What Is A Work Order? Your Complete Guide



Work Order ImportanceOverview


This guide provides a comprehensive overview of work orders, their importance, types, best practices for managing them, and the benefits of using digital work order software. It emphasizes the significance of work orders in maintenance operations and how implementing a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) can optimize work order management and maintenance efficiency. The guide also highlights some of the various industries that benefit from work order management software, including manufacturing, hospitality, healthcare, and more. Overall, it offers valuable insights into effective work order management for organizations seeking to enhance their maintenance processes.

What is a Work Order?


A maintenance work order represents a vital authorization for requested activities, bridging the gap between maintenance requests (also known as service requests) and task completion. Depending on the nature of the business, work requests can originate from diverse customers or staff members seeking maintenance assistance. Once maintenance thoroughly reviews and approves these requests, an official work order is issued, setting the stage for task execution.

A Multifaceted Tool for Maintenance


The work order transcends a mere list of details, serving a myriad of purposes within the maintenance process:

Explaining the Need: The information provided elucidates the specific maintenance requirements, setting a clear context for the task.

Scheduling Resources: Efficient allocation of personnel, equipment, and materials hinges on the clarity offered by the work order.

Detailing Instructions: Comprehensive task instructions ensure seamless task execution and adherence to standards.

Estimating Costs: Accurate assessment of parts and labor costs enables prudent resource management.

Key Information in a Work Order


Description: A concise yet comprehensive account of the maintenance task or need at hand.

Requesting Entity: The name of the department or individual initiating the work order.

Completion Date: An estimated timeline for the task’s successful conclusion.

Assigned Personnel: Designation of the individual or team, be it in-house or third-party, responsible for executing the task.

Activity Location: Precise details of the facility or designated area where the maintenance activities will take place.

Prerequisites: Essential elements, such as parts, tools, or documentation, are required to achieve the task’s ultimate objective.

Why are Work Orders Important?


Work orders (WOs) are vital for the efficient operation of manufacturing processes and maximizing equipment uptime. When effectively managed, work orders enable meticulous maintenance planning and scheduling, resulting in improved machinery reliability and extended lifespan. A comprehensive work order should include all essential instructions, necessary parts, and labor requirements to accomplish the maintenance task within the specified timeframe.

By utilizing work order management software to track work order history, maintenance teams can maintain accurate asset records, monitor labor and inventory costs, and identify patterns in equipment breakdowns. These valuable insights empower proactive equipment management, enabling quick problem diagnosis and informed decision-making regarding necessary actions and associated costs.

Furthermore, work order histories offer an extensive database that helps maintenance teams forecast and plan future maintenance needs, identify critical assets that require immediate attention, and allocate resources effectively. By analyzing past work order data, maintenance teams can develop preventive maintenance strategies, reducing the risk of unexpected breakdowns and costly downtime.

Moreover, the documented work order history provides a dependable document trail for performance evaluations and internal or external audits, ensuring adherence to workplace compliance and fostering a culture of accountability. Additionally, it facilitates knowledge sharing among maintenance personnel, enabling them to learn from past experiences and enhance their troubleshooting skills, ultimately boosting overall maintenance efficiency and effectiveness.

Work Order vs Work RequestService Request


While closely related, work orders and work requests (WR) have distinct roles within the maintenance process. A work request, also known as a service request, is typically initiated by non-maintenance staff or customers to report maintenance needs. On the other hand, a work order represents an authorized maintenance task assigned to the maintenance team for execution.

Work requests and work orders differ not only in their purposes but also in their format. A work request often provides a brief description of the issue, such as landscaping work, leaky pipes, or equipment changeovers, to initiate the maintenance flow. It may be categorized based on the industry, business, or priority, with emergency calls being made for urgent situations like chemical spills.

Conversely, a work order is issued only after the request has been approved, considering factors like the available budget, the criticality of the task, and the age of the asset. Once authorized, the work order serves as the formal instruction for the maintenance team to proceed with the specified task.

It is important to recognize these distinctions to ensure smooth maintenance operations and effective communication between stakeholders involved in the maintenance process.

Types Of Work Orders


Types of work orders encompass a diverse range of tasks, from routine maintenance to emergency repairs and specialized projects, each serving a specific purpose in optimizing operational efficiency and asset management.

