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A Shortcut to Higher Efficiency

Short repairs are an excellent way to improve productivity.  The reason productivity improves is buried in the details of running any maintenance job, including a PM.  Think about the detailed steps that any maintenance worker takes to do any maintenance job.  It is quite a list, so let’s take a look at the list in Table 1.


Notice that there are 13 activities, of which only 1 is productive in meeting your maintenance goals.  Most maintenance professionals would agree that each of these activities is essential.  They would also agree that as we go through planning, scheduling, training, and maintenance re-engineering, we work to minimize the time for each step.

What is a short repair?  In this sense, short repairs refer to repairs that can be done completely and properly in a short time (usually under 60 or 30 minutes) during a PM.  Additionally, the repair can be safely completed with the tools and materials that the PM person carries.  Short repairs are to be written up for equipment history.  The PM person does the job and writes the short repair on the bottom of the PM work order or on a Log Sheet.

Formally, the short repair should be charged to CM (corrective maintenance).  If that is impossible because of CMMS inflexibility, then charging the short repair to PM, although less desirable, is still fine.

To facilitate this, equip the PM person (staff maintenance mechanic or contractor) with tools and materials for the most likely short jobs.  How do you determine what to carry?  Do a Pareto analysis (also known as the 80-20 rule, which states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes) of short repairs, asking the question what are the few repairs that account for 80% of your short repairs?  Equip your PM people for those repairs.  You can also review the log sheets, have brainstorming sessions on the topic, and, of course, question your old-timers.

Building maintenance departments use a related concept called route maintenance.  Route maintenance accumulates short repairs in a building or location.  The route person visits each location periodically.  You can improve efficiency by scheduling the same location on the same day of the week.  The log sheet would be used to record these incidents.  The quality of the maintenance department will frequently be judged by the tenant/users on your effectiveness at short repairs. 

One thing is clear.  If we do a second or third planned job on the same asset, we would add to the “perform work” time.  Note that in some plants the scope of work on the permit has to be followed and, if changed, the permit has to be reissued.  However, for everyone else an extra job completed at the same time is extremely efficient.

This has been a scheduling trick or tip for years.  In fact, a Fleet Maintenance CMMS from the mid-1980s would not only check if there were open items against that unit, it would also see if there were any PMs either due now or that would be due in the next few days. Today when a job is scheduled for a particular asset, the scheduler would have to manually review the backlog for that asset and see if he/she could tag another job along.

One of the best opportunities for these “short repairs” is during unit based PMs.  A unit based PM is a typical PM where one machine is PM-ed from top to bottom. The tradesperson goes through all the steps above to complete his/her PM.  Readers can step through the times for each activity in their own plant to see if there would be as much savings in their environment.  OK, so let’s attempt to answer the question, “What does it take to do a PM on any piece of equipment if the wrench time is 90 minutes?”

In Table 2 we estimate the time each step takes for completion of a PM.  Then, in the right hand column, we added time for a 30 minute short repair.  As you look over the table, you will see that only a few fields actually increase.  We assume that job site cleanup and paperwork both increase slightly. So the result is this:


Let’s first look at the ratio of wrench time to all other time for a PM only in Equation 1.  Next, we will look at the ratio of wrench time to all other time for PM with short repair in Equation 2.


An improvement from 30% to 35% in wrench time might not seem like much, but it adds up to a 16% (allowing for just a single short repair during a PM) overall improvement.  And, it turns out that there are other advantages of having a short repair environment.  One advantage that should not be underestimated is that the PM inspectors feel trusted and take greater ownership of the health of the equipment.

There are also several disadvantages to short repairs that should be known and managed:

•  The skill requirement for PM people for short repairs is
    significantly higher than for just PM

•  Short repairs require significant judgment (so the short
    repair doesn’t turn into a long repair or isn’t too

•  One thing that you need to accept is that short repairs
    cause schedule disruptions

Since we want the PM inspector to be set-up for as many short repairs as possible, we might consider a PM cart.  Here is an example of the contents of a PM Cart for building maintenance:

•  Hand tools including:  (screw driver set, pliers set, claw
    hammer, cutters, Allen wrenches, vice grips, key hole
    saw, hack saw, tape measure, utility knife, pipe
    wrenches, set of files, rasps, good flash light, batteries
    etc.), stepladder to reach ceiling.  Electric tools such as: 
    electric drill and bits, drop light, circular saw

•  Cleaning tools  (Straw broom, whisk broom, dust pan,
    trash bags, mop, wringer, bucket, rags, shovel, sponges,
    5 gallon bucket, spray bottles, razor blade scraper,
    steel wool)

•  Cleaning supplies  (furniture polish, all-purpose cleaner
    with TSP, spray deodorizer, spray tile cleaner, wax, wax
    applicator, wax stripper, toilet bowl cleaner, oven
    cleaner, metal polish, non-abrasive
    cleanser), rags, paper towels

•  Silicone spray lube, WD40, spray paints, spray zinc,
    standard off white latex paints (or standard colors) with
    brushes and rollers, joint compound, spackle knife,
    spackle tape, contact cement, latex and silicone
    caulk and gun,

•  Variety packs of fasteners, variety of nails, small hard-
    ware items, duct tape

•  Electric: light bulbs (ones you use), flourescent replacement
    tubes, switches, outlets, switch, outlet & blank covers,
    electrical tape, fuses, fittings, outlet tester, neon tester, door
    hardware, lock sets, door bells, transformers, wire, smoke
    detectors, batteries, tags for writing dates of installation
    and testing

•  Window hardware, floor and ceiling tiles, threshold and
    entrance strips

•  Bug bombs, insecticide spray, can hornet/wasp killer, roach
    /ant traps

•  Faucet washers and seats (seat tool), kitchen/bathroom
    faucets with flex lines

•  Toilet parts, closet seals, toilet seat parts,
    closet snake

A cart in a factory would have small spares, tools and other items commonly needed.  Different parts of the plant might need different carts.

Adding to the PM Cart

•  Each cart or each area has a Cart Inventory list.  The cart
    should always carry these items.  It is important that the
    last daily task is to clean and replenish the cart.

•  Study the maintenance log and the corrective work orders.
    Add items based on jobs requested.

•  Periodically meet with the PM crews and discuss jobs
    completed and jobs that could not be completed. Adjust
    the cart based on these discussions.

•  Allow the individual PM personnel to add things to the cart
    on their own. Again at the periodic meeting discuss the
    individual additions to see if they warrant adding to the
    cart inventory list.

The key to these carts is discipline. The tools and unused materials are put away into the same places, pockets, drawers, and cabinets each time.  Care is taken to clean, lubricate, charge batteries, and generally care for the tools every PM day.

In conclusion, Short Repairs are an excellent way to improve productivity and customer service.

Joel Levitt is a leading trainer of maintenance professionals, having trained over 10,000 maintenance leaders from 3000 organizations in 20 countries in over 500 sessions. Since 1980, he has been the President of Springfield Resources, a management consulting firm that services all sized clients on a wide range of maintenance issues.  Joel has almost 25 years experience in many facets of maintenance, as a process control designer, source equipment inspector, electrician, field service technician, merchant marine worker, manufacturing manager, and property manager. Prior to that Mr. Levitt worked for a CMMS vendor and in manufacturing management.  He is a frequent speaker at maintenance and engineering conferences and has written 6 popular maintenance management texts and chapters of 2 additional reference books. He has also published dozens of articles on the topic.  Joel con be reached at 800-242-5656  or

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