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How to Build a Work Order System That Boosts Efficiency

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Your maintenance team receives job requests on a daily basis. Without an effective system for handling these, your team will have a difficult time prioritizing tasks, and this can hamper your company’s productivity and overall performance.

Fortunately, there is one vital tool that can make your maintenance crew more efficient in handling requests: the work order form.

Work Order: A Definition

A work order form is a document that provides technicians with the necessary information needed to complete a particular task.

Ideally, the document should contain information regarding the specific details of a task, the person requesting the job, the technician assigned, the scope of the job, and expected outcomes.

A work order form performs a few critical tasks. Primarily, it enables managers to prioritize requests. It can also help track the progress of the work done on a piece of equipment and use the information on it for future reference.

A work order is different from a work request. Typically, the work request is submitted by the employee operating the machine that has broken down or needs to undergo maintenance. Upon submission to the maintenance department, the manager will input the necessary information, transforming the work request into a work order.

An Overview of the Work Order Process

An effective work order process involves several steps which can be broadly categorized into three phases: the creation of the work order, completion, and recording.

Everything begins with the identification of the task. That task can fall either under planned or unplanned maintenance, depending on the type of maintenance program currently implemented in your organization.

After the task has been identified, a request will be submitted to the maintenance department. The request should contain the necessary information that can help the maintenance team perform the task at hand. In planned maintenance, tasks are automatically created, triggered by specific factors like time.

The next step in the process is scheduling. Quite simply, some tasks require immediate attention and action over other tasks. Once the manager has prioritized requests, he will then create a schedule with a deadline.

From there, the manager will assign the task to one of his technicians who will be responsible for overseeing the completion of the task.

Upon completion of the task, the technician will submit the form to his manager for sign-off. The work order will then be filed away for storage. The document can be pulled out for review, for auditing, or to provide decision-makers in the organization with helpful information.

Anatomy of a Work Order Form

The success of your company’s work order process will depend heavily on the work order form. If you and the maintenance department manager take the time to craft the work order form, you can overcome several roadblocks that hinder the optimal performance of the technicians.

But what information should the work order form include? That will depend on a few factors. However, there are a few essentials that the form should contain.

First, the form should identify which piece of equipment requires maintenance. It should also detail the specific problem with the asset.

The scope of work outlines the requirements of the tasks. Specifically, it identifies the skills necessary for task completion. Alongside that, the form should list down the spare parts and tools the technician will need.

Depending on the equipment that needs the attention of the maintenance team, it will also be useful to note health and safety concerns regarding the asset.

It is also beneficial to include in the form the estimated man-hours requirement for the task. This will help the maintenance team manage the expectations of the stakeholders. For future reference, it is helpful to include the actual hours of work on the asset put in by the technician.

A task checklist will enable the technician to approach his assigned task more systematically. Once the work is done, he can go back to the checklist to see if he has missed any vital step.

The work order form should also contain a space for technician notes. His observations can be beneficial for future works, in case the machine breaks down again.

Bringing Order

A work order form is just one cog in the bigger machinery that is your work order system. Without a robust infrastructure for your maintenance team, the technicians will find themselves scrambling from one task to another.

A work order management system enables your manager to make effective use of all available resources while ensuring that no task is overlooked.

There are plenty of tools that can be used to achieve these goals, and each comes with its pros and cons.

  • Pen and paper systems have been used since time immemorial. The main advantage of this system is that it doesn’t require training and is readily available.

However, it has several drawbacks. For one, paper can be easily lost and damaged. It can also take several minutes to fill out and update. Plus, retrieving information takes work.

  • Whiteboards offer the same advantages and disadvantages as the pen and paper system. 
  • Spreadsheets can be viewed as the next evolutionary step ahead of pen and paper and whiteboard systems. Files can be easily searched and filed. However, these also have a few shortcomings. For one, updating information takes time and requires some level of computer skills. Tracking work progress can also be difficult due to the limitations of the software.
  • Finally, a computerized maintenance management systems or CMMS software deftly combines the strengths of the other methods while avoiding their weaknesses. CMMS can perform multiple functions, from the creation of work orders to completion, all in real-time. Plus, comparing CMMS to Excel, you can easily see that the former can be used on a desktop or mobile device, forgoing the need to access information from a central location.

Perhaps, the only drawback of the system is the higher upfront cost. However, that cost can be easily offset by the benefits. Over the long term, your organization can save more money in the form of a more efficient maintenance team as well as the boost in productivity in the other departments of your company.