Person checking off tasks on a maintenance task checklist on a tablet computer in front of a machine

Maintenance tasks provide guidance for how technicians perform maintenance work. However, many organizations do not have dedicated maintenance planning resources available. Instead, task writing falls to others within the maintenance team or administrative staff members who do not necessarily have the expertise to write effective maintenance tasks. This article provides tips for writing effective maintenance tasks for seasoned veterans and inexperienced planners alike.

What is a Maintenance Task?

A maintenance task is a small, identifiable piece of work that indicates the action – or actions – one must take to complete a maintenance work order. Maintenance tasks typically include:

  • A description of the work itself
  • Instructions for completing the task
  • A labor craft that describes the required set of skills
  • The estimated time to complete the work

The Importance of Effective Maintenance Tasks

Many maintenance teams do primarily unplanned, corrective maintenance (CM) and scramble to “put out fires” while doing little-to-no preventive maintenance work. In such cases, maintenance tasks are seldom used – instead, technicians are sent directly to failed equipment to diagnose the problem and implement a solution. The specific set of tasks performed is documented after the fact, is usually incomplete, and is done through work order notes instead of through formal tasks.

As maintenance teams tire of the chaos caused by unplanned maintenance and transition towards a proactive maintenance strategy, there is a greater need for planned maintenance guided by detailed maintenance tasks. Instead of vague statements, such as “fix the motor”, maintenance tasks break down work into more manageable, “bite-sized” to-dos. For example, fixing the motor may be comprised of multiple tasks including powering down the motor, turning the shaft by hand to assess the bearings, and inspecting for shorts and opens.

Further, studies show that proper maintenance planning and scheduling can increase wrench time by as much as 65%.

How to Write an Effective Maintenance Task

The steps below describe how to write an effective maintenance task in the context of planned preventive maintenance, where tasks are most often used.

1. Identify the Maintenance Problem

The first step in writing an effective maintenance task is to identify the problem to be solved. For example, does the equipment need inspection or a part replaced

2. Identify the Required Action

After you identify the problem, determine what action is needed to resolve it. Effective maintenance tasks will start with verbs – words that make it easy to understand what “to do”.

Also determine whether the action is a single step or comprised of multiple steps. Single-step tasks make it easy for technicians to picture exactly what to do. For example, actions like “clean”, “remove”, and “verify” are fairly straightforward. Multi-step tasks, such as lockout/tagout, require additional explanation in the task’s details, or may be better if broken down into individual tasks.

3. Describe the Task

Once you’ve identified the required maintenance action, flesh out the details of exactly what technicians must do. The work order will already provide details such as which asset is in need of maintenance and by when the work is to be completed.

Task details describe how to do the work. The level of detail depends on the experience and ability of your team. Less experienced or newer technicians might require more detail, sometimes as granular as spelling out how many turns of the wrench are required to tighten a belt. For these cases, we encourage the use of pictures, graphics – even videos! Experienced, veteran technicians typically need less detail, and will know what procedures to follow.

4. Identify the Required Parts and Tools

Along with what work is needed, you should take time to identify what parts, tools, and other supplies (such as PPE)is required to perform the task. Work orders usually include parts and tools in their own respective sections, although they may be included in task details as well.

5. Determine Task Completion Time

Effective maintenance tasks include deadlines that make clear how long work is expected to take. Not only do time estimates keep technicians productive, they help schedulers determine how long work orders are expected to take and where the work fits into the maintenance schedule.

Many organizations simply estimate task completion time based on experience, maintenance history records, or estimations provided by equipment user manuals. Estimates for new tasks may be based on completion times for similar tasks or educated guesses. Advanced organizations that track maintenance employee performance may have real-world data from which to make task completion time estimations.

6. Review the Maintenance Task

After you’ve finished writing a maintenance task, take a break and come back to it later. Examining tasks with “fresh eyes” and a clear mind can help you notice any errors or shortcomings. It also pays off to mentally walk through the steps, making sure that the task is clearly written and requirements are realistic.

The review should also involve asking questions like:

  • Do any technicians require any additional training to complete the task?
  • Have all safety warnings and necessary precautions been identified and included in the task?
  • Are the steps listed in the most logical order?

The answers to these questions provide guidance on any revisions that should be made.

Create a Task Library with FTMaintenance Select

FTMaintenance Select is a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) that makes it easy for you to create and manage a library of maintenance tasks. Add tasks to reusable preventive maintenance (PM) work order templates or create one-time tasks for specific maintenance jobs. Request a demo to learn more about how to improve preventive maintenance with FTMaintenance Select.

See FTMaintenance In Action

Schedule your live demonstration of FTMaintenance CMMS today

Schedule Demo