These are just a few of the common types of work orders, each tailored to address specific needs and requirements within a comprehensive task management framework.

Standard Work Order: A standard work order is a non-critical maintenance task that does not pose an immediate risk to facilities, systems, equipment, or components. Some examples are: removing old equipment, setting up new equipment, painting, or changing light bulbs.

Preventive Maintenance (PM): Implementing routine cleaning, lubrications, and other prescribed tasks to ensure optimal performance and adherence to policies.

Emergency: Urgent work orders aimed at protecting life or preventing damage to valuable assets, sometimes addressed without prior generation depending on the criticality.

Inspections: Conduct tests to verify the functionality and performance of assets, components, and systems.

Electrical: Handling tasks related to electrical repairs, installations, and improvements, including wiring, lighting, and power supplies.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning): Work orders involving maintenance, repair, or installation of HVAC systems to ensure optimal climate control and air quality.

Plumbing: Addressing plumbing-related issues, including repairs, installations, and maintenance of water supply, drainage, and plumbing fixtures.

Safety: Activities focused on safeguarding personnel from harm or injury, such as facility repairs to prevent accidents or chemical cleanups to manage hazardous materials.

Special Projects: Work orders dedicated to installing new assets with goals of enhancing productivity, operational efficiency, or replacing outdated equipment.

Renovation and Remodeling: Tasks involving major facility upgrades, renovations, or remodeling to improve aesthetics and functionality.

Equipment Calibration: Ensuring precision and accuracy of equipment by conducting calibration and adjustments as required.

Inventory Management: Work orders dedicated to inventory control, stocktaking, and organizing materials and supplies.

Energy Conservation: Implementing energy-saving measures, such as upgrading lighting systems or optimizing energy usage to reduce costs and environmental impact.

Work Order Process


When a work request is submitted, management evaluates factors for approval, such as the current budget, asset criticality, existing maintenance plans, age of the asset, and severity of the reported issue.

If the request aligns with considerations, a work order is created; otherwise, it may be rejected, ensuring prioritization and control over maintenance tasks.

What is Included in a Work Order?

  • Requesting Party
  • Work Order Authorization
  • Assigned Labor
  • Task Description
  • Completion Deadline
  • Work Location
  • Task Instructions and Notes
  • Priority Level
  • Cost Estimates
  • Equipment Information
  • Work Order Status
  • Attachments
  • Signature and Approval
  • Follow-up Actions
  • Work Order History
  • Preventive Maintenance Schedule

Tracking Work Orders and Work Requests


Effective tracking is vital for improving facility reliability and performance.

Key metrics to monitor include: 

Equipment Downtime: Measure the total time that equipment is non-operational due to maintenance, repairs, or breakdowns. Minimizing downtime is crucial for maximizing productivity and minimizing losses.

Mean Time to Failure (MTTF): This metric measures the average time between failures of a specific asset. It helps in assessing asset reliability and identifying potential issues that need attention.

Mean Time to Repair (MTTR): MTTR calculates the average time it takes to repair an asset after a failure. Reducing MTTR enhances equipment uptime and overall operational efficiency.

First-Time Fix Rate (FTFR): FTFR measures the percentage of maintenance tasks completed successfully on the first attempt, without requiring rework or follow-up visits. A high FTFR indicates efficient and skilled maintenance work.

Equipment Reliability Index (ERI): The ERI is a composite metric that considers factors like equipment downtime, MTBF, and MTTR to assess overall equipment reliability and performance.

Mean Time Between Maintenance (MTBM): MTBM calculates the average time between scheduled maintenance activities. A longer MTBM suggests that equipment is performing well and requires less frequent maintenance.

Planned Maintenance Percentage: This metric determines the proportion of maintenance activities that are planned and scheduled in advance. A higher planned maintenance percentage indicates better maintenance planning and resource utilization.

Work Order Backlog: The work order backlog represents the total number of pending maintenance tasks. Keeping the backlog at a manageable level ensures that maintenance requests are addressed promptly and efficiently.

Reactive Maintenance Percentage: This metric evaluates the percentage of maintenance tasks that are reactive (i.e., unplanned or emergency).

