The work order management process can be inefficient or ineffective in many ways. Processing, prioritizing, and tracking incoming work orders require a lot of effort from maintenance staff. When you receive requests for maintenance from multiple sources, (emails, phone calls, instant messages, and in-person contacts) it can be difficult to organize them all.

Establishing streamlined work order process best practices ensures the maintenance team will get preventive maintenance and maintenance jobs derived from requests done efficiently. Here, we will talk about the work order process and things you can do to improve it.

Maintenance worker in hard hat looking at clipboard representing work order management best practices.

The Work Order Process

Surprisingly, many organizations do not have a formal work order process or system in place to manage work orders. Work order process best practices are centered on organized communication and consistency in how maintenance jobs are carried out. Let’s walk through the importance of a CMMS work order, a typical work order process, and some best practices you can implement along the way.

Create the Work Order Request

Work order management starts with creating the work order request. This request can be made by a maintenance technician or maintenance manager. Most often, however, it is made by someone outside of the maintenance department using a maintenance request portal, which provides a standard channel for submitting requests for maintenance work.

Best Practice: Submit maintenance requests formally. No work orders should be created for requested jobs unless the maintenance request is formally submitted. Everyone who uses the system should know how to submit adequate, useful information. In computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software, a designated system administrator can specify all mandatory information that is required before a maintenance request can be accepted. If it is a maintenance technician or manager submitting the request, they may have the authority to expedite approval. This step will vary by organization.

Approve the Work Order

Once the request for maintenance is submitted, it needs to be approved or rejected by the individuals with the authority to approve them, including maintenance managers, executives, or plant operations managers. In order for a maintenance request to be approved, it needs to contain the proper information. At minimum, a work order should include which building or asset requires maintenance and a description of the problem or service that needs to be addressed.

Best Practice: Designate certain staff members as approvers. There should be specific staff members that have permissions in the software to approve work orders. They will have the job of ensuring that only valid requests with enough information go through to the maintenance team. The approval team must also consider whether or not the asset is worth repairing again after the most recent failure. If not, production can be moved to another machine, or the machine could be replaced or discarded.

After all of these factors have been determined, requests that still need to be done become work orders. This process helps to avoid bogging down the system with incomplete requests and confusing the maintenance technicians.

Develop the Work Order

Once a work order has been approved, the maintenance manager or maintenance planner needs to fully develop and determine the importance of the work order. This includes researching past asset failures to see if this problem has occurred before. It also involves gathering the necessary repair manuals and documentation, which can be scanned in and digitally attached to the work order. Finally, the repair’s maintenance tasks and process needs to be laid out for the technician or team of technicians who will complete the work order.

Best Practice: Make sure the work order information is comprehensive before including it in the schedule. Review all of the fields and be sure they are filled out completely and accurately. If any information is unclear, ask for clarification from the person who submitted the work order. Consider what documentation or materials need to be attached to work order to alleviate delays in completing the work order. Finally, consider the current maintenance workload and severity of the maintenance need detailed in the work order when prioritizing it.

Prioritize the Work Order

The next step in the work order management process is to prioritize the work and identify the different work order types for each request. This includes who will address each job. Will the job be assigned to the next available technician, or will it be reserved for someone with a particular set of skills?

Best Practice: Establish and follow prioritization guidelines. A maintenance manager should set and follow an established set of guidelines to make informed decisions about what priority each work order should have: emergency, high, safety, medium, or low. These are common priorities given to work orders.

  • Emergency—stop everything else to do now: fire alarm goes off, gas leak, plumbing overflow, total power loss, etc.
  • High—finish what you’re working on, then do: broken lock, HVAC outage, broken elevator, or critical preventive maintenance tasks, such as replacing power rods in a nuclear plant
  • Safety—higher than medium priority: slip and fall hazards, sharp edges
  • Medium—more important than low priority tasks, but not safety issues: broken exterior door, partial power loss, minor leaks, flat tire on infrequently used equipment
  • Low—operations can go on as usual without this task being done: painting a wall, installing a new shelf in the stockroom, or lubricating a door hinge that squeaks
  • Scheduled—planned well in advance: contract work, non-critical preventive maintenance, and seasonal jobs

Schedule the Work Order

If approved, the maintenance manager or the designated scheduler then schedules the work order. He can do this through a printed calendar, email calendar software, scheduling management tools, or CMMS software. Scheduling can be done on virtually any basis needed from a one-time job to daily, weekly, monthly, or annually.

