Maintenance tracking is the process of capturing and leveraging facility and asset maintenance data, including inspections and tasks, parts, and labor. With the right data, facility and maintenance managers get an accurate picture of what they have and how to take care of it. Implementing a unified software solution removes the risks of human error built into more traditional maintenance tracking methods and delivers the transparency you need for real accountability across the department. 

What is maintenance tracking?  

Maintenance tracking is how you capture, safeguard, and leverage all the data from your operations and maintenance programs. It’s how you can see what you have, understand what you need to do to keep it up and running, and then schedule the right work. In most maintenance departments, effective overall maintenance tracking comes down to finding the right combinations of different data types. 

Asset and equipment registries 

A comprehensive list of all your assets and equipment, with key data points for each, including: 

  • Serial numbers  
  • Digital images and schematics  
  • OEM manuals  
  • Warranties 

These asset registries can be as simple as basic lists to more complex data structures with everything carefully arranged according to parent-child relationships. Although a lot of the data here is static, there are also ones that often change. So, the serial number on a mechanical press always stays the same, while maintenance and repair histories grow over time. 

Preventive maintenance schedules  

Once you know what you have, you need to know how to look after it. With these schedules, you can track all the preventive maintenance inspections and tasks (PMs) that help you find and fix small issues before they have a chance to grow into big problems. 

Here again, there’s both static and dynamic data. For some assets, you can comfortably lock the schedule in according to intervals of time or usage. But over time, it pays to revisit your PMs to make sure you’re not over- or undermaintaining them. If a piece of equipment tends to need adjusting every 10,000 cycles, make sure you’re not still following the manufacturer’s recommendations from five years ago, where you only check every 20,000 cycles. 

Maintenance, repairs, operations (MRO) inventory 

Unfortunately, organizations sometimes overlook MRO inventory because none of it ends up in the final product. If you have a manufacturing plant producing furniture, nothing in MRO makes it to the store’s showroom. But all of it is critical to overall operations, maintenance, and repairs.  

Examples of MRO inventory can include everything from parts and materials for equipment on a production line to cleaning products for employee washrooms. 

Why is maintenance tracking important?  

At the foundation of quality improvement is the famous quote: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Maintenance tracking is the critical first step, where you measure it.  

And once you know what’s going on in your maintenance department, you can start to make everything better. Tracking equals transparency, and it’s that visibility that enforces accountability. Once you can see what’s going on with your operations, you can start pouring more time, money, and energy into what’s working, while pulling away from what’s not. It applies to everything from parts suppliers to internal labor. 

Tracking also increases predictability. Insights into past events help you see future trends long before they arrive. The workday becomes a lot less stressful. If you never know what’s hiding around the next corner, you’re always a step behind. But when you can arrive at work every day with a solid sense of what’s on your plate, life is a lot less stressful for everyone.  

Which industries track maintenance?  

The short answer is “just about all of them.” The long answer is that maintenance tracking is especially important for asset-heavy industries, including:  

  • Facility management  
  • Manufacturing  
  • Health care  
  • Food and beverage  
  • Governments and municipalities 

Tracking maintenance is not only important for businesses. Places of worship and other non-profits also benefit from better control over maintenance work, seeing lower costs and better quality of work.  

What do different industries track? 

Most track the same broad categories, including:  

  • Which assets and equipment they have  
  • What work they’ve done to them  
  • What work they need to do to them  
  • Which inventory they need for that work  

There are also many different maintenance metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) you could track. Often, they build them using raw data. So, if they’re looking at mean time to repair, they would need to take data from a few different spots. 

It’s another great reason tracking can be so powerful. Once you have the raw data, you can start to leverage it into actionable insights into your operations. For something like manufacturing equipment tracking, organizations would have complete lists of all their assets and equipment, including complete histories on completed and scheduled work orders. But they could also have detailed site maps and floor plans where they’ve plotted the locations of all their critical assets.    

For fleet vehicles tracking, they would likely have a stronger focus on tracking all their inspections because the industry deals with a lot of compliance challenges. They need accurate records to not only properly plan PMs but also avoid costly fines.  

Why are older maintenance tracking systems so challenging?  

For a long time and across industries, people have been trying to track maintenance. They knew that if they could get reliable numbers, they could see what was really going on with their maintenance departments. The desire has almost always been there. But for the longest time, there wasn’t a reliable way to do it. 

Paper-based tracking 

With paper-based maintenance tracking, there are two main problems. It’s hard to generate accurate data. And even if you do, it’s hard to leverage it into anything useful. 

For example, for any new work order, you must copy everything out by hand, making it a time-consuming process prone to human error. Even when you write everything out perfectly, and you have great handwriting, you still only have one copy, which makes getting it to the right tech a challenge because you have to chase them down or wait for them to come to the maintenance office.  

After all the effort you invested to generate and protect your data, you’re still left without any easy way to use it. Figuring out even the most basic metric or KPIs involves shuffling through a lot of paper and punching numbers into a calculator. 

Spreadsheet-based tracking 

You’d think being able to quickly copy and paste data in spreadsheets would make everything better, but it just makes it worse. Now you can generate a lot of data, but you don’t have any way to keep it up to date because all your data is disconnected. What happens in one spreadsheet does not carry over to any other spreadsheet unless you manually go in a make the updates yourself. You can quickly share spreadsheets, but that just means that everyone will soon have their own version of outdated data.  

In the end, everyone thinks they have the right data, but no one does. 

How does maintenance tracking software make your job easier?  

A modern unified platform software solution makes it much easier to capture data, keep it both safe and up to date, and then make it accessible. Two of the many ways it does this are with a central database and a mobile app.  

Central database 

With a modern solution, your data isn’t trapped on slips of paper, and it isn’t spread out across disconnected files.  

Instead, everything is all together in one cloud-based database with everyone looking at the same data. Any changes are reflected in real time, which means no one is ever out of the loop. And because the team can access the data remotely, you never have to worry about them misplacing a slip of paper or accidentally deleting a file.  

Mobile app  

Generally, the sooner you can get data into the system, the more likely it’s reliable. The longer you hold information in short-term memory, the more likely you are to forget it. Or even worse, misremember it.  So, the sooner the tech can enter it into the system, the smaller the chance they make a mistake and misremember a critical piece of data. With a maintenance app, techs never have to wait to write it down or punch it in. As soon as they close out, they can take out their mobile device and update the system.  

Maintenance tracking is the combination of processes and procedures for capturing, securing, updating, and leveraging asset and maintenance data. There are a lot of benefits, but they all basically come down to the fact that knowledge equals control. And once you have more control, you can better manage every aspect of your maintenance program, from scheduling inspections and tasks to deciding on MRO and even staffing levels.  

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.