Best Practices for Managing Work Orders


Efficient work order management is crucial for maintaining the smooth operation of any organization, and implementing effective strategies can streamline maintenance processes, enhance productivity, and ensure the longevity of valuable assets.

Set Clear Maintenance Goals and KPIs: Establish specific maintenance objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate work orders effectively. These metrics define your maintenance strategy and guide your team’s performance.

Define Roles and Responsibilities: Clearly outline roles in your work order process to ensure efficient and accurate task execution. This includes defining who can create, assign, prioritize, complete, and review work orders, reducing duplication and miscommunication.

Implement a Standardized Process: Ensuring proper utilization and accurate completion of work orders necessitates the establishment of a standardized process. A uniform set of steps for submitting work requests, generating work orders, acquiring necessary tools and materials, and logging data should be followed by all personnel involved. 

Automate Work Order Triggers: Choose the appropriate triggers, such as breakdowns, time-based events, usage-based metrics, or condition-based indicators, to automate work orders. Utilize a CMMS to automate scheduling based on these triggers, resolving issues proactively.

Optimize Work Order Management: Effectively managing maintenance work orders is best achieved through a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). Utilizing a mobile CMMS streamlines the process by enabling quick work order generation, technician assignments, and automated logging upon completion. This system provides easy access to crucial data, including expenditures and completion time, eliminating the need for manual data entry. 

Include Comprehensive Details: Comprehensive work orders should encompass essential details, such as required parts, necessary skills, the number of personnel involved, inspection checklists, diagrams, and Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) procedures. Recording all pertinent information ensures that each maintenance task is executed correctly and efficiently.

Attach Checklists: Incorporating checklists into work order management significantly enhances efficiency. By attaching checklists to digital work orders, technicians are reminded of critical steps, minimizing the likelihood of human error and elevating both maintenance quality and data accuracy.

Implement Preventive Maintenance: Incorporate preventive maintenance tasks into your work order process to proactively identify and address potential issues before they escalate. This helps reduce downtime and extends the lifespan of the equipment.

Track Work Order Completion Time: Monitor the time taken to complete work orders and identify areas where efficiency can be improved. This data helps optimize resource allocation and enhances overall maintenance performance.

Foster Collaboration and Communication: Encourage open communication and collaboration among maintenance team members and other departments. Effective communication ensures everyone is aware of work order progress and potential roadblocks.

Conduct Regular Work Order Audits: Periodically review and audit work orders to ensure accuracy, compliance with procedures, and adherence to safety guidelines. Audits help identify areas for improvement and maintain high-quality standards.

Leverage Data Analytics: Utilize data analytics tools within your CMMS to gain insights from work order data. Analyzing trends and patterns allows you to make data-driven decisions, optimize maintenance strategies, and improve operational efficiency.

Provide Training and Skill Development: Invest in training and skill development for maintenance technicians to enhance their abilities and knowledge. Well-trained personnel can execute work orders more effectively and efficiently.

Prioritize Wisely: Prioritizing maintenance tasks is crucial. Work orders for high-criticality assets and time-sensitive assignments should be assigned higher priorities, as well as those that address safety risks. Prioritization aids decision-making when selecting which work orders to complete on a given workday, optimizing task allocation and overall maintenance efficiency.

Work Order Prioritization and Organization


Efficiently organizing work orders can be achieved through a CMMS or work order management system, which allows seamless sorting of orders based on priority, time, technician, asset, and other relevant data.

Prioritizing work orders requires a careful assessment of various factors, including:

Criticality: Determining the importance of assets to your operational processes and evaluating the potential disruption caused by delaying maintenance work.

Risks: Balancing criticality with the likelihood of issues arising and considering safety hazards or potential additional expenses associated with postponing certain tasks.

Available Resources: Ensuring sufficient time, personnel, and materials are accessible to address the work order promptly. If there are shortages in any of these areas, prioritization may need to be adjusted accordingly.

Cost Considerations: Evaluating the cost-effectiveness of repairs or replacements for specific assets. If the cost of repairs exceeds the asset’s value or current budget limitations, alternative solutions may be prioritized.

