Excerpt from John W. Rushton’s book, Effective Maintenance Management Using Planned and Preventive Maintenance.

All Super Hawks use backlog boards.

A good, but not great, planned maintenance program can be developed without using magnetic boards. However, any good program can become significantly better by installing and using these boards. We doubt that any group can become a first class maintenance organization without boards. If you question the quality of your program, installing boards is the single quickest way to find out just how good your program really is.   The use of a computer cannot currently duplicate the function of this board.  Using software has no real bearing on the value of the board.

The boards are easy to maintain and require very few minutes each day. If the planner does not keep them up, it is a big job to get the boards up to date and, even worse, everyone that has any connection with the program knows that the planner is not doing his job.  This differs from the computer where a planner can be behind for weeks or months before anyone realizes that the information in the maintenance computer is of little, if any, use in planning maintenance work. Most foremen like the lack of accountability that a poor system creates, and will gladly assign their people as they feel the need and allow the planner to keep score after the fact.  Magnetic boards cannot replace the computer, but in the real world, we have never seen the computer replace magnetic boards.


The magnetic board is primarily a communications tool, and makes it much easier for more people to get involved in the planning effort. Magnetic boards make it easy for a vice president or a plant manager to walk into a planning office and immediately know the health of the planned maintenance program. They make it easy for a production supervisor that perceives a need for maintenance work to quickly check and find out if there is a work order written. He can then initiate a job request, adjust priority and suggest a schedule in a matter of a few seconds. A good magnetic board system will get used many times every day.

Magnetic boards can be purchased from almost any school or office supply company.  We prefer a slick, white surface, and you should check to make sure the board is magnetic. Size and number of boards is determined by the size of the active backlog and the number of areas that need to be scheduled.


Fig.1 shows an example of the backlog strips used on a backlog board. (The multi-colored, magnetic strip holders can be purchased from Rushton International. ) These strips can be a tear-off strip on the bottom of the work order, or they can be printed on separate sheets of backlog strip paper. They can also be filled out manually. Your work and the capability of your computer and software will determine which option is best for you.

Fig.2 shows the suggested format for the strips. The main requirement is that the short description of the work be clearly legible from a few feet away. If the user wants additional information, he will either remove the strip to read it or move closer to the board.

Figure 1    Backlog Control Strips


Figure 2    Backlog Control Strip


Even the most active of planning offices adds a very limited number of work orders each day, and it is not difficult to keep strips up to date.


Figure 3   Typical Backlog Board



When the availability of a part determines when a job can be scheduled, a parts control strip should be placed directly below the work order, creating a backlog and parts control board.

Backlog and parts control boards have a space for each piece of equipment or group of equipment. In this space there is one magnetic strip for each open work order related to the equipment that is not currently scheduled. In addition, there is a strip for each part or group of parts that are on order to accomplish this work. Normally there will be one strip for each requisition. The parts strips should be identified by color and should stay with the work order until the parts are received. When the part arrives and is staged in the warehouse, the parts, indicating that the work can be scheduled when the equipment and manpower are available.



Figure 4   Parts Control Strip


Backlog and parts control boards can be laid out in a number of different ways, and colors can be used to indicate crafts or priorities. Some boards are laid out by equipment and craft, and the backlog control strips are arranged by priority. The main purpose is to get the backlog and parts where they can be easily seen, and the strips where they are readily available for the scheduling board.

        Primary Crushing                          SAG Mill                            Rougher Flotation

  #1 Secondary Crusher                       Regrind Mill                          Column Flotation

Figure 5   Backlog-Parts Control Board



A scheduling board is a rotating weekly schedule that has a space for each day in a two-week period. One week is labeled this week and the other week is labeled next week. On the first day of each week the labels are rotated. With a good board, the planner should begin the week with a good picture of what he is going to do for the next seven days, and have a section to start planning for the following week.

The planner starts by putting all scheduled PM activity on the appropriate days and building the schedule for additional work around equipment that is already scheduled to be down. Both the general foreman and front line foreman are encouraged to look at the board and make suggestions. Production is ultimately responsible, and can make suggestions or directives (depending on their authority). If this board is used properly, it is much easier for the planner to prepare daily and weekly schedules. These schedules should require little, if any, change—production has looked at them in advance, and approvals or disapprovals can be done informally and not take up time in the weekly or daily planning meetings. The better the schedules, the less time these meetings take.

                        This Week                                           Next Week                                   Completed

  Monday                    Thursday                    Monday                    Thursday

  Tuesday                      Friday                       Tuesday                      Friday

Wednesday                   Weekend                    Wednesday                Weekend

Figure 6     Scheduling Board


The scheduling board is the quickest visual clue as to how much planning is really going on. There should be three or four days with a full schedule planned, and a significant but decreasing number of jobs planned for the later days of the schedule. With a good current board, it is an absolute certainty that someone is thinking ahead and there is effort being made to plan maintenance activities. A board with little or no work scheduled for the next two or three days is just as strong an indication that maintenance is becoming reactive and planning is being done after the fact.

Every facility uses boards for some things. They are, and will continue to be, the best method of communicating across a large cross section of people. Good boards are one of the keys in establishing and tracking the acceptance of accountability. They can encourage employees from mechanics to senior management to get involved. The larger and more complex a facility is, the more it needs the boards. They are a bit of work to get setup properly, but they are worth the effort and will make life easier in the long run.


©Rushton International : Provider of maintenance consulting and maintenance management software.