How Deferred Maintenance Impacts Your Organization in the Long Run

Maintenance issues don’t just pop up overnight.

They keep bubbling under the surface of shrinking operating budgets and neglected infrastructures for a long time. Then, maintenance problems grow bigger, and you start experiencing tangible consequences.

Whenever you drop important maintenance work due to limited staffing, funds, or time, the result is deferred maintenance—often the cause of unexpected breakdowns.

Not sure how to tackle deferred maintenance backlog with maintenance management software?

This article has everything you need to know to identify maintenance problems, minimize obstacles, and implement changes.

What is deferred maintenance?

Deferred maintenance refers to infrastructure and asset repair and maintenance work that you delay because of budget limitations, lack of resources, or time.

Put simply, deferred maintenance and repairs (DM&R) are maintenance activities that should have been done long back and are put off for the future.

The result of deferred maintenance is usually:

  • System failure
  • Equipment deterioration
  • Unexpected breakdown
  • Higher maintenance cost

Time to look at some examples.

Examples of deferred maintenance

This section walks you through how deferred maintenance looks different across industries.

Deferred maintenance in the public sector

Public sector institutions such as schools and parks often delay maintenance because of limited funding.

They hope to address these postponed critical maintenance activities in subsequent budget cycles. Those pending maintenance works go into deferred maintenance backlogs. Unless correctly handled, deferred maintenance may lead to safety hazards and frequent breakdown maintenance.

The National Park Service estimated that existing public properties such as buildings, roads, facilities, utility systems, and structures needed repair worth $21.8 billion by Q1 of the fiscal year 2022.

Deferred maintenance for real estate

Real estate deferred maintenance issues are postponed repair works that may not seem like a big deal at first but can cause real damage.

Examples include:

  • Peeling paint
  • Rotten sliding
  • Water damage
  • Broken windows
  • Cracked foundation
  • Visible mold growth
  • Ripped window screens

The list above isn't exhaustive but gives you a sense of what deferred maintenance looks like.

These repair works often seem like minor cosmetic fixes to property managers, but that’s no reason to avoid them. Instead, consider creating a preventive maintenance program to avoid a huge list of maintenance backlogs down the road.

Want to learn more about space management? Check out our in-depth guide.

Deferred maintenance for facilities

Critical equipment emergencies and focusing more on planned maintenance works stop facility managers from addressing deferred maintenance backlogs on time.

As a result, they experience unscheduled downtime, equipment failure, or shortened asset lifecycle. Common items that suffer from deferred maintenance in facilities include:

  • Roofs
  • Parking lots
  • Non-critical assets
  • Building infrastructure

Now that you know the what let’s dive deep into how to handle deferred maintenance.

Deferred maintenance workflow

How do you know if you should defer a maintenance activity?

Facilities generally use a deferred maintenance workflow to decide what to do on priority and what can wait.

A deferred maintenance workflow involves:

  • Analyze preventive maintenance tasks: Maintenance activities are of two types—preventive and reactive. Facility managers and technicians use preventive maintenance checklists to spot issues across buildings and assets. These tasks include routine maintenance tasks that you take up to ensure assets, equipment, and building longevity.
  • Understand reactive maintenance issues: Technicians also look at reactive or corrective maintenance tasks for assets that have failed and need immediate attention.
  • Look at capital renewal tasks: Capital renewal programs systematically manage asset replacement and refurbishment to ensure the healthy lives of assets.
  • Check resources and bandwidth: At this stage, you look at available resources (time, money, labor) to complete all preventive, reactive, and capital renewal jobs. Then, you prioritize them based on your bandwidth and maintenance priority.
  • Take maintenance decisions: Now, it’s time to schedule the priority tasks and add non-critical tasks to the maintenance backlog. This backlog creates your deferred maintenance queue.

Depending on your organization type and size, the details of the deferred maintenance workflow may vary.

Hop on a call with us and find out how you can easily tackle deferred maintenance with Facilio.

Reasons for deferred maintenance

Facility managers often cite limited resources as the main reason for deferred maintenance—let’s look at what that actually means.

