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Managing different aspects of a facilities management department can be challenging, but ensuring you have a fully functioning work order process in place can help you better manage maintenance requests.
What is a work order?
A work order is a documented request for maintenance, operational, or repair work to be completed.
Work orders can be submitted by maintenance teams and technicians, employees within the organization, vendors, and other stakeholders.
There are a variety of ways to submit a work order—pen and paper, spreadsheets, and even work order software—and part of ensuring a great work order process is choosing the right system for your organization.
What are the standard steps in a work order process?
The work order process tracks the life cycle of a maintenance work order. While your maintenance team may focus on closing out tasks and moving on to the next one, it’s important to remember that the work order life cycle never ends.
It’s crucial that your team follows up to ensure there are no other issues that require re-opening the work request. Below you can find a flow chart for an example work order process.
1. Problem/task identification
Most maintenance work and repairs identified will be the cause of an unplanned breakdown or issue. It’s important that everyone in the organization is able to identify these equipment breakdowns and out-of-the-ordinary issues so that they can alert the maintenance team.
2. Create a new work order
Once an issue has been identified, a work order request must be created and submitted. This notifies the facilities and maintenance team of the problem so that it can be prioritized and completed efficiently. The best work orders will include the following:
- Description of the issue: Providing as much context as possible is going to be most effective. What did you see, hear, smell, or feel when the problem arose? If you took any action since seeing the problem, this is a good place to note that action.
- Type of issue: By detailing the type of issue (electrical, plumbing, heating-cooling), the maintenance task can be routed to the appropriate technician. For instance, if someone specializes in heating-cooling issues, they would receive all work orders with that work order type.
- Building or facility: Which building did the issue occur in? If you manage facilities for a large organization or manufacturing plant, finding an issue among dozens of buildings is going to be nearly impossible, so it’s important to document this.
- Asset or equipment item: What asset or equipment item is affected? If you have each asset clearly labeled, including this detail on a work order should be very easy.
- Requester name and contact information: It’s very important that the maintenance department is able to find the requesting user if they have additional questions and to let them know when the issue has been resolved.
- Priority level: How urgent is the issue at hand? Giving a priority level allows the maintenance department to work on the most pressing items first. Be sure to detail what counts as “high priority” vs. “medium” vs. “low”.
- Images: If possible, it’s great to attach an image of the issue to the work order so that the team can visualize the problem.
As part of your work order management process, ensure your team has a reliable work order template.This gives your maintenance technicians access to every detail of the work request at their fingertips.
3. Approve and prioritize the work order
Once the work order is submitted, it’s important that the manager approves it before work begins. Sometimes, users will submit a work order that’s already in process or that your team already has on the list of to-dos. Approving work orders ensures no duplicate tickets.
It’s also important to prioritize the maintenance request, especially if the requesting user didn’t specify its priority level. Where does this work order fall in your long list of to-dos and if it remains unfixed, how does that affect your daily processes and efficiency levels?
4. Assign the work order to the appropriate technician
If you are unable to automatically assign work orders, then you need to manually assign them to a technician. When scheduling time to work on the request, keep in mind each technician’s current workload and unique skill set.
5. Complete and close out the work order
Once assigned, the technician can focus on closing out the work order. The assigned technician should adhere to any safety protocols and follow any guidelines in place for repairing equipment. If possible, ensure the technician logs their work in your work order system.
6. Review the work order and follow up if needed
If the equipment item that was assessed and fixed provides high value to your maintenance processes, you may want to schedule a follow-up inspection to ensure it stays up and running. Preventive maintenance software allows you to schedule these inspections at recurring intervals to keep equipment lifespans high and breakdowns to a minimum.
Maintenance work orders
Depending on what you need to accomplish, you might submit work orders for various maintenance needs. Whether you need help with regular equipment upkeep or technical support in response to a break or malfunction, you’ll need a work order management process to get that process moving. Maintenance work orders may fall under any of the following categories:
- Reactive maintenance: Maintenance work completed in response to a failure or breakdown.
- Preventive maintenance: Work is performed at regular intervals to minimize the potential for breakdowns.
- Condition-based maintenance: A maintenance strategy that relies on an asset’s condition to determine when maintenance work is performed.
- Predictive maintenance: A type of condition-based maintenance, predictive maintenance relies on sensors to alert service teams of performance variations that might warrant maintenance work.
- Reliability-centered maintenance: A strategy that relies on extensive individual equipment evaluations to determine specific maintenance plans on an asset-by-asset basis.
The best maintenance plans rely on a variety of the above maintenance types. Ideally, reactive maintenance occurs less often than preventive maintenance, as reactive maintenance can be more costly, result in additional downtime, and require more staffing resources.
That said, implementing an effective work order management process can help improve your team’s efficiency and help you move more toward proactive maintenance tasks.
3 ways to ensure you have the best work order process
1. Use software to track work orders
Work order software gives you the power to monitor and manage every aspect of your work order process. Staff and others are able to submit requests in seconds, and these requests then get automatically routed to the appropriate person to approve and assign work. If you’d rather, requests can even get automatically assigned to the appropriate technician.
Work order software also allows technicians to document materials and time spent on a project, so that you have proper inventory counts and can better track labor allocation. Most importantly, work order management software can act as a centralized hub for communication—technicians can instantly notify requesting users of changes, updates, and completion of their work orders, and end-users can respond back if needed.
2. Use mobile devices to submit, track, and close out work orders
Using mobile devices to track work orders allows field technicians to manage maintenance anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Maintenance and facilities teams often need to look up details, ask questions, or send a note on status while in the field—providing your team with the tools to do this allows them to become more efficient.
3. Encourage users to always submit a work order
Your work order process is only going to work if everyone follows it. Oftentimes, requesting users will be tempted to submit a work order through a different means (verbally, pen and paper, etc.) than what’s outlined, or technicians will skip a step or two in the process. Encourage users and technicians to follow the outlined process even for small tasks like changing a light bulb. This creates consistent behavior, which will lead to streamlined processes in the future.
In addition, tracking every work order creates a maintenance history for each asset. This can be used when justifying new equipment or more staff, or to just simply look up how something was fixed in the past.
Establishing a work order process for your maintenance and facilities teams can help you organize and prioritize tasks so that your team is as efficient as possible.