Successful maintenance management relies on many factors, including effective technicians and maintenance managers, the quality and condition of a company’s assets, and material and financial resources. But even with these on your side, it can still all come down to work order management. Work orders:
- Provide important information about needed repairs such as the nature of the problem, identification of the piece of equipment and its location, and the resources required to get the job done
- Help organize and prioritize tasks relative production activities and requirements
- Create a comprehensive, systematic record of repairs that can then be leveraged for insights into planning and budgeting
The Anatomy of a Work Order
The key components of a work order include:
- Description of the problem, identification of the asset, and its location as well as the required parts and materials
- Steps involved in completing the tasks, including any required manuals and safety guidelines
- Priority designation based on other maintenance tasks and the company’s production process
- Names of the people requesting and then authorizing the work
- Name of assigned maintenance technician
- Timeline for when the maintenance task needs to be completed
While they can incorporate all the above information, written work order cannot offer the level of accessibility and efficiency provided by work orders generated by a CMMS.
Among other things, maintenance management systems offer work order anytime, anywhere tracking in real-time. When it comes to ease-of-use, CMMS systems can generate work orders with a series of drop-down menus for company assets, their locations as well as associated repair histories and manuals. Work orders can then be seamlessly transmitted to the appropriate maintenance tech. All of this can be done with just a few clicks of a mouse or taps on a mobile device. CMMS-generated work orders are often a better choice for many companies when considering overall maintenance management efficiency.
Training Staff on Writing and Submitting High Quality Work Orders
Since efficient maintenance management relies in part on being able to respond to and complete work orders promptly, it makes good sense that a work order ticket contains the necessary information in a concise and legible format. When using a manual work order, maintenance staff needs to be instructed on using the precise asset name, model and serial number while also describing the nature of the problem, listing the appropriate manual and parts vendors and identifying its location within a facility.
Work order software expands upon the capabilities of manually generated work orders in many ways. First, photos of the asset and the repair needed can be attached to the maintenance work order. Second, the precise location of an asset within a facility and any structural encroachments that may be present and/or impact the repair can be shown in the blueprint module. Third, the mobile work order component makes it possible to access an asset’s prior maintenance history, giving technicians valuable insight into how best to approach a task. Finally, work order tracking is made simple using the CMMS mobile device capabilities.
Considered together, these and other features make the task of generating and submitting work orders easier, faster and more efficient. When using work order software, technicians need to be trained on its capabilities. Since most automated platforms are user friendly, the learning curve is generally gentler.
How to Use Work Orders Well
As with any process, using work orders routinely and consistently is the key to success. Since each company is unique, so are their needs, timelines, and requirements. Maintenance managers need to develop work order formats that fit their company’s maintenance requirements and company structure. Once established and staff have been trained on their use, consistent follow-through with work orders results in increased efficiency.
The following are some best practices when implementing work order procedures:
- Knowing how to identify the problem throughout proper product knowledge and technician training
- Establishing a prioritization plan based on the scope of the repair relative to its role in the company’s production process
- Maintaining an organized system throughout the work order cycle by using uniform work order formats
- Assigning appropriate technician to resolve problems
- Ensuring availability of proper resources such as asset repair history as well as necessary parts and tools
- Monitoring work order process through work order tracking and revising workflow as needed based on estimated downtime
Helpful Hints for Fine-tuning the Work Order Process
As maintenance managers work toward increasing maintenance efficiency, there may be ways to fine-tune the work order process. They can do this by:
- Reviewing work order documentation to see which work orders are being closed out fastest
- Determining if there are any maintenance trends emerging
- Determining if any large repairs could have been prevented by ongoing preventive maintenance planning
- Switching to an automated work order system, if it isn’t already in place
Independent of size, today’s companies are largely dependent upon properly functioning assets as well as the ability to keep them in optimal operating condition. A piece of equipment that is out of service can quickly become costly, and this is especially frustrating when the delays could have been prevented.
At the core of a streamlined maintenance process is an effective work order plan. Used consistently, work orders provide the structure for repairs and maintenance to occur in a stepwise fashion. While manual work orders have been around since maintenance management practices first emerged, it is only in recent years that automated work order software within a CMMS system has emerged as a better solution to overall maintenance management.
With a CMMS, maintenance work orders are taken up a notch with mobile work order access, work order tracking options, and photo, document and scanning attachment capabilities. Comprehensive work orders can be generated and submitted in a fraction of the time it takes to do the same with a manual work order.
Whether utilizing a manual or automated approach, there is no dispute that work orders play an important role in helping maintenance managers to stay on top of asset maintenance management as well as guide their decision-making regarding labor deployment, resource allocation, improvements and compliance.