Ready to make the move to better work order management? Here are five ways to take control of your maintenance workflows and get everything working exactly the way you want. 

But first a quick note: Although it’s possible to see positive results from some of these steps without the help of CMMS software, the reality is that modern work order software makes everything, including work order management, preventive maintenance scheduling, and MRO inventory control, both more reliable and more efficient. 

Finally, the right CMMS just makes your life easier. 

But to start, let’s look at some solid steps you can take to organize your work orders. 

1. Standardize and centralize your work order data 

Regardless of the system you’re using, anything from old-fashioned scraps of paper to slightly more modern spreadsheets, it’s always best to aim for consistency. If you’re using paper, everything should be on paper. If work orders start out as spreadsheets, they should end up as spreadsheets. 

With these old-fashioned systems, there are already many chances for data to go missing, turn stale, or become corrupted. 

But if your workflows have you jumping from paper to spreadsheets and then back again, you’re opening yourself up to even more opportunities for bad data. Every time a tech manually copies data from paper to a spreadsheet, or goes the other way, you run the risk of getting the wrong numbers. 

And small mistakes matter. If a tech puts in that they closed out a work order in April instead of June, your numbers are now off in two monthly reports. And if a tech puts April 31st as the close-out date (a date that doesn’t exist because April has only 30 days), the work order’s data can slip right through the cracks.     

And when you’re using one standard, it’s much easier to keep everything together in one spot. You can stack all your paper work orders in one pile or save all your spreadsheet work orders in one file. 

2. Schedule PMs and then prioritize on-demand work orders 

The maintenance department needs to run like a hospital, not a bus depot. 

What’s the difference? 

Down at the bus station, once the schedule’s set, there’s no changing it. Bus A is set to leave at 10 am, and that’s when it leaves. Same for all the other buses. 

But up at the hospital, the schedule is more elastic. Sure, there are patients with appointments to meet doctors, and in most cases, things go according to plan. But if someone arrives in critical condition, they instantly move to the head of the line. In fact, they skip the line entirely and see a doctor immediately. Your work orders should work the same way. 

Start by setting up and scheduling your preventive maintenance inspections and tasks. But when more pressing work pops up, you should be ready to move your PMs around to make room. 

The good news is that PMs tend to have windows, not deadlines. That means when it’s time to complete a PM, there’s room to pull it up or push it back a bit. Instead of doing it this week, you can often safely wait until next week. 

3. Require formal, standardized work order requests 

But before you can efficiently manage your schedule, you need a reliable way to collect maintenance requests. People across departments, all over the facility, need a simple, reliable way to connect with the maintenance department to submit maintenance requests. 

But before looking at why, let’s clear up any possible confusion. 

What’s the difference between a maintenance request and a work order? 

The differences come down to who makes them and how you use them. 

Maintenance requests come in from all over the facility, from all kinds of people. When someone, and it can be anyone from the CEO to an equipment operator, sees something that needs to be fixed, they submit a maintenance request. The idea is that with everyone acting as extra sets of eyes around the facility, the maintenance department knows right away when there’s a problem, which can be anything from a leaky tap in the top-floor bathroom to a full-on flood in the basement. Once the maintenance department approves a request, they use the information to generate a work order, which they then assign to a maintenance technician. 

The key to maintenance requests is having a well established, easy-to-understand system so everyone knows how to contact you. The harder it is for people to reach you, the less likely they’ll bother, leading you to miss a lot of small issues that then have a chance to grow into big problems. 

And then when there’re big problems and people know they have to contact your department, they’ll use a confusing combination of unpredictable, unreliable methods. That leaves you digging through piles of paper notes, emails, and phone messages. 

Instead, you should set up a simple, direct line of communication so people know exactly how to reach you with requests. 

4. Make every maintenance work order super heavy 

Then, once you have your maintenance requests, you need to generate work orders packed with the critical data techs need to work efficiently and close out quickly. The more they know before they start, the easier it is for them to finish. 

What should you include? 

An effective work order comes with: 

  • Comprehensive asset maintenance and repairs histories 
  • Step-by-step instructions 
  • Checklists 
  • Associated MRO parts and materials 
  • Schematics, images, and warranties 
  • Locations on site maps and floor plans 

The goal is to have the tech arrive with a clear idea of what they need to do and what they need to do it. If the maintenance or repairs start to go sideways halfway through, you want them to have what they need to straighten things out. 

5. Make every maintenance work order super light 

Now that you’ve packed your work orders with helpful data, you need to find ways to make them mobile. It’s great that techs have tons of useful data with them, but you don’t want them pushing around wheelbarrows full of paper. Your work orders need to be data heavy but also nice and light and easy to move around. 

There are a few options here, but they all have one thing in common: getting mobile means going digital. There’s just no way for you to get techs the information they need if you’re stuck printing everything out on paper. It’s expensive and impractical. 

One option is using spreadsheets. But the problem here is that now your work orders are too light; because they’re not tied to one another, changes you make to one file don’t carry over. Quickly, you have a bunch of different versions of the same work order, and no one is sure who has the most up-to-date data. Your data is simply out there floating around, untethered. 

The best way to get reliable, accessible data is with a CMMS solution. 

Examples of effective work order management with CMMS software 

Many of the above steps can help you even if you’re stuck using old paper or spreadsheets. But to get the most out of the steps and take full control of your work orders, you need a modern CMMS software solution. 

Keeping the steps in mind, let’s look at how work order management software makes them easier, more effective. 

How to keep track of work orders 

If you want to keep track of your work orders, you need to find a way to standardize and centralize your data. With old methods like paper and spreadsheets, you always run the risk of losing or corrupting data. 


A CMMS helps you solve this problem by storing your data in a central database that keeps all your information safe, secure, and accessible. And because everything is in one place, it’s easy to keep it all up to date. Instead of multiple versions, you have data you can trust. 

How to organize work orders 

Once you have all the work orders in on spot, you can easily move them around, setting up PM schedules you can then quickly adjust to make room for on-demand tasks. CMMS software makes it easy with intuitive calendar dashboards that let you move work orders around with simple drag-and-drop. 

How do you know when to add on-demand work orders? With the simple online maintenance request portal, everyone knows exactly how to contact the department. All they have to do is go to the site and enter their information. And unlike with a phone message or an email, the online form comes with customizable data fields, so people know exactly what information to include in their requests. 

How to streamline work orders 

The last two steps are making your work orders heavy but also light. CMMS software helps with both. 

Using customizable templates, with just a few clicks, you can quickly add all the information techs need to work efficiently. And using the maintenance app, techs can access everything from anywhere using any Internet-connected mobile device. All that help fits right in the palm of their hand. 

Quick, concise summary 

Effective work order management could be just a few steps away, but you need to make sure you’re moving in the right direction. Start by standardizing your data so that everything is in the same format, reducing your chances of losing or corrupting data. Next, set up your schedule but treat PMs like appointments at a hospital: if something more serious shows up, be ready to reschedule the PMs. When dealing with maintenance requests, set up and enforce a formal process, and then pack every work order with the information techs need to work well, making sure techs have access to this information from anywhere with a mobile maintenance app. 

Next steps 

Ready to finally organize your work order management? It’s time to implement a modern CMMS solution.  

Hippo has many ways to help you, no matter how far along you are in the process. We can answer your questions about maintenance strategies (and everything else related to maintenance), help you book a live software demo, or even set you up with a free trial

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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