Best Practice: Think about priority, frequency, and distribution when scheduling. Consider the priority of the work order, whether or not this type of job will be a reoccurring one, and if scheduled in CMMS software, determine what other forms of distribution or follow up you should use (email, printed sheet, calendar reminder, etc).

Assign the Work Order

Once the priority of the job has been determined, the next step is to assign the work order to one or more technicians with the appropriate expertise to effectively solve the problem with the asset, or perform preventive maintenance. The maintenance manager also needs to take into consideration an efficient distribution of workload for his team.

Best Practice: Fill in the gaps left by requesters when necessary. When a valid maintenance request is approved to become a work order, the requester only knows so much about the asset and job in question. It is a good idea for the approvers, including maintenance managers, to fill in any missing information. The most complete work order:

  • Specifies the asset or building that needs work
  • Describes the problem or service needed
  • Specifies parts and tools required
  • Contains a task checklist
  • Includes associated documents (if applicable)
  • Includes notes as needed

Complete and Close the Work Order

Once the work order has been assigned and scheduled, the next step in work order management is to complete the work and close the work order. Of course, the time it takes to complete the tasks outlined in the work order depend greatly on the complexity of the job, expected duration, availability of the asset, and how to best avoid interrupting production if possible.

Closing the work order is done differently depending on the type of work order system in place. With manual work orders, “closing” them might be as simple as putting a folder in a filing cabinet. If an email system is used, you may change the status from flagged to follow up to complete (usually displayed with a checkmark symbol next to the message) and move the email message to a folder for completed work orders.

When using CMMS software to manage work orders, you go through a few quick digital steps to close the work order. Closed work orders then become part of work order history, which anyone with access permission can view.

Best Practice: Document everything. One of the most important work order best practices is to document everything. This can be done throughout the work order management process, but it is especially important before work order closure after the work has been completed.

While it may seem tedious for smaller jobs, the more details you document, the more comprehensive your work order history will be. This history can later be analyzed more closely in reports. Make sure parts and labor hours are included on the work order. A CMMS can assist with maintaining this best practice through its required fields in the work order form.

Summarizing CMMS Work Order Functionality

The main purpose of CMMS software is to manage work orders. CMMS software offers the most comprehensive features for implementing your work order process best practices. From work order management to asset management, inventory management, and maintenance reports, there are many tools to make your maintenance work as efficient as possible.

Read More: How CMMS Software Drives Maintenance Efficiency

It’s important to fully understand work order functionality in CMMS software. Here are just some CMMS capabilities.

  • Categorize work order types as corrective, preventive, or predictive.
  • Keep stakeholders “in the know” with email or text notifications.
  • Quickly review documentation such as manuals and warranties with attachment capabilities.
  • Analyze emerging maintenance trends with detailed work order histories. Plan and adjust maintenance schedules to maximize asset uptime and minimize maintenance cost.
  • Monitor the work order process through tracking and revising the workflow based on the current estimated downtime of assets.
  • Ensures that the proper resources, parts, and tools are available when needed during maintenance tasks.

Implement Work Order Best Practices with FTMaintenance

FTMaintenance is CMMS software designed to reduce or eliminate the complexity of managing work orders using powerful, yet easy-to-use-features like those mentioned above. With FTMaintenance, work orders are available on mobile devices as well as desktops and laptops. The ability to attach documents to each work order is helpful for providing complete and accurate work order information. Work orders can be created and submitted in a fraction of the time that it takes to manually type or write out and print a work order.

To learn how FTMaintenance can help your maintenance team, read more about our CMMS features, or schedule a demo today.