Technician holding tablet with maintenance task list on the screen, checking one off and standing in front of machine.

Writing standardized maintenance tasks is a valuable part of maintenance planning and scheduling. Well-written tasks provide templates on which to base similar future tasks, thereby saving time and reducing errors. Additionally, detailed tasks will ensure that technicians perform repairs and maintenance more effectively and consistently. In this blog post, we will go over how to write effective maintenance tasks and provide tips for improving maintenance task planning.

The Importance of Writing Effective Maintenance Tasks

Despite maintenance planning and scheduling being vital to effective maintenance management, it is often the most neglected aspect of managing assets. Many maintenance teams do only corrective maintenance and scramble to “put out fires” while doing little-to-no preventive maintenance work. Planned maintenance, accompanied by detailed tasks and instructions, pull maintenance teams out of “firefighting mode”.

It has been shown that proper maintenance planning and scheduling can increase wrench time (the amount of time during a shift spent physically performing the maintenance work) from 35% to 65%. The instructions, schedule, designated spare parts, and assigned workers or contractors guide the entire maintenance process. Writing out maintenance tasks helps planners create an outline of future maintenance work because it provides labor estimates and shows what skills/parts are required.

How to Write a Maintenance Task Step by Step

1. Identify Maintenance Problem

The first step in writing an effective maintenance task is to identify the maintenance problem to be solved by the task that will be performed. This includes identifying all maintenance and repairs that are needed. An asset’s owner’s manual outlines the most important preventive maintenance tasks needed. Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) maintenance history also provides more detailed information.

However, if a maintenance team is new to writing maintenance tasks, previous work that was completed was most likely corrective maintenance, so no existing tasks would be formally written for these jobs. Maintenance tasks can be written ahead of time or documented after the task is complete; then added to CMMS software and or maintenance procedures. They can then be used for future reference when the same task needs to be done again.

If the organization’s maintenance department is able to do so, they would likely complete a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) or look to their Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM) program. Both of these strategies help to identify all possible maintenance issues, their causes, and to plan for how to avoid them in the future.

2. Plan the Task Itself

Once the problem the task will solve is identified and an outline of tasks is created, it’s time to plan each task. This includes gathering information the maintenance technician might need to complete the work such as photographs, schematics, maintenance manuals, and specific notes or instructions stored in the CMMS. It must be determined what specific work needs to be done and the priority of that work. Knowing what steps need to occur and in what order is also essential to planning the task.

3. Determine What Supplies and Parts are Needed

Next, identify and prepare the supplies and inventory parts the maintenance technician will need to carry out the work detailed in the task. This is a vital, but often overlooked step in the maintenance task planning process. It can be frustrating for the technician to make extra trips to the stockroom for items they need that weren’t listed in the maintenance task or procedure. To avoid this, document the name and part number of each item needed. Determine what tools and consumables the technician will require and ensure that are readily available when needed.

It may be helpful to write out (digitally or on paper) a complete list of parts, supplies, and tools separately and then incorporate them where appropriate in the final task. Typically, these lists are included at the beginning of the written task so the technician can grab what they need before beginning the work.

4. Schedule the Task

This task will be part of a larger set of maintenance jobs that should be outlined by a maintenance planner or scheduler. The planner should come up with an outline of preventive and scheduled corrective maintenance so that the workload can be balanced.

Failure to do so can result in an unbalanced workload (more work on some days and not enough on others). Identifying which maintenance issues to tackle the next day, week, month, or other time period is the first step in knowing for which maintenance jobs to write tasks.

General Maintenance Task Writing Guidelines

There are a number of guidelines to follow when writing maintenance tasks that will make the process easier and the end result more accurate.

Write Maintenance Tasks within a Standard Maintenance Procedure

When writing maintenance tasks as part of a Standard Maintenance Procedure (SMP), there are a few things the planner can do to prepare beforehand. They should begin by meeting with team members who performed the same work the last time it was done and write down the steps as the team members recall them. For new assets, the same group should make a plan for future maintenance tasks, learn how the asset works (if needed), and train others that need to know how to maintain the asset. As a primary resource, employees should refer to maintenance manuals and schematics from the asset vendors.

Next, the planner should take photos of the job: the asset involved, specific areas on the asset to be worked on, tools, and supplies. Then the planner (or other maintenance department employee) should begin documenting the steps, with safe lockout of the machine listed as the first one. When the writing is set to begin, there are a number of guidelines the planner should follow:

  • Keep all wording short and precise.
  • Use check boxes or quantitative values where appropriate.
  • Use numbered lines and avoid paragraphs.
  • Begin each step with an action verb.
  • Keep equipment names consistent.

Analyze Root Causes of Failures

The maintenance task writer should analyze the root cause of asset failure and explain how the maintenance task will work to restore the asset to its full function. Changes in the maintenance program or additional training that can prevent future failure should occur where applicable. Other action to prevent future failure might involve changes to the asset itself, including a system upgrade or equipment redesign.

Review Asset Schematics and Vendor Maintenance Manuals

If the maintenance department is new to maintenance task writing, they should start by reviewing asset schematics and maintenance manuals from the vendor. Technical publications about the asset involved may also be valuable to review, but only as a secondary source to gain broad understanding of an asset type. Doing so can familiarize the maintenance planner with language and terms used and recommended maintenance procedures when describing maintenance for that particular machine. Specific details will need to be determined by each organization’s maintenance department.

Avoid Errors of Omission

When in doubt, it is better to include more information and pare it down later than to omit information that is truly needed. These errors of omission can be avoided if the maintenance planner is meticulous with gathering and documenting details. The action to take, location on the machine for that action to take place, and the specific names of parts or components to be maintained should be written out in the maintenance task.

Be as Specific as Possible

Maintenance tasks should be written as specifically as possible. For novice technicians, details such as the number of turns of a screwdriver it takes to properly tighten or remove a screw may be needed. At the same time, each step in the procedure should be as concise as possible while including the right level of detail. The maintenance task writer should call out warnings for safety risks, possible damage to the machine if a step is done incorrectly, and any special circumstances.

Take a Break to Review

After writing the maintenance task, it’s a good idea for the maintenance planner to take a break, then come back and review their work. This review should involve asking questions to determine clarity, specificity, and completion of the written maintenance task.

  • Do any technicians require any additional training to complete the task? (Ideally, the answer is no, but it depends on the skills and experience of each maintenance team).
  • 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. The maintenance planner can also ask technicians and managers to read through the task and provide feedback.

Effective Maintenance Tasks and Standard Maintenance Procedures

A maintenance plan outlines proactive, preventive work to be done on assets in a facility, whereas a maintenance task outlines one job within a preventive maintenance plan. As we mentioned earlier, SMPs contain one or more maintenance tasks that relate to a complete maintenance job. For example, changing the oil on a truck may be one task and changing the air filter on the same truck may be another task that are both done together as part of a routine maintenance job.

In any case, SMPs are created because there is only one true, right way to complete a maintenance task, and that way should be standardized throughout the company. It only takes doing a task the wrong way one time for a machine to get damaged or someone to get injured.

Use FTMaintenance to Write Maintenance Tasks and Plan PM

CMMS software such as FTMaintenance makes writing maintenance tasks easy. You can use the attachments feature to upload any photos or graphics to include in the task. Reusable tasks can be created and applied to any work order. Standard Maintenance Procedures (which contain maintenance tasks) can also be stored in FTMaintenance by listing maintenance tasks in sequential order to create a procedure.

Learn about how FTMaintenance can help you write effective maintenance tasks by scheduling a demo, or contacting us to request more information.

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