Work orders are the driving force behind any organization’s asset management apparatus. Whenever a person or entity submits a service request, the maintenance team that receives it must create a formal paper and/or digital document that includes all the details of maintenance tasks and outlines a process for completing the tasks. That document is called a work order.

The primary purpose of a work order is to keep everyone within the maintenance operation abreast of the workflow, which ultimately helps the organization organize, communicate and track maintenance work more efficiently.

Managing the work order process

The work order management process describes how a work order will move through the maintenance process, starting with maintenance task identification and wrapping up with post-completion analysis.

Phase 1: Task identification

In the first phase of the process, a person or organization identifies the tasks that the maintenance staff needs to complete. The tasks will also help the recipient determine whether the maintenance tasks qualify as planned maintenance (wherein the jobs will be easily identifiable ahead of time) or unplanned maintenance (where the scope and specifics of the job will require an initial assessment).  

Phase 2: Work request submission

Once the initiating party identifies the maintenance issues, they should lay out the details in a maintenance request form and submit it to maintenance for review and approval. Work requests can arise from any number of circumstances—from tenant requests to preventative maintenance audits.  

Phase 3: Work request evaluation

The maintenance department (or maintenance team) is responsible for evaluating work requests once they are submitted. Ideally, the department will review the details of the work request to determine the feasibility of the work and then determine personnel and resource needs. If approved, the work order request is converted to a work order.

Phase 4: Work order creation

Once the maintenance team or supervisor approves the work request and allocates the materials, equipment and staff they need to complete the jobs, they will create a new work order. The work order should include all the necessary details of the job, as well as the company contact information and an indication of the priority level and completion date. To streamline this process, organizations can standardize the work order format using a template.

In this stage, maintenance will also identify which type of work order they will need. If, for instance, a company relies on a proactive maintenance approach to anticipate and reduce equipment downtime, they will likely utilize a preventative maintenance work order. On the other hand, if a piece of equipment has already failed or the organization uses a more reactive maintenance program, the maintenance team will probably create a corrective maintenance work order or an emergency work order.

Phase 5: Work order distribution and completion

At this point, the team/supervisor will assign the necessary maintenance activities to a qualified maintenance technician who will complete the checklist of tasks on the proposed timeline. If the organization uses computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software, the job will be automatically assigned to a technician.

Phase 6: Work order documentation and closure

Maintenance technicians are responsible for documenting and closing a work order once they complete all the assigned tasks. Technicians will need to indicate the time spent on each task, list any materials/equipment they used, provide images of their work and include notes and observations about the job. A manager may or may not need to sign off on the completed work order and provide guidance about next steps and follow-ups before moving on to the final phase.

Phase 7. Work order review/analysis

Reviewing closed work orders can provide valuable insights about maintenance operations, so organizations should try to review closed work orders as frequently as possible. Analyzing closed work orders can really help organizations identify opportunities for improvement in the work order process. Post-completion analysis also helps team members identify any tasks they missed or need to revisit.

Optimizing your work order management process

As an organization grows, it can become untenable to rely on paper work order management systems (or even Excel spreadsheets) to manage ever-evolving data needs. Larger organizations and those with more complex needs should consider investing in computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software, a type of work order management software.

A high-quality CMMS will automatically plan, create, track and organize service requests, work orders and routine maintenance, eliminating excessive task planning duties for maintenance managers and supervisors.

Using CMMS software also allows your organization to store large amounts of data electronically, in a centralized location. With all your work order data living in one place, your management team can get real-time access to work orders as they move through the work order lifecycle. CMMS platforms with accompanying software for mobile devices push access a step farther, allowing users to track work orders and access maintenance activities remotely. 

Furthermore, a good CMMS can aggregate and display work order data according to the department’s specific needs. Maintenance teams can build and view customizable reports, visualize trend data and metrics/KPIs, and monitor asset functionality to make troubleshooting and inventory management simpler.

While adopting a CMMS can be a complex process, integrating CMMS software into your maintenance operations can help your organization reduce costs, increase data access and visibility, reduce backlog and human error, and streamline your facilities management systems. 

IBM Maximo Application Suite

Get the most value from your enterprise assets with the IBM Maximo Application Suite, a comprehensive enterprise asset management system that helps organizations optimize asset performance, extend asset lifespan and reduce unplanned downtime. IBM Maximo provides users an integrated, AI-powered, cloud-based platform with comprehensive CMMS capabilities that produce advanced data analytics and help maintenance managers make smarter, more data-driven decisions.

Take a step-by-step tour of IBM Maximo Application Suite

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