By synthesizing criticality, risks, resources, and cost factors, you can assign work orders appropriate levels of priority, streamlining task execution and enhancing overall maintenance efficiency.

Understanding Work Order Management Software


Work order management software serves as a streamlined version of a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), focusing specifically on the initial stages of maintenance and repair processes.

Developed in response to the need for efficient facility management, this software offers a quicker alternative to manual paperwork for creating work orders. Over time, these systems have evolved to become increasingly automated and user-friendly.

Today, work order management software has become indispensable in the manufacturing industry, providing a centralized platform to organize and manage numerous daily maintenance requests. From categorizing and scheduling equipment maintenance tasks to gathering job orders and bills of materials, this software optimizes work order processes.

By eliminating the previous challenges of handling paperwork, even free versions of work order management software offer significant relief in tracking and managing work orders, making it an essential tool for streamlined maintenance operations.

The Benefits of Digitized Work Orders


Traditionally, manually created work orders have been a staple in the maintenance industry. However, relying on paper-based systems comes with limitations that hinder long-term efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Communication delays, data entry expenses, and environmental concerns make paperwork orders impractical in today’s fast-paced maintenance landscape.

Embracing Digital Solutions

To overcome the challenges of manual work orders, organizations are turning to Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) software, like eWorkOrders. These advanced platforms offer cloud-based, online work order software that revolutionizes maintenance operations, eliminating redundant phone calls, sticky notes, and lost paperwork. By centralizing and streamlining the work order process, maintenance teams experience improved clarity and enhanced productivity.

Key Advantages of Digitalized Work Orders


Real-time Accessibility: With digital work orders, technicians can access critical information on-demand, right at their fingertips, enabling faster response times and quicker task execution.

Streamlined Communication: Digitized work orders facilitate seamless communication among team members, eliminating the need for cumbersome phone calls or searching for misplaced paper records.

Enhanced Data Accuracy: Digital work orders significantly reduce the likelihood of manual data entry errors, ensuring precise and reliable information for better decision-making.

Efficient Task Scheduling: Automated reminders and notifications keep technicians updated on upcoming tasks, enabling proactive planning and timely completion.

Comprehensive Reporting: CMMS platforms generate detailed reports on work order history, equipment performance, and maintenance trends, providing valuable insights for continuous improvement.

Lower Labor and Planning Expenditures: Accessible data simplifies planning processes. With all information logged into the CMMS, maintenance planners can swiftly generate work orders from submitted requests, including skill requirements, equipment needs, checklists, and assignments. Mobile platforms further expedite these tasks, resulting in more efficient use of labor and planning resources.

Facilitating Preventive Maintenance Optimization (PMO): Digital work order data supports proactive maintenance strategies. Crucial metrics can be readily accessed, enabling quick decision-making regarding the frequency of preventive tasks, specific requirements, and other essential aspects of maintenance planning.

Cost Optimization: By minimizing paper usage and streamlining processes, digitalized work orders contribute to cost savings and support environmentally friendly practices.

How Work Orders Improve Maintenance


Work orders play a crucial role in enhancing maintenance processes by efficiently tracking work completion and resource utilization, including labor and parts. The data collected through work orders enables maintenance teams to generate valuable metrics for performance monitoring, trend analysis, and continuous improvement, leading to more effective maintenance practices.

Example 1: Schedule Compliance

Automated work order management systems facilitate the easy generation of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like schedule compliance. Maintenance managers can quickly assess the percentage of scheduled work completed within a specific timeframe, ensuring timely task execution.

Example 2: MRO Expenditure

Work orders with complete and accurate information allow effective tracking of Maintenance, Repair, and Operations (MRO) expenditures. By monitoring the costs of various replacement parts and materials used in maintenance, managers gain insights into recurring failure modes and asset performance, enabling them to optimize preventive maintenance processes.

Example 3: Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)

Work order data is valuable for calculating MTBF, indicating the average time between failure events for specific assets. Frequent reactive maintenance on certain machines suggests the need for improvements in preventive maintenance tasks (PMs) to reduce asset failures and downtime.

Work orders play a key role in optimizing equipment efficiency by streamlining maintenance tasks and resource allocation. Through work orders, maintenance teams can prioritize and schedule tasks effectively, ensuring timely repairs and preventive measures. This ultimately leads to increased equipment reliability, reduced downtime, and improved overall operational efficiency.

A Multi-Industry Asset Management Tool


Work Order Management Software serves as a versatile asset management tool, catering to the diverse needs of multiple industries, streamlining maintenance processes, and enhancing operational efficiency across the board.

Manufacturing: In the manufacturing sector, work order management software plays a pivotal role in maintenance operations. Maintenance technicians receive work orders to address equipment repairs and carry out preventive maintenance tasks. These work orders can be generated manually when equipment requires fixing or automatically on a scheduled basis for preventive maintenance activities. The software facilitates seamless documentation, inspection checklists, and logs for technician actions and observations.

Facility Management: In the broader domain of facility management, work order management software serves as a central hub for handling maintenance, repair, and service requests across diverse industries. Facilities teams can efficiently allocate resources, track work progress, and ensure a well-maintained and functional environment for occupants.

Hospitality: The hospitality industry relies on work order management software to manage facility maintenance and service requests. Hotels and resorts utilize the software to promptly address guest complaints, schedule room repairs, and coordinate housekeeping tasks. By efficiently managing work orders, the hospitality sector enhances guest satisfaction and ensures smooth operations.

Healthcare: In the healthcare domain, work order management software aids in maintaining critical medical equipment and facility infrastructure. Maintenance teams receive work orders to carry out repairs, preventive maintenance, and safety inspections. The software ensures timely responses to issues, minimizes equipment downtime, and upholds a safe environment for patients and staff.

Pharmaceutical: The pharmaceutical industry utilizes work order management software to manage a wide range of maintenance tasks, compliance requirements, and equipment calibration processes. Work orders in this sector involve not only repairing manufacturing equipment but also ensuring that facilities meet stringent regulatory standards. The software assists in tracking maintenance activities, monitoring critical equipment, and documenting maintenance procedures to comply with industry regulations and maintain product quality and safety.

Education: Educational institutions utilize work order management software to manage facility maintenance and upkeep. From repairing classroom equipment to maintaining campus grounds, work orders help efficiently allocate resources and ensure a conducive learning environment for students and staff.

Retail: Retail establishments employ work order management software to handle maintenance and repair requests across their stores. Whether it’s fixing malfunctioning cash registers, handling HVAC issues, or managing store renovations, the software aids in streamlining maintenance tasks and ensuring uninterrupted business operations.

Transportation: The transportation industry employs work order management software to maintain and repair vehicles, equipment, and infrastructure. Whether it’s routine inspections, scheduled maintenance, or addressing breakdowns, the software assists in optimizing maintenance workflows and enhancing overall fleet performance.

Housing: Work order management software is extensively utilized in the housing industry to streamline maintenance and repair requests. Tenants and staff can easily create work requests to notify the need for specific tasks, ranging from simple tasks like unclogging a toilet to complex ones like constructing new walls. The software aids in the efficient scheduling of work with the appropriate parties, such as plumbers, maintenance personnel, and pest control agencies.

Contractors: Contractors leverage work order management software to optimize their operations. Customers can submit work orders to request products or services, detailing prices, required materials, schedules, and service locations. The contractor then fulfills the work order and returns it to the customer, serving as both a labor and material log as well as a customer invoice.

Other Resources


Maintenance Terms and Definitions Glossary

CMMS Articles & Directories


What Customers Are Saying


Customer Testimonials – Read More

Customer Success

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Question: What is a work order?

Answer: A work order is a formal request for maintenance, repair, or operations work to be completed. 

Question: Who approves work orders?

Answer: Work orders are typically reviewed and approved by management or maintenance planners. 

Question: What information should be included in a work order?

Answer: A work order should include details like the task description, completion date, assigned personnel, location, and prerequisites.

Question: How can I track the status of my work order?

Answer: You can track the status of your work order through the work order management software or by contacting the maintenance team directly.

Question: What is the difference between a work order and a service request?

Answer: A work order is an authorized maintenance task assigned to the maintenance team for execution, while a service request is a non-authorized request for maintenance assistance submitted by non-maintenance staff or customers. 

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