Modern, CMMS-backed work order management means you can seamlessly review, approve, generate, prioritize, assign, and track work orders. At every step, you have control over what data you’re creating, where it’s going, who can see it, and what they can do with it. On top of that, you never have to worry about losing work orders and missing critical tasks. Your data is safe, secure, and searchable. 

But to get the most out of the system, you need to use different types of work orders. 

Before looking at the types of work orders, let’s look a bit more closely at the CMMS system itself. 

What is a CMMS work order system? 

Modern work order systems replace older paper- and spreadsheet-based systems. 

Old paper-based methods make it hard to generate, share, and safeguard data. Every time you want to make a new work order, you have to copy everything out by hand. Because it’s such a slow and tedious process, everyone tends to include the least amount of information possible. And even though they’re trying to be as brief as possible, there always seems to be enough room to fit in some mistakes. Something as simple as scribbling down the wrong date on a work order can cause problems down the line. 

And no matter how carefully you write everything out, all your data is lost as soon as someone misplaces that piece of paper. 

With spreadsheets, you have the opposite problem. You can generate lots of data quickly but keeping things up to date becomes impossible once you share it. Data lives on as disconnected email attachments. Everyone is inside their own data bubble, out of the loop. 

Modern CMMS solutions solve these problems with a centralized database that lives in the cloud, where it’s accessible through the CMMS from anywhere, all the time. Because everyone is working from the same set of data that’s kept up to date in real time, no one is left behind. 

Why is CMMS work order management important? 

In many ways, work orders are the very foundation of any efficient maintenance management system. They’re the atoms of the system; you build everything else out of them. Work orders are how you assign work and track it to completion. You then feed the data inside work orders into your reports, which you need to see the maintenance big picture. 

If you lose control over your work orders, you lose control over your entire operation. You have no way of assigning work and ensuring the techs are completing it on time and properly. 

How can you build a CMMS work order system? 

Honestly, start back in high school, focusing on the advanced math and science classes. From there, enter a good computer science program to learn computational and algorithmic thinking. After graduation, you still need to fine-tune your coding skills, which can take a couple of years of dedicated effort. 

At that point, you might be ready to start building your own CMMS work order system. 

But at this point, you might be looking for an easier way, and the good news is you can find one easily. CMMS providers have already done all the hard work of building a system for you. All you have to do is find the one that works best for you and then implement it. When you partner with the right provider, it’s a painless process. 

work order software types

Now that we have a sense of the system, let’s look more closely at the work orders. There are many different kinds, each with a special role to play in asset management. 

General work orders 

A general work order is sort of a catch-all for anything that doesn’t fit into the other categories. When it’s not preventive, corrective, emergency, or on-demand, you can call it a general work order. 

Examples include setting up new equipment and pulling down old equipment. It can be something like painting or moving the tables around in the break room. 

Emergency / reactive / on-demand work orders 

These work orders tend to have a bad reputation, and there’s a good reason. Emergency work orders are for when things go wrong. You don’t know when they’re going to spring up, making it challenging to have the right people and MRO inventory on hand to get the job done. They also tend to be related to expensive repairs and expensive unscheduled downtime. For those reasons, maintenance departments shoot to have no more than 20% of their total work orders fall into this category. 

Why 20%? Why not aim for zero? There are times when on-demand work orders are less of a problem. Specifically, when you’re using run-to-failure as your maintenance management strategy on assets and parts with low criticality, you inevitably end up relying on on-demand work orders. For example, because light bulbs are cheap to carry in inventory, easy to switch out, and there’s really no way to inspect or repair them, it makes the most sense to keep running them until they burn out.    

Preventive maintenance work orders 

If 20% are on-demand, the remaining 80% should be preventive maintenance work orders, where the goal is to avoid unscheduled downtime. By finding and fixing small issues before they become big problems, you save yourself a lot of time, money, and grief. 

