Paperwork and spreadsheets can sometimes be the bane of ones workday. Luckily, there are way to make work orders easier.

But where we should start is, “what is the purpose of a work order anyways?”

The purpose of work orders

Much preparation for maintenance management is focused on the improvement of the work order process. By setting the right objectives, you and your team can maintain or reduce costs.

But what strategies can help to accomplish this? An important aspect to look into is how we issue and organize work orders. Work order management software provides a modern approach to managing work orders along with tools to help resolve common problems in facility maintenance.

By using work order management best practices and setting the right goals for your team, managing work orders strategically can be done more efficiently. 

But what are examples of these strategies?

Maintenance work order requests

Hippo work order strategy of proactiveness

When surveyed by our Software Specialists, 86% of facilities look to use CMMS to be proactive in maintenance repair. If you currently manage all your maintenance work order by some manual method you probably are running into a number of problems.

Between daily tasks, emergency repairs and big projects, it’s easy to forget about preventive maintenance tasks — after all, there’s always something that needs to be done right now. The problem is compounded when you have several scheduled work orders and each preventive maintenance task is on its own schedule.

A single maintenance department may have vehicles that need maintenance every 5,000 miles, HVAC that requires inspections every six months, a machine that requires recalibration every hundred hours of operation, and dozens or hundreds of other pieces of equipment, each with its own schedule. A calendar or workbook can’t track everything, neither can a spreadsheet or binder.

Fortunately, a work order management software can automate the maintenance work order process. Work orders can be automatically triggered by the calendar, or by meter readings (such as mileage or hours of operation). Depending on how the CMMS is configured, users can choose to trigger certain advanced notifications, set timeframes and even automate past due reminders to make sure each task is completed.

Ditch spreadsheets, go for digital work orders

At first glance, a maintenance work order form may seem like nothing more than paperwork to fill out. However, upon reflection, they are some of the most effective tools maintenance teams have. For many years, paper-based work orders seem like the staple of building maintenance operations.

Facility managers would fill out the maintenance work order form typically creating a carbon copy in the process, and assign the copy to the technician. When the work was completed, the maintenance technician updates the work order, includes comments or notes (if necessary), and turns it back. With traditional maintenance managers wonder, would anyone want to complicate things with a computer program?

The problem is, there is a lot more time and energy that goes into managing a paper-based system that maintenance managers may not take into account.

Firstly, technicians and managers must organize work order forms whether with a binder or spreadsheets before and after repairs. Handling work orders this way can cause them to get lost between exchanging numerous hands. Having a work order assigned to employees and brought back again could mean in some organizations the need to walk across the entire facility to send and receive forms.

Second, with the time and energy spent on paper work orders, this process contains risk of error when submitted. An assigned work order could fail to include important details or provide useful reference information to user manuals or instructions. Work orders could simply be lost or damaged during its handling. As operations expand and a maintenance team grows, there is a greater need implement a system that expands with technicians, facilities in various locations.

Fortunately, computerized maintenance management software, or CMMS, simplifies the work order process, reduces errors and improves efficiency. Using a simple work order request  portal, all request information gets stored in one place. A maintenance manager may then quickly approve the appropriate requests; convert into a work order assigned directly to a technician user account. On Demand Work Order Management Software assigns work orders directly to any technician. Technicians then can review assigned maintenance work orders in the field on their portable devices, no longer having to carry bundles of paperwork.

Automated notifications inform management or other related staff when the maintenance work order progress has been updated -assigned, updated or closed, so all jobs are accounted for and seen through to completion.

Record maintenance work order requests

You may rely on tenants, coworkers or other facility staff members to notify your team of maintenance issues. This may seem simple with options such as sending a simple email or voicemail. However, if there’s no set process, people may not know how to properly communicate a request, perhaps calling the wrong person, sending an email to an account that is not regularly checked, or they have to find someone at the department office to discuss the issue.

With busy schedules, making a repair request may go unanswered until received a maintenance worker. Small problems go unattended until they become big ones over time. Additionally, if the maintenance department do not have a good process for responding to work order requests are properly turned into work orders, they can be lost. A request can easily end up forgotten on a sticky note somewhere, or a work order can get lost under a pile of paperwork before it is ever assigned to a maintenance worker. Unless the maintenance department has a streamlined system for requesting work, some things are going to slip through the cracks.

