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Work Order Management: Definition, Basics and Best Practices

Work orders can be invaluable for helping organize work that needs to be done. However, for many teams, keeping track of work orders can be a major undertaking in and of itself. Good work order management strategies can help your team be more organized and productive. By understanding the ins and outs of managing work orders, you can ensure better results for your team.

What Is Work Order Management?

A work order is a job that needs to be completed, typically by a team of technicians or skilled professionals. Those orders are often requested by a client (although the client may be from another part of the same organization) and assigned to a technician to complete. They are commonly used for maintenance, installations, repairs and similar jobs.

Managing work orders involves creation and approval, assignment, scheduling, execution and closure. A basic process may be done completely on paper with simple forms. However, many teams need a more complete work order system to effectively manage the volume of work they handle.

Beyond organizing and completing work orders, management also involves trying to improve processes such that work can be completed with minimum costs and maximum timeliness. For many organizations, it is important to avoid equipment downtime, whether it is for the organization itself or its customers. Thus, accelerating the work order process can help teams to achieve bottom-line results.

The Basic Work Order Process

The order management process looks a little different for every team. Depending on the type of work you are doing and various organizational requirements, your process may have fewer, more or different steps. However, the following is representative of the general process:

  • Work Request: First, someone needs to request that work be done. This can come from a predetermined maintenance schedule, customer service, a direct client request or a variety of other sources.
  • Work Order Approval & Creation: With the client request in hand, the work first needs to be approved. Typically, approval involves ensuring that the request is within the scope of the team’s work, that a legitimate need exists and that there is sufficient information to complete the request. Then, a work order can be created.
  • Prioritization: Once the work order has been created, it needs to be prioritized. Most teams have a few work order priority levels. For maintenance requests, these typically represent the urgency of the order. However, the priority may also include the importance of the order.
  • Work Scheduling: The prioritized work order can then be scheduled. This will typically be based on availability, priority and the client’s requested timing. With some order management systems, this may be done at the time of receiving the request.
  • Assignment: Each order in the system should be assigned to appropriate technicians. This is one area in which your work management process can start to get complicated. Some types of work may require specially trained technicians. Additionally, you want to avoid sending team members all over the place. Automation can be especially helpful in this stage.
  • Execution: At this point, your technicians are ready to take their work orders and execute them. The specifics of this step depend entirely on the type of work needed.
  • Documentation & Closure: Once the work has been completed, it should be documented and closed. In a paper-based system, this includes the technician filling out a form that will be returned to the office at the end of the shift. Good reporting can help to make your maintenance work order system more effective.
  • Evaluation: Periodically, you should be evaluating the metrics of your work order handling process. You can examine things like how quickly orders are completed and how efficient your technicians are.
Free Templates for Every Process
Work order management, change request, asset maintenance, quality control, and more

Best Practices for Work Order Tracking and Management

Keeping your work orders organized and efficient can be challenging, especially if you have a large team and/or deal with complex jobs. While there is no single right answer for every team, there are some best practices that will put you on the path to success.

Automate as Much of the Process as You Can

Work order automation is one of the most valuable ways you can improve your system. This can be as simple as using a computer system to automatically generate work orders from requests and to capture technician notes digitally rather than on paper. However, you can automate other elements such as assigning work orders and organizing the team schedule.

Simplify the Process for Updating Work Orders

From time to time, you may need to update your work orders. For example, a client may ask for different timing or add an additional job. Being able to update work orders smoothly can be very important. In the traditional, paper-based model, this would require a phone call to the technician in the field. Fortunately, computer-based systems make this significantly easier.

Ensure Access to All Necessary Resources

Your team members should have access to all the resources they need to get the job done. This should include all the details of the work order plus any relevant technical documentation. After all, you can’t expect team members to remember the in-depth details of every piece of equipment. For an installation or construction work order, this may also include engineering plans for the project.

Make Forms as Simple as Possible

The forms in your task order management process have a big impact on your results. Complex forms slow the process down and increase the likelihood of mistakes. Try to simplify forms as much as possible. If you are using a digital system, conditional forms that only show the needed sections can work great.

Measure and Evaluate Work Order Performance

Finally, make sure you are collecting data about your task order management approach. This can help you to gradually improve your process based on real-world data. If you want to improve your performance, this is the way.

How Work Order Software Can Help

All the above best practices are easier to implement if you have the right construction management software to support your work orders. Software makes automation possible, helping to save all your team members time and effort. Similarly, it can help to simplify the forms and work for your technicians in the field.

One of the best aspects of using a software-based work management process is that you can send out instant updates. When a work order needs to be changed, the technician will be informed right away. If an order is complete, the office is notified immediately. This is the ideal way to improve your order management system.

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