Issue tracking systems for non-IT professionals

The place where I work has a maintenance department that is responsible for maintaining all of the various machinery that we use at our factory.

Some of the machinery is older than dirt; so as you can imagine, things break down and need to be fixed. Sometimes, these issues require immediate attention, and other times, the machine can practically be taken out of service for a month.

First question: would it make any sense to use the same, or similar, software that we use in IT to track technical support issues to keep track of the maintenance issues at this plant?

Second question: If the answer to the first question is yes, what would be a good, simple option?

This all depends upon your requirements. I personally like Roundup as a simple yet flexible and expandable issue/risk tracking system that isn’t overburdened with a lot of program/project management functionality. Trac is widely used but my experience with it has been that it does require a lot of time to configure and maintain it even for relatively simple functions, and it is not the do-all solution for project management that people try to make it into. If you need something that is a comprehensive solution, OpenProject seems to have a really good reputation, but I personally have not used it. I would avoid proprietary closed source solutions largely because they seem to be built around requiring you to pay for support and upgrades, and once you are into them there is no easy way to migrate to another solution.

Stranger is a powerful to-do list website that can also be used for teams. We used it in an organization that was too luddite to learn any real tracking systems, and it worked it OK (meaning good enough)… that was a small organization of about 20 people, though.

Suggestion: You don’t want something that will merely track the problem, from the discovery, through diagnosis, to solution. You will also want some way to identify the particular piece of machinery, so that you’ll be able to see its previous problems and know its history. It’s quite possible that the “tech support” software will have some field that you can adapt for this purpose.

In addition to what Keeve mentioned, the ability to schedule preventative maintenance is probably important as well. This usually accepts different types of inputs such as time since last maintenance, number of operations, etc.

Sounds like you have 2 different issues to track:

  1. Routine maintenance (every Gizmo model 58 needs thingie replace every x time and/or y use (3 months or 100 hours of operation, whichever first)), now you need to track that maintenance of each Gizmo 58 in the shop - and each may have different schedules.

  2. Emergency repairs: Biggie machine just ate it’s huge motor, which is buried under 6 tons of other parts. Getting the replacement motor will take 8 weeks; once it is received, work can resume, but in the meantime assign Sue to start digging into the machine.
    That can get real tricky to track - I would look at recursive structure (this record create another version of itself, and they are cross-linked and indexed).

I used to make good money solving problems like that. Never did like packages of software (except payroll (too boring) and check sorting (too arcane) - I’ll allow those to be packages.