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Work order management has always been challenging, but with COVID-19, things are even harder, and organizations are discovering their processes can't stand up to the new demands. It's never been more important to streamline and strengthen work order management.

Here are some ideas on how to improve work order workflows in a COVID-19 world.

Make sure people can contact maintenance quickly with work order software

When it comes to on-demand work orders, the sooner you know there's a problem, the better. But with COVID-19, this is now harder for a couple of reasons. Due to social distancing and partial or complete shutdowns, there might be fewer people in your facilities. Problems get overlooked because there's no one there to see them. Or it could be the opposite: your facility has ramped up to meet new demand. Things get overlooked because everyone is so busy. In either case, you want a system that makes it easy for people to connect with the maintenance department. As soon as something gets noticed, you want people to know it's only going to take a minute to tell you about it. You need something easy to:
  • Remember
  • Access
  • Use

And you're going to want to make sure that when people do tell you about a problem, they give you the information you need to solve it. It's just like when people go to a doctor: if they can't explain the symptoms, the doctor has a hard time figuring out how best to help them. So we can add more one item to the list. You need a system that is standardized. It captures the right data you need to make good decisions on prioritizing work.

There are a couple of ways you can do this, including relying on emails and phone calls, but the easiest is with a request portal built into work order management software.

All people need to do is access the request portal. And this is important to remember: they don't need to be users with accounts and permission settings in the software. They can be, but they don't need to be. As long as you want them to, anyone can access it. And instead of leaving a rambling voice mail or sending an email that's missing crucial information, the required fields on the form ensure people include the right information.

Calling visitors to watch Hippo CMMS demo to understand the software better

Get techs what they need to be efficient and safe with work order software

Now that you have the right information, you can decide which maintenance requests should be approved and assigned as work orders. But you can't just take the information from the request and copy it over. It's always been true that, within reasonable limits, the more information you can add to the work order, the better. But this is now especially true because of COVID-19.

There are two reasons. A lot of standard procedures have changed because of the pandemic. So, your organization might now have a new set of best practices for dealing with something as simple as a broken light bulb. In the past, techs could have just shown up and changed it. But now you might need them to call ahead or only complete the work before or after certain hours when they know that location will be empty.

On top of that, there are a lot of completely new processes and schedules. For example, your organization very likely has new schedules for sanitation programs. The point is that techs are facing a lot of changes, and for them to work not only efficiently but also independently and safely, they need work orders packed with information.

In the past, you could trust technicians' experience and common sense to get them through most tasks. But with COVID-19, you can't assume technicians know current best practices. Departments can't rely on technicians to figure things out over time. Much of the work is critical, and there's no time for a learning curve.

Work orders should include:

  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Checklists for best practices
  • Associated parts and materials
  • Copies of all manuals, schematics, diagrams
  • History of prior maintenance and repair work
  • Site and floor maps of asset location

If you're using a traditional paper- or spreadsheet-based system, you can see the problem right away. All of that information is helpful, but it's also heavy. Paper versions of O&M manuals can be as big as old-time phonebooks. And you likely have only one copy, which techs can't share. All of this information is important, but it's not practical to carry around.

Work order software backed by cloud computing makes it all easy. Using the software, you can quickly generate info-packed work orders.

Because it's all digital, you can add everything with just a few clicks, scrolls, and taps. Technicians can then access the work orders from any Internet-connected desktop, laptop, or mobile device. They have everything they need, and they never have to head back to the maintenance office between work orders. After they close out one, they can immediately access the next one.

Quickly adjust preventive maintenance priorities with work order software

On top of on-demand work orders, you might already have in place a preventive maintenance program. But with COVID-19, you'll need to make adjustments. For some facilities, it's a question of managing a shutdown, which you can learn more about in our blog post COVID-19 Shutdowns and CMMS Software. For other facilities, it's ramping up to meet new demand. In either case, you'll need to change your PM schedule. There's no point in doing the same type of maintenance on assets that aren't getting used. Instead, you can use this time to do all those maintenance tasks that kept getting pushed back. But for assets that are now part of a critical process, you need to increase the frequency. You can't afford unplanned downtime.


Screenshot of Hippo CMMS software displaying a filtered view of scheduled work orders for easy access to only work orders that are already scheduled.

Stay in touch with everyone from a safe distance with work order software

Think about how you usually assign work orders. Do techs drop by the maintenance office in the morning to pick up paper copies? Are they coming back throughout the day to grab more paperwork? Imagine you need everyone to know about a sudden change in plans or procedures. Do you call a quick meeting in the coffee break room? With the need to social distancing, these old methods don't work. What you need to do is find a way to keep everyone in the loop but from a distance. Keep in close contact, but from far away.

Work order tracking software makes this possible. Remember, technicians can access it from any Internet-connected desktop, laptop, or mobile device. It's available from anywhere, at any time. The key is cloud computing, which means everyone is working from the same database. Your data isn't spread out over a million scraps of paper, and it's not trapped inside endless versions of spreadsheet files. Instead, everything is kept in one spot, where it is both secure and accessible.

Need to send a work order to individual technicians? You can review and approve maintenance request then generate, prioritize, assign, and track the work orders. Need to share important information with the entire department? The bulletin board feature lets you set up a message that everyone sees as soon as they log into the software. It's an efficient way to keep everyone up to date on new developments.


The bulletin board feature in Hippo CMMS enables easy and instant sharing of important information with the entire department.

For example, some facilities are introducing new requirements for personal protection equipment. Even with three technicians in the department, you're going to spend a lot of time trying to track down and connect with them over the phone. You could send a group email, but not without worrying it's ending up in a spam folder. Using work order management software ensures strong lines of communication from a safe distance.

Streamline and strengthen work order management with Hippo CMMS

There is a long list of good reasons to finally make the move from paper- or spreadsheet-based work orders. And all those reasons hold true even if you already have work order software but it's not delivering on its promises.

If you're reading this blog, it means you've already made that crucial first step: going online to do your own research, seeing what's available and comparing platforms. But you can learn only so much by reading. The next step is reaching out to providers and speaking with them directly. It's a great opportunity for you to learn more because no one knows the market better than they do. It's basically their job to know the market, so you should think of them and use them as an important resource. They'll be able to work with you to determine which package of features is going to best meet your needs.

As part of that process, you'll want to watch some demos. You need to see the software in action to fully understand and appreciate it. It's one thing for someone to claim their software is quick to learn and easy to use. It's another to see for yourself. Think of it this way: would you buy a car without at least sitting in it first? 

Because of COVID-19, everyone has so many new questions. Hippo is here to help you find the answers that are right for you.

 

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About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan Davis started out writing for textbooks before branching out to video games and marketing collateral. He has a master’s degree in journalism and a certificate in technical writing.