The Dangers of Deferred Maintenance

By: Mark Hagan, Director of Operations, Trade Services

Most of today’s business leaders face tough challenges when it comes to juggling operational expectations and managing projects. In verticals like facilities management (FM), it can seem like there are never enough funds in the budget to tackle all the objectives on your list. As facilities managers and their teams feel increased pressure to “do more with less,” the biggest barrier to success is often a lack of resources: time, money, labor—or all three.

As a result, long-term projects, preventive maintenance and other non-urgent tasks tend to fall by the wayside. This leads to a backlog of unresolved work orders and deferred maintenance, which can have negative consequences for your FM program over time.

Increased Risk

Depending on which work orders you’re deferring, you could be endangering your employees and/or patrons. If you wait too long to repair a fixture, for instance, it could cause physical harm to a customer, worker or even your merchandise. To avoid potential risks—and potential lawsuits—stay on top of any maintenance requests that could result in injury or damaged products.

Tarnished Brand Image

The condition of your stores and all they encompass, from your signage to your restrooms, contributes directly to your customers’ perception of your brand. Deferring FM tasks such as janitorial services or grounds maintenance, for example, can cause your brand to get a bad rap with shoppers. While it may seem harmless to cut back on a few floor cleanings here and there, or push a parking lot repavement project to the next quarter, these “little things” can have a big impact on the overall brand experience.

Costly Repairs

Budgetary limitations are the primary reason FM professionals wind up deferring maintenance projects. Even though you may be saving in the near term, you’ll ultimately lose money in the long run, as your assets will start to underperform if neglected for too long.

HVAC units offer the perfect example: In order to run at peak efficiency, heating and cooling units require routine inspection. Will your HVAC system continue to run even if you don’t conduct a deep-clean of the coils every quarter? Yes; however, it won’t heat up or cool down as quickly as it should, and it will likely require more energy to run. Aging or underperforming assets typically have a higher breakdown rate, too, which will cost your organization a pretty penny to repair or replace.

Deferred maintenance becomes especially important when the end of your fiscal year rolls around. In order to craft your next annual budget, you’ll need visibility into the volume of deferred maintenance so you can properly prioritize the completion of these work orders to avoid starting the year at a deficit. 

Deferring maintenance doesn’t mean it’s “canceled”—it just means you’re foregoing spending funds now that you will end up spending later. By putting off necessary repairs or preventive maintenance projects, you’re also putting your organization at risk of being blindsided by a sudden equipment breakdown or service disruption.