Work orders are the most common elements in a maintenance team’s routine. They are documents that, simply put, provide all the information about a maintenance task that one must carry out. When done well, work orders are essential in helping facility managers and technicians organize, prioritize, and complete tasks