As a project manager, success depends on the equipment required to generate desired project outcomes. Whether it’s a computer server or heavy equipment, you rely on these assets to perform at their peak to get the job done on time.

Preserving maximum efficiency requires an ongoing equipment maintenance and repair cycle that you must account for in your project plan. Understanding the upkeep process by learning about work orders, their generation, and how they’re used helps you better map out process dependencies and facilitate coordination between your team and the technicians in charge of service and repair.

What’s a work order?

A work order is a formal paper or digital document generated by a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) authorizing technicians to service a piece of equipment. The order details the nature of the task, as well as the resources, process, and costs necessary to complete it.

For the technical team, the work order forms the foundation of their workflow, helping to organize, communicate, and track maintenance activities within an organization or department.

Work orders versus work requests

The primary differences between work requests and orders are the source and sequence. A work request acts as a trigger, initiating the creation of a work order.

Staff familiar with the asset submit a work request, asking the maintenance planner to authorize service on the equipment. The planner reviews the task and determines approval based on the following:

  • Budget
  • Impact
  • The existing maintenance plan
  • The equipment’s age
  • The issue’s severity

If the task receives approval, the maintenance manager creates and prioritizes a work order within the CMMS and notifies the requesting parties of the assigned technician and when they can expect completion.

5 types of work orders

The maintenance team doesn’t only generate work orders when a piece of equipment breaks down. Here are five work order types, all of which can impact your project scheduling.

1. General work order

These are maintenance tasks that don’t fall under any other category, like setting up new equipment, removing old software, and building upkeep.

2. Preventive work order

Preventive maintenance work orders are scheduled according to a specific time interval, usually recommended by the manufacturer. These tasks keep the equipment functioning at optimal levels and reduce expensive downtime. A preventive order includes:

  • Resource requirements
  • Instructions
  • Task checklist
  • Task notes

3. Inspection work order

An inspection is a recurring audit of an equipment’s condition and performance, scheduled based on government regulations or manufacturer guidelines. Examination may result in the technician identifying an issue that generates another work order to correct the problem.

4. Corrective maintenance work order

This work order usually stems from a safety inspection or preventive work order, although an emergency work order may also trigger its creation. Tasks performed intend to identify, isolate, and remedy an issue, restoring the equipment to optimal working condition.

These jobs are usually planned and scheduled before a costly failure occurs and generally consist of repair, restoration, or replacement of working parts or the entire piece of technology.

5. Emergency work order

Unplanned maintenance activities, also known as reactive maintenance, are often the most expensive type of repair in terms of downtime and labor. These orders are generated when equipment breaks down and technicians must repair it immediately.

Emergency work orders generally include:

  • Details about what caused the outage
  • Previous maintenance records
  • Information to prevent the outage from happening again

Key components of a work order

A work order provides information the technician needs to do the job while delivering data to the operational manager to evaluate the team’s efficiency and the ROM’s accuracy.

An effective work order contains the following components:

  • Requesting party’s name: The person who made the work request, and the main contact touchpoint.
  • Task description: A brief outline of the work the technician must perform.
  • Scope: The tasks expected, which helps the technician outline any work that falls outside this predetermined scope to gain appropriate compensation.
  • Location: Not only the address but the exact whereabouts of the equipment.
  • Dates: When the work request was submitted, assigned, and completed.
  • Technician assigned: The team member responsible for completing the task.
  • Resources: Skills, tools, parts, and whatever else is necessary to fulfill the assignment.
  • Checklist: A step-by-step list of tasks to complete the assigned job.
  • Estimated completion time: A time estimate of how long the job will take.
  • Actual completion time: The number of hours the technician needed to complete the work.
  • Health and safety requirements: Special equipment to keep the technician safe.

The 6-step work order process

Like with projects, managing work orders follows a systemic process from task initiation through completion and analysis.

1. Identification

Someone within the organization has identified an asset that requires service. Taking into consideration whether the task is considered planned or unplanned maintenance, they determine if the technical team should address the issue.

2. Submission

Once they’ve categorized the service type required, the identifying party submits a work request outlining all the pertinent details to the maintenance department for review and approval.

3. Evaluation

The head of the maintenance team reviews work request details and approves it based on impact and whether the department has the personnel and resources needed to complete the job.

4. Creation

Once approved, the next step in the work order process is to convert the request into an order containing all pertinent details. The manager will then prioritize the work order and allocate the necessary resources to complete the job.

5. Assignment

The head of maintenance assigns the work order to a qualified technician using the CMMS. Using the information or checklist contained in the work order, the technician completes the task within the predetermined timeline.

6. Closure

To close out the work, the technician documents task completion, time spent, resources used, and additional notes or observations from the job. Their manager may sign off on the work or offer further feedback.

Those in charge of the work order and maintenance software should periodically review its processes and completed orders to gain insight into team operations, identify inefficiencies, and improve the process.

Work order management best practices

Along with periodically analyzing work order effectiveness, here are a few best practices worth following for efficient maintenance resolution.

Establish goals and measures

Before automating work order creation within the CMMS, document the information the system should capture. And define KPIs for tracking how effective the CMMS setup is, monitoring and tweaking work order strategy implementation regularly.

Define roles and responsibilities

Outline which team members are responsible for each part of the work order process, like:

  • Creation
  • Assignments
  • Prioritization
  • Completion
  • Analysis

Defining roles helps the team work more efficiently by preventing duplicate or unauthorized work and miscommunication.

Build triggers within the CMMS

Work with operations teams to determine the best way to streamline operations by automatically triggering work orders within the CMMS system. The most common triggers include:

  • Breakdowns and outages
  • Time-based scheduled maintenance and inspections
  • Event-based, like a trigger that initiates preventive maintenance on the full equipment line should one piece fail
  • Condition-based, so a work order is created to assess the equipment’s status after a power outage or flood

In addition, you can include triggers that:

  • Launch the initial work request
  • Follow up on failed preventive maintenance
  • Request compliance documentation
  • Create a new work order for additional tasks outside the original scope

Easily manage any project with Roadmunk by Tempo

As a project manager, you must consider everything when developing your project plans, including activities from third parties — like an outside tech team — that impact access to vital technology and tools. A great way to visualize all these moving parts is with Roadmunk by Tempo, a road-mapping tool that creates audience-friendly visuals you can customize and quickly update.

Whether tracking maintenance for IT, product, or project management, Tempo has the tools you need to succeed. With our support, you can foster vital alignment and collaboration between service technicians and your project group.