You can schedule preventive maintenance work orders according to meter or time, depending on the associated asset. So, if you’re setting up PMs for a pump, you schedule them to autogenerate after X number of cycles. But for PMs related to your fire suppression systems, it makes more sense to schedule them according to the calendar. You don’t check your fire extinguishers according to how many times you’ve used them. Instead, you check every X number of days.   

Benefits of preventive maintenance work orders 

It’s easy to see the benefits of preventive maintenance by comparing it to on-demand maintenance. With on-demand, you never know what’s going to go wrong, when it’s going to happen, and what you’re going to need to fix it. When the line goes down in the middle of the shift during peak production, you’ve got to scramble to get the right people and parts in place to fix it. That might mean calling in extra technicians and paying for rush deliveries with suppliers. On top of the direct costs for the maintenance department, there’s the cost of lost production. The company is paying now to have a bunch of operators stand around and then later when it has to run extra shifts to catch up.



With preventive maintenance, you choose the work, who does it, and when. And because you schedule everything in advance, you can easily make sure you have the associated MRO inventory on hand for when you need it. 

Inspection works orders 

A lot of maintenance departments consider inspections a part of preventive maintenance, so they put inspections inside the preventive maintenance work orders. However, it makes just as much sense to think of inspections as their own separate type of work order. 

Just like the name suggests, inspection work orders are for when you need the techs to inspect assets, looking for small problems before they have a chance to grow into big problems. 

Inspection work orders often contain checklists to ensure thoroughness and standardization. You want the techs to check everything and to check it the same way every time. But you can also use more open-ended inspections, including the classic walk-through, where techs walk around the facility checking for things like puddles under assets. 

Corrective maintenance work orders 

What can techs do when they find issues during inspection work orders? If it’s something small they can fix on the spot, it makes sense to take care of it right then and there. Is the fan belt a bit loose and misaligned? The tech can nudge it back into place. 

For larger issues, techs can generate a corrective maintenance work order, outlining the work that the department needs to complete. Let’s take another look at the fan belt example. If there’s enough wear on the belt to suggest the tech replace it altogether and then realign the associated rollers, it makes more sense to generate a new work order. Not only does it ensure the work gets done, but it also creates a record the department can leverage later into data=backed decision-making.   

Remember, work orders are how you collect critical data about your operations. Once you’ve got enough data in the CMMS, you can start to use the reports module to paint the maintenance big picture. And once you have that level of visibility, you can use it to make better decisions on everything, from which parts and materials to keep in inventory to how often you should schedule PMs.   

What do all these types of work orders have in common? 

For all their differences, these work orders share a common characteristic. The more information you can pack into them, the better. It doesn’t matter if it’s a reactive work order you generate within minutes of spotting a new problem or one you schedule on your system as a preventive maintenance work order months in advance. The more data you can pack into it, the easier it is for the technicians to do the work efficiently and correctly. 

What information should you include? Modern CMMS systems like Hippo make it easy to add everything techs need, including: 

  • Comprehensive asset maintenance and repair histories 
  • Step-by-step instructions 
  • Customizable checklists 
  • Digital images, schematics, O&M manuals, and warranties 
  • Associated parts and materials 
  • Interactive site maps and floor plans 

work order system typesWith older work order systems, ones that force you to rely on paper and spreadsheets, adding in all this information is a time-consuming, error-prone process. 

Next steps 

The fastest, most reliable way to get the most out of all the different types of work orders is by implementing modern work order management software. And the easiest way to do that is to find the right CMMS provider. 

Hippo has many ways to help. We can answer your questions, help you book a live software demo, or even set you up with a free trial

A quick, complete summary 

On-demand work order systems help you solve problems as they pop up. Although you can’t avoid them completely, you want to keep them to about 20% of the total. Preventive maintenance work orders are the ones you schedule in advance to avoid problems before they have a chance to develop. Although inspections are often included in PMs, you can use them as a separate type of work order to ensure the team is always checking the same assets the same way. When the team finds an issue, they can generate a corrective work order. General work orders cover all other work that does not fall into the previous categories. But before you can get these work orders working for you, you need a modern CMMS solution. 

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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