No matter your company’s field, size or business goal, work orders can help you 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.
But “major” doesn’t equal “impossible”.
Good work order management strategies can help your team be more organized and productive. And by understanding the ins and outs of managing work orders, you can ensure better results for your team. Let’s see how you can do it, and the basics is where we’ll start from.
What Is Work Order Management?
Before diving into the management techniques, let’s first define a work order.
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 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 work order 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 work order flow is representative of the general process:
- Work Order Request Submission
First, someone needs to request that work be done. These requests can originate from various sources, such as maintenance teams, customer service departments, equipment inspections, or a variety of other sources.
- Work Order Approval
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.
As an operational manager, your responsibility at this stage is to ensure that these requests are reviewed promptly, and that there is sufficient information to complete the request. Then, a work order can be created.
- Work Order Creation
Once a work request is approved, the next step is to create a formal work order. This document serves as a blueprint for the task, outlining critical details such as the scope of work, required resources, and the expected timeframe for completion.
- Work Order 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 Order 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.
- Work Order 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.
- Work Order Distribution
Once the work order is ready, it must be disseminated to all relevant parties, including technicians, supervisors, and any other stakeholders involved in the process. Effective communication is vital at this stage.
- Work Order 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.
- Work Order Documentation
Accurate documentation is essential for tracking progress, compliance, and future reference. All work performed should be well-documented to maintain a comprehensive record.
- Work Order 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.
- Work Order 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.
Work Order Process Example
And now, to better visualize the above info, let’s take facility maintenance as an example, and imagine how it would function within the work order process flow.
|Submission||Your facility’s HVAC system experiences a breakdown. A maintenance technician submits a work request to address the issue.|
|Approval||As an admin, you review the request, determine it as valid, and approve a work order creation.|
|Creation||You create a detailed work order specifying the HVAC system, the necessary repairs, parts required, and the technician assigned to the job.|
|Prioritization||You prioritize the work order due to its direct impact on the comfort and safety of facility occupants.|
|Scheduling||You schedule the HVAC repair during off-peak hours to minimize disruption to facility operations.|
|Assignment||You assign an experienced HVAC technician to perform the necessary repairs.|
|Distribution||You distribute the HVAC repair work order to the assigned technician, providing them with all essential information and resources.|
|Execution||The HVAC technician executes the repair, following the work order instructions meticulously, and ensuring the HVAC system is restored to optimal functionality.|
|Documentation||The technician documents the repair process, noting any additional issues discovered during the HVAC repair.|
|Closure||You conduct a final inspection of the HVAC system, confirming that it is operating correctly and that safety standards have been met.|
|Evaluation||After the HVAC repair, you analyze the documentation and performance to identify ways to enhance future maintenance processes and reduce downtime.|
Work Order Management Best Practices
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 tool to automatically generate work orders from requests and to capture technician notes digitally rather than on paper.
What’s more, you can actually automate ALL elements such as assigning work orders and organizing the team schedule.
In Fluix, for example, you can fully automate the work order process, starting from the very beginning:
- Use a ready work order template or create a new one from scratch.
- Pre-fill it with existing data from earlier completed forms.
- Add it to the automated work order workflow.
- Send for approval and digital signatures, if necessary.
- As an operational manager, track the approval status and ensure timely authorizations.
- Use integrations and link work orders with other processes, such as asset management or scheduling tools.
Aside from merely saving admin (which is of course crucial), automation can help you reduce paperwork, enhance accuracy, and speed up approvals.
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, workflow automation tools make this significantly easier, allowing for flexibility.
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 software, conditional forms that only show the needed sections can work great.
Btw, we have it at Fluix. Not only do you create customizable forms, you can also make parts of them visible or invisible to assignees, and show people only what they need to complete.
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 Fluix Can Help You Manage Work Orders Better
All the above best practices are easier to implement if you have the right work order management software to support you.
Fluix can give you all the necessary tools, helping save all your team members time and effort. You can create customizable digital templates, eliminating paperwork and reducing errors. Real-time data entry and digital signatures expedite approvals, enhancing efficiency. Fluix’s integration capabilities ensure data consistency and facilitate follow-up actions, while our document storage system enables easy retrieval for analysis and audits.
In essence, we can streamline your operations, improve accuracy, accelerate approvals, and enhance overall productivity for operational managers. So, take a step forward and give automation a try.