The real impact of delaying maintenance

16 March, 2021 by Add Energy

Good scheduling is key to a successful maintenance regime, however many factors can impact your ability to execute maintenance as originally planned. Delaying work can be inevitable, and this can lead to significant challenges for maintenance teams - from managing increased risk to inefficiencies and complexities when planning.

Add Energy’s Simon Fisher, Project Director, and Danny McGowan, Operations Manager, have conducted a deep dive on maintenance deferment, discussing why this occurs, what the impact can be and advice for asset and maintenance teams for effectively minimizing risk and reducing the need for deferrals.


Why is maintenance delayed?

Simon says: “Delaying maintenance can be split into two broad categories - delaying corrective maintenance or delaying preventive maintenance.

“Being forced to delay corrective maintenance is often caused by the unavailability of materials, preventing you from conducting your corrective maintenance - and this is extremely common. Just this week, I had a call with a client in Africa, and they only have 19% of the materials required to do their critical equipment maintenance, which is a pressing issue for them.

“Delaying Scheduled maintenance is typically a reaction to budgets. This could happen in order to prioritize production and avoid downtime, or due to cost cutting measures. This has happened frequently in the past and is now happening again more frequently due to continued tightening of budgets across the industry. This forces maintenance teams to make decisions based on their maintenance priorities - and often delay of scheduled maintenance is inevitable. Many operators struggle to prioritize what can or cannot be delayed, based on knowing the criticality of the equipment and in quantifying the risk of the delay.”

Danny adds: “2020 maintenance budgets were made in the sunshine of 2019, cutting from what was a substantial and optimistic budget, however 2021 budgets were made in challenging times of 2020, so we are anticipating this will be a harder year than last - and delaying of maintenance will subsequently increase.”

What is the impact caused by delaying maintenance?

Danny says: “Crammed shut downs (also known as ‘turnarounds’) and complexity in resource planning, in terms of getting the right people on the platform at the right time to execute the delayed maintenance, are two challenges that spring to mind instantly.

“Your whole operation can become inefficient when you start delaying maintenance. The ultimate goal is to have a well oiled and planned operation, knowing exactly what is going to happen and when, with resources ready to go. From a logistical perspective, this lowers costs as you can confidently put contracts in place for services, and get better deals with contractors due to economies of scale. If maintenance has to then be delayed, it can disrupt this smooth operation.”

Simon adds: “It also causes a whole lot of extra work for an already busy team, as the process of delaying activity can and should be rigorous. For example, pressure safety valves (PSVs) generally get tested in a shut down, however if your shut down is delayed until September, you have to carry out Management of that Change (MoC). You have to explain and document that change to internal parties and, in many countries, to external regulatory bodies too, explaining the risk of failure, failure history, etc. to determine if you can tolerate the risk. In some companies, approvals from technical authorities are also required during this process.

“And finally, the overall risk will be increased for your asset by the delay. Although mitigations can be put in place, the risk will not go back to the level it was intended to be if the full maintenance had been carried out.”

What is your advice for minimizing the impact of delaying maintenance?

Simon says: “My first advice would be to avoid it if you can.

“If delaying maintenance is required, make sure you’re getting the right advice so you can make an informed decision. You need to understand the potential impact of the risk caused by deferring that piece of maintenance, so evaluation of the risk of something going wrong is crucial. Having good technical advice will enable you to make decisions with a level of confidence.

“This also gives you an audit trail on decisions you make. If something sadly went wrong, you have to be able to justify why those decisions were made - why the maintenance was deferred, what mitigations were deemed appropriate to protect you from the risk, and a definitive date as to when the deferred maintenance would be conducted. Using technical advisors and authorities in that decision making process strengthens your justification.”

Danny suggests: “Be prepared and ready for an opportunistic chance to execute the delayed task. For example, we had one compressor on a platform - when this failed, gas couldn’t be exported from the platform until the spare parts arrived. This gave us an ideal opportunity to conduct maintenance, and we had equipment there ready. Just because a piece of maintenance is delayed, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared to do the work when an unscheduled opportunity arises. If the opportunity arises, you want to be able to do it.

“Another useful tip is if you are continually deferring a piece of maintenance, have you considered moving it to ‘fix when fail’?

“And finally, review your overall maintenance strategy and capability. By making your maintenance regime as fit for purpose as it possibly can be, you’ll minimize the need for delaying maintenance. For example, following vendor maintenance frequencies is likely to be overly conservative and causing your team extra work. By reviewing and optimizing your maintenance program, you can easily reduce costs, ensure you’re conducting critical maintenance and reduce your level of delayed work.”


There are many opportunities to prevent or manage delaying maintenance; some of these are as follows:

  • Reducing the likelihood of scheduled maintenance delay can be through optimizing the existing maintenance build
  • Managing delays can be assisted by Management of Change and Risk Assessment
  • Faster reaction to unscheduled maintenance can be through a Bill of Materials program

If you’d like to discuss addressing and preventing delayed maintenance in more depth, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by completing the form below.

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