  • No preventive maintenance strategy in place: Many organizations use corrective maintenance to deal with asset repairs, maintenance, and replacement. Since they don’t have a preventive or predictive maintenance strategy in place, they end up deferring maintenance tasks.
  • Limited tools: Sometimes, you may not have the right tools or inventory to do a job and therefore defer maintenance.
  • Tight budget: Limited maintenance budget pushes companies to prioritize operating costs and puts expensive repairs on the back burner.
  • Lack of manpower or skills: Teams lacking enough technicians often don’t have the bandwidth to handle unexpected breakdowns. Some companies may hire third-party contractors with the necessary expertise and skills. The problem is that those contractors may not immediately be available to take the job. All these manpower or skill-related issues force you to postpone maintenance work.

Now, you may think deferred maintenance is unavoidable at times. You’re right! So, what is a good reason for deferring maintenance?

If you’re close to spending the allocated maintenance budget, you may defer maintenance work for the next budget cycle.

Companies with this kind of budget issue should focus on strengthening their preventive maintenance game.

If you don’t encounter faults or issues during regular inspections, you may be better off with scheduled maintenance based on operation and maintenance (O&M) manual guidelines. Also, remember to maintain shorter backlogs for high-risk assets.

However, no reason is good enough to postpone maintenance for a long time because every deferred maintenance leads to some risks.

Check out our article on O&M Manual, different types, and its importance.

Risks of deferred maintenance

Maintenance managers may think deferred maintenance is a smart idea, especially with budget restrictions, but it isn’t. Deferred maintenance harms any piece of equipment and damages your facility in the long run. Check out these risks before deferring maintenance.

  • Breakdown maintenance costs. Prices of spare parts increase every year due to inflation. Changing those parts now instead of years later may actually save you money.
  • More chances of system failure. Delaying asset repairs may cause an asset to fail completely and result in production downtime.
  • Reduced production capacity. Lack of efficient equipment negatively impacts your product delivery schedule and production capacity. Moreover, inefficient assets consume more energy and make infrastructure asset management expensive.
  • Safety hazards and compliance issues. Postponing maintenance for too long means you’re creating an unsafe working environment for tenants and workers. Plus, you’re likely to attract hefty fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

You can avoid all these by creating a simple, effective process for handling maintenance backlog—let’s see how.

How to deal with maintenance backlogs

One way to deal with deferred maintenance is to create backlogs and execute those tasks when possible. Follow these simple steps to get started:

  • Issue discovery: Record issues in a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) after spotting them.
  • Issue analysis: Wait for the maintenance management team to analyze those problems and create work orders.
  • Work order creation: If your team can’t handle the tasks immediately due to a lack of resources, add them to the backlog.

As you create a backlog, remember to categorize these tasks by:

  • Usage frequency: How frequently do you use this asset?
  • Critical resources: Is it a critical resource for production?
  • Risks and costs: How much will it cost to repair this asset? Is it safe to defer maintenance?
  • Urgency: Can the facility run efficiently in case of an unexpected asset failure?

Once you create a backlog, you’ll be better positioned to handle deferred maintenance tasks on time.

How to reduce deferred maintenance

While deferred maintenance is inevitable for some assets, you must have the right strategy to company it.

Reducing deferred maintenance becomes easier with auditing maintenance, automating preventive maintenance, and prioritizing assets with higher contributions to revenue.

  • Audit and log maintenance activities. Having real-time asset and resource data helps you prioritize tasks and make decisions. A top-class CMMS platform like Facilio keeps you on top of resource allocation, authorization, real-time reporting, asset lifecycle analysis, and much more. Plus, it offers data-driven insights into deferred maintenance orders and audit reports.
  • Automate preventive maintenance program. Maintaining assets before they break down is key to avoiding deferred maintenance. A connected CMMS solution alerts you if an asset is likely to experience failure. You can significantly reduce the deferred maintenance backlog by addressing the asset issue ahead of time.
  • Prioritize high-value maintenance tasks. The right maintenance management tool will also help you dive deep into the cost of not addressing asset issues. That way, you can easily calculate your runway before an asset fails. On the other hand, those tools also tell you what equipment failure can cause serious problems. Evaluating both and prioritizing high-value maintenance activities lets you prevent deferred maintenance.

If you’re considering raising funding requests to the management team, CMMS software can help you there too.

For example, it can show whether deferred maintenance will be more expensive than preventive maintenance for an asset. With this data, you can get stakeholder buy-in faster.

Reverse the deferred maintenance mindset

When you execute the right high-value maintenance at the right time, you actually start building long-term, sustainable efficiency. That’s why it’s important to mix preventive and deferred maintenance to avoid frequent issues.

Ready to set a proactive schedule for your business?

Get a quick demo to see how Facilio can help you do more with less.