Maintenance and Operations, Training

A 6-Step Guide to Create a Deferred Maintenance Strategy

Deferred maintenance, a common challenge in facilities and plant management, involves postponing necessary repairs and upkeep due to constraints like budget or resources.

The delay often leads to an accumulation of tasks, exacerbating issues and inflating future costs. The significance of deferred maintenance spans across diverse organizational settings, impacting operational reliability in manufacturing plants and the safety of corporate facilities.

This guide unfolds a six-step strategy to develop an effective deferred maintenance plan.

Step 1: Assess the Current Situation

The first step in managing deferred maintenance involves cataloging deferred tasks. It’s essential to create a detailed inventory of all maintenance activities that have been postponed, detailing the nature of each task and the equipment or facilities involved. This acts as a tool to gauge the extent and severity of deferred maintenance within the facility.

Analyze the reasons behind the deferral of maintenance: Factors such as budget constraints and resource availability that led to the postponement help in addressing the root causes and preventing similar deferrals.

The evaluation of associated costs and risks of deferred tasks should consider potential operational impacts, safety risks, and the likelihood of escalated costs due to further deterioration. A strategic assessment provides a clear understanding of the urgency and importance of each deferred task.

Step 2: Set Clear Objectives

Successful management of deferred maintenance hinges on setting clear, achievable objectives. These provide a measurable framework to gauge the effectiveness of the maintenance strategy and guide teams towards targeted outcomes.

  • One effective success criterion might be a complete elimination of the maintenance backlog within a year. A specific and time-bound goal allows for focused efforts and resource allocation, facilitating a clear path to resolving maintenance issues.
  • Another tangible objective is addressing all high-priority maintenance tasks within six months. Prioritizing tasks based on urgency and impact ensures that the most critical issues are resolved promptly.

Goal-setting enables facilities to systematically monitor advancements, pinpoint areas needing attention, and adapt strategies accordingly. Well-defined goals ensure focused resource allocation and maintain momentum in addressing priorities.

Step 3: Allocate Resources

The allocation of resources for deferred maintenance begins with a thorough assessment of current assets. Understanding the extent of available resources is fundamental in planning how to address the backlog of maintenance tasks.

When allocating resources, consider the full spectrum: personnel, equipment, and budget. Aside from assessing current resource levels, anticipate future needs to ensure maintenance teams are adequately equipped and funded to tackle deferred tasks.

Crafting strategies for resource reallocation or acquisition may involve redistributing internal resources, augmenting staff, or investing in new equipment. Considering budget adjustments—or additional funding—is crucial to ensure the availability of adequate resources for critical maintenance tasks.

Step 4: Schedule Tasks

A prioritization system is vital for effectively scheduling deferred maintenance tasks—high-priority issues that pose immediate risks to operations or safety should be addressed first. 

Addressing urgent maintenance tasks promptly mitigates risks and maintains operational continuity. It requires a dynamic assessment of the backlog, with a focus on identifying tasks that have immediate implications for functionality and safety.

While addressing urgent tasks is critical, equally important is the strategic management of less urgent maintenance activities—schedule these tasks so that they do not become urgent, and maintain a controlled and manageable maintenance environment.

Detailed scheduling involves developing a comprehensive plan that specifies timelines, allocates resources, and integrates these tasks into the regular maintenance schedule. A detailed approach ensures that each task is addressed with minimal disruption to ongoing operations.

Step 5: Engage Stakeholders

Successful management of deferred maintenance also requires identifying and engaging key stakeholders, including other departments, leadership, and sometimes external partners. Recognizing the roles and interests of these groups aligns the maintenance strategy with broader organizational objectives and secures necessary support.

Engaging other departments and leadership is a key aspect of effective stakeholder management: Their insights and support are instrumental in aligning the maintenance strategy with broader organizational goals, ensuring seamless integration with other departmental activities.

Effective communication strategies are central to engaging stakeholders in the deferred maintenance process. Regular, clear updates about progress, challenges, and adjustments in the maintenance plan maintain transparency and build trust. 

Securing stakeholder support is critical, particularly when it comes to resource allocation and schedule adjustments. Articulating the rationale behind these decisions and their expected outcomes helps in garnering the necessary backing, which leads to a smoother implementation of the maintenance strategy.

Step 6: Monitor Progress

Regular status checks, a fundamental aspect of monitoring a deferred maintenance strategy, encompass updates on task completion, identification of new challenges, and assessment of any deviations from the planned schedule.

Focusing on task completion and identifying new challenges ensures that the deferred maintenance strategy remains on track and responsive to evolving needs. Tracking progress against set objectives enables a dynamic approach, where new challenges are addressed and integrated into the maintenance plan.

The ability to adjust the deferred maintenance strategy is essential for its success. Flexibility and responsiveness are key attributes of an effective strategy, especially in response to: 

  • Changing circumstances: A facility may experience changes in operational demands or technological advancements that require updates in maintenance practices. Adapting ensures that the maintenance strategy remains relevant and effective in the new operational context.
  • Unforeseen challenges: These could include unexpected equipment failures or sudden resource limitations. A resilient maintenance strategy is designed to accommodate such surprises, swiftly reallocating resources or adjusting schedules without significantly disrupting overall operations.
  • Shifts in organizational priorities: Organizations often evolve, leading to shifts in priorities— expansions, downsizing, new regulatory compliance requirements, etc. The maintenance strategy should be malleable enough to align with new priorities, ensuring that maintenance tasks support both current and future objectives.

This enhanced focus on adaptability ensures that the deferred maintenance strategy remains effective and aligned with the facility’s evolving needs and goals.


Facilities must be proactive in managing deferred maintenance. Proactivity ensures operational efficiency and safety, while also optimizing resource utilization and cost management. Implementing the strategies outlined in this guide allows facilities managers to effectively confront deferred maintenance, enhancing their overall maintenance management practices.

Sanjay Murthi works for SMGlobal, provider of the FastMaint CMMS software platform for facility and equipment maintenance.

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