A work order request portal can be created and be received directly by the entire maintenance team requests easier on everyone. Once staff is added to the work order management software, they can fill in request forms from their computer, automatically submitting them to the maintenance department. Admin users are notified of the new request, and can either approve the request to create a work order or reject it.  Maintenance work orders can then be assigned to any employee or contractor, automatically notifying them as soon as the order is approved.

Maintain standards of work order policy

A typical paper work order can only contain enough space for information such as location, date, status and hours, along with room to write comments or extra notes.

For quality records and work order completion, technicians needs more information. They need to know which tools and spare parts to use, where they’re located and any related work orders. They may also need to refer to documents such as O&M manuals or spec sheets. Warranty info, serial numbers, and ID tags are also helpful to organize and manage each work order.

Lastly, to service breakdowns on equipment, workers may require information on recent modifications, repair history,or other equipment details.

Computerized maintenance management systems put these resources and information together in an accessible way. Asset and equipment maintenance software allows maintenance workers to access O&M manuals, warranty info, associated parts, contact info, images and more for key pieces of equipment. Repair histories and meter readings are updated each time equipment is serviced, and can be reviewed at will.

Custom facility screens in some CMMS software provide managers and staff to use unique UI’s and interactive floor plans to visually maintenance activity – schedule work orders, track equipment and perform other vital tasks. Without having to search through O&M manuals or old repair records, employees and contractors will know at a glance exactly where to go, what piece of equipment to service, and a detailed outline of what they need to do the work.

Standardize work order best practices

Manager using Hippo work order software

Different workers will always have different ideas about how best to do the job. In a small organization, managers can provide closer supervision and more frequent hands-on guidance. With fewer members of the maintenance team, channels of communication stay open, the department can get good results.

But as organizations grow, small differences in performance and understanding can cause quality control problems. Senior technicians may know much more about the equipment, but newer employees may not be as familiar with company practices. As a workforce transitions, internal knowledge may be lost and the need for comprehensive documentation on best practices becomes essential.

Work order software allows maintenance managers to designate exactly how a job has to be done, eliminating misunderstandings and quality control problems. Maintenance work order forms have intuitive fields, which can be set to “mandatory” so that workers have to certify that they’ve executed a diagnostic procedure or calibrated equipment to the proper standard. This prevents workers from disregarding necessary steps, ensuring every work order is executed properly.

Work order accountability and automation

Striking the right balance between accountability and autonomy is crucial for a successful maintenance department. Technicians and maintenance staff spend most of their time completing tasks while in the field, where they’re trusted to perform maintenance with little supervision. Managers should balance this out with periodic reviews, where they can gauge performance, re-train as necessary, and set future goals.

But paper work orders make reviews difficult and time consuming. To get a good picture of how workers are performing, maintenance managers need to go through all the work orders for the given month and look for patterns, such as work orders being finished late, or frequent errors with certain kinds of tasks. If workers aren’t filling out complete and accurate forms — or only completed work orders are making it in — it will create an incomplete picture that may not accurately reflect worker performance.

Work order reporting and analysis

Reporting tools provides in-depth maintenance data analysis without the work. A facility management manager can generate charts for nearly any metric, either evaluating individual workers or the maintenance department as a whole. For example, they can examine the average time to complete a work order or the percentage of overdue preventative maintenance tasks, or compare work order stats between two different periods.

Maintenance Reports also enable inventory and maintenance history reporting. Maintenance managers can keep track of part types, levels, locations and other crucial data, and automatically generate low inventory reports to remind them when it’s time to restock.

Maintenance history reports show all completed maintenance, which provides the data to examine monthly and annual costs, track the repair history of each piece of equipment and examine payment, costs and performance of maintenance staff and contractors.

All of this data is accumulated and organized by the information staff enter in work orders and mark on forms while doing their jobs. That means managers don’t have to waste time creating spreadsheets or tabulating numbers by hand. And, by requiring work order fields, maintenance managers can ensure that there’s no missing data to throw off the averages.

Work order purpose summary

An effective maintenance starts with an effective work order management system. With proper implementation, maintenance management software turns the work order from paperwork to a powerful tool for quality records and innovative maintenance tracking.

Process and record work order requests, automated preventive maintenance schedules, and tracking performance across your organization. The right goals with the right work order software ensures maintenance department efficiency and worker accountability. 

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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