help? 

The good news is that all the challenges and obstacles are easy to manage with the right EAM software. ManagerPlus Lightning is a full-featured EAM software that is the best tool to help you meet these challenges. 

ManagerPlus helps you: 

  • Centralize your data to better allocate resources 
  • Manage and optimize work order processes 
  • Develop and implement cost-saving maintenance strategies 
  • Triage and prioritize maintenance requests 
  • Improve technician knowledge and skills 
  • Collect and analyze critical data 
  • Simplify maintenance calendar 

Executive summary 

Poor maintenance operations can lead to a wide range of problems including out-of-control maintenance costs and both lost talent and money. Optimizing your maintenance operations is vital to reducing unplanned downtime and improving your ROI. The best way to get your maintenance operations on track is with maintenance management software as part of an enterprise asset management solution like ManagerPlus. 

About the author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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