Long gone are the idyllic one-room schoolhouses of yesteryear. Schools now can be giant facilities with their own large maintenance departments. There’s no question it’s hard to keep things running. But how much easier would it be with a work order-driven CMMS?

Today’s schools have their own pick-up and drop-off lanes, multi-structure playgrounds, paved tracks, and often sports complexes complete with AstroTurf fields and stands.At the center of these labyrinths are classrooms, gyms, resource centers, cafeterias, auditoriums, computer labs, science labs, and libraries. Keeping things safe and compliant is a full-time, year-round job. Most staff and students have summers off, but July and August are busy months for school maintenance departments, with schedules full of catch-up projects.

Let’s explore the role work orders can play in the average day of a school maintenance management. We can use a real job posting for a maintenance professional to get a good understanding of the daily challenges departments face. The following descriptions of responsibilities are borrowed directly from a job posting for an elementary school in New Jersey.

General maintenance and repair tasks

Perform general maintenance and repair tasks in a variety of areas and as assigned by the Supervisor of Maintenance and in accordance with all applicable codes and regulations

This is a good place to start because it describes a large part of the average technician’s day. So, what role would work orders play?

In many cases, work orders start as a ticket submitted by a teacher or other member of the staff. We can imagine the art teacher noticing a broken faucet in her room. Logging into the work order software, she inputs a short description of the problem and its location. The information is then automatically forwarded by the CMMS software to the maintenance supervisor.

The art teacher would likely have included very little information. But now the supervisor can take the ticket and develop it into a data-rich work order. At his desk or on a mobile device, he accesses the CMMS and, if it’s a good one, through its intuitive, user-friendly interface he adds to the work order:

  • Interactive floor maps
  • Lists of required parts, including current inventory levels
  • Customizable checklists to ensure current best practices

There’s a lot more he can add, but for a broken faucet, he’d likely keep it simple. Next, he prioritizes and then assigns the repair. Everything depends on the asset’s relative level of criticality. Is a faucet in the art room crucial to keeping the school’s doors open? Likely not. But he does have to consider student and staff safety when looking at any work order. That facet is going to lead to water paint-stained hands, which are not a huge issue. But a broken swing on the playground with a loose metal chain is an immediate danger to curious children.

In the end, the broken faucet is likely assigned a low priority. That decided, the supervisor now assigns the work order. Because he’s sending out tasks to each member of his department using trackable work orders through the CMMS, he knows where everyone is and what they’re doing. Looking over the current work orders, he slots the faucet repair into a technician’s afternoon. At the end of the day, he’ll go back and check to see to see if the work order was closed out, what parts where used, and if the technician sent back any notes.  

Work orders for third parties 

Recommend repairs or procedures that are beyond the scope of responsibilities, skill, or experience, outlining the work needed and specifications required of an outside contractor.

This one happens less often at schools, but work orders can be generated for third-party vendors. Installing a new breaker panel, for example, requires a licensed electrician. There might not be anyone in the department who can safely or legally do the work.

Even though the work is being done by someone outside the department, a work order is going to help everything go more smoothly. It can have information about the required work as well as the supervisor’s contact information. Having everything is a work order comes in handy when it comes to pay the vendor or keep track on any agreements or warranties.  

Inventory tracking with work orders

Maintain an adequate supply of parts and supplies usually used in repairs and request needed supplies through the established procedures of the district.

A good CMMS makes tracking inventory a breeze. Once you have your initial accurate counts, Inventory  tracking is handled by the work order software. The parts required for a repair can be included in the work order when it is generated. When it’s closed out, inventory levels are automatically adjusted.

The job posting mentions “established procedures of the district.” It’s hard to know what those are, but it’s worth looking at how a good CMMS streamlines inventory control. Within the software, parts and inventory can be set with reorder thresholds. Once the numbers dip below these customizable levels, the CMMS can send out orders on its own, even taking into account current lead times. Or, it could notify the maintenance department by email that levels are low. Your choice.

Preventive maintenance and work order tracking

Ensure that all applicable fire, safety, health, and environmental regulations and laws are observed and exceeded.

Keep a log of all maintenance functions and repairs performed.

Compliance has two parts: being compliant and proving you’re compliant. For the first part, departments use PMs, which are a special type of work order that’s scheduled ahead of time to make sure a major repair or replacement won’t be needed in the future. They cover inspections and minor upkeep. For schools, PMs include checking smoke detectors, making sure fire extinguishers are charged, and eyewash stations are stocked in the science labs. Once the PMs are added to the CMMS, they become recurring work orders. They ensure nothing gets forgotten about.

Work order tracking makes the second part, proving you’re compliant, a breeze. A good CMMS lets you review historical data, calculate nearly endless combinations of key productively indicators (KPIs), and painlessly generate reports, which can then be forwarded to the relevant government departments.

Organized maintenance management 

Display a cooperative and pleasant attitude at all times, particularly when in the presence of staff, students, and community visitors.

OK, Work orders can’t guarantee every member of your department is going to be pleasant. But work orders make maintenance management more organized and therefore less stressful. Planning is easier so there are fewer unhappy surprises. Work orders aren’t going to change your disposition. But using work order ticket systems and work order tracking make it much less likely something at work is going to ruin your day.

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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