Why a Work Order Is Crucial For Maintenance Managers & How to Write One

CMMS Software / March 2023

A work order is a form that details the information required for a maintenance task to be completed. A work order document will include all key areas that are needed to ensure a job is completed successfully, such as:

  • Job description
  • Asset name
  • Assigned to
  • Required tools
  • Completion date
  • Costs

Successful work order management can help to improve the time taken to complete maintenance tasks, keep spending within set budgets, increase health and safety awareness, and ultimately reduce asset downtime.

These are viewed and used by maintenance managers and their teams, engineers and contractors, facility operators, field service technicians, and more.

A work order can also be referred to as a work request. However, the two terms are different. A work request is used only by staff – typically not on the maintenance team – who need to make the right personnel aware of an issue.

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Why Work Orders Are Important For Maintenance Managers

A work order allows maintenance managers to view, assign, organise, track, and prioritise all maintenance tasks. At a glance, they can see why a request has been raised, how long a job will take, who has been assigned to the job, and how much the task will cost.

Good work order management is key to implementing a successful maintenance strategy. They are used to ensure:

  • Only necessary maintenance tasks are being carried out
  • Jobs are assigned to the right technicians and engineers
  • Repairs are completed on time
  • Maintenance work is kept within a set budget

Keeping track of work orders – no matter what method you choose to do so with – allows for greater control over maintenance activities. This, in turn, helps to reduce maintenance costs and limit equipment downtime.

Take Restaurant Brand for example, which saved $1.7 million in its first period of implementing a work order management system. It then increased its contractor base by 25% and reduced invoice costs by 18%.

There are several methods that a maintenance manager may choose to track and manage their works orders:

How to Write the Perfect Work Order

Depending on the job and business, the layout of a work order will vary. The example work orders below are maintenance and order requests:

How to Write the Perfect Work Order

Source (right): https://www.gofmx.com/

Essentially, though, a work order will consist of 7 key informational stages:

  1. Names: The name and contact details of the user who requested it, and the name and identification of the asset that needs maintenance.
  2. Description: A description of the issue and what will be required to complete the work order (skills, scope, etc.), the task’s priority level, and a task checklist.
  3. Tools required: List of materials and spare parts required for the job.
  4. Details & documents: The location of the asset, instruction manuals, and health and safety documents.
  5. Assigned to: Which technician will perform the service including their skills and history.
  6. Dates & hours: Estimated completion date, actual completion date, expected hours of work, actual hours of work.
  7. Completion: Signature on completion and completion date.

Who Uses a Work Order?

The use of a work order form is most prominent in areas such as construction, manufacturing, and building management; anywhere where maintenance is an integral part of the production. This means there are many stakeholders that either request, view, share, or act on a task.

Depending on the type, a work order will be used by:

  • Plant managers
  • Maintenance and facility managers
  • Workshop and maintenance teams
  • Inventory and asset managers
  • Field service workers
  • Technicians, engineers, and mechanics
  • Customers and clients
  • Office teams

Types of Work Orders

  • Inspection: Raised to ensure an asset’s components and parts are in working condition.
  • Preventive maintenance: Carrying out routine and scheduled repairs and maintenance.
  • Safety: Jobs to ensure and improve the safety of employees and those affected.
  • Emergency: Carried out when assets break down unexpectedly and require maintenance straight away.

The Process of Creating & Closing a Work Order

Although the process of creating and closing a work order can depend on the type of business of its operations, they all follow similar stages:

  1. A request is raised on a dedicated system or communication channel
  2. Maintenance managers are alerted to a new request for approval, further suggestions, or denial
  3. If approved, the job is automatically assigned to a dedicated user (technician, engineer, or mechanic) – if denied or further information is needed, the request is sent back to the person who raised it
  4. The user receives the work order and gets to work, providing updates on completion times
  5. The job is completed and closed by the user who attaches notes or feedback
  6. The maintenance manager & person who raised the issue are alerted to the completion of the job

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Why Manual Work Order Management Often Fails

When tracking work orders, manual methods are often to blame for maintenance mishaps. But, that doesn’t mean they should be disregarded entirely.

Take Excel spreadsheets for example; they’re cheap, easy to use, and can be edited on desktops, tablets, and mobiles. 52% of facility managers solely rely on using spreadsheets to manage their maintenance activities.

But, having a manual approach to maintenance can weigh heavily on efficiency and productivity. Using spreadsheets, notepads, or whiteboards to assign and track work orders can lead to:

  • Backlogs: It’s hard to keep track of who raised a work order or when it was raised without a digital paper trail, meaning requests can fall through the cracks.
  • Delays: Backlogs result in delays in equipment and machinery being fixed.
  • Reactive maintenance: Without a clear overview of tasks, maintenance can often be reactive instead of planned.
  • High emergency repair costs: When maintenance is reactive it incurs expensive emergency repair costs.

Using a Work Order Management System

A dedicated work order management system provides maintenance managers with maintenance data, contractor details, and real-time job tracking – all from a single dashboard. This helps to shorten equipment downtime, reduce repair costs, and ultimately gives an overview of all maintenance activities – repairs, fixes, and breakdowns.

Essentially, there are three reasons driving maintenance managers to use a work order management system or a CMMS:

1. To Have More Control Over Maintenance

Whereas notes can be misplaced and spreadsheets can be littered with errors, a digital work order management system stores and display all stages of a job. In one dashboard, you can:

  • See who raised the request
  • Track a work order’s progress
  • Receive real-time updates regarding a job
  • See what spare parts are needed and have been invoiced
  • Know if a technician was in-house or outsourced
  • Calculate how much each job will cost

2. To Provide Greater Visibility

Work orders can be viewed by anyone with access to the same system, not just maintenance managers. They can be viewed by:

  • The user who raised the issue
  • Technicians that have been assigned (letting them know where the job is located in the building and what MRO inventory is needed)
  • Accountants who’re in control of the maintenance budget
  • Operators who’re waiting for the fix to be completed

3. To Reduce Equipment Downtime

Having greater control over work orders allows maintenance managers to plan for and schedule maintenance. This allows them to optimise the entire process of approving a work order:

  • Plan for maintenance to take place outside of busy hours (non-working hours, evenings, weekends, holiday breaks, etc.)
  • Assign the best technician to a job for a higher chance of a first-time fix and to limit delays
  • Ensure the right materials and spare parts are available before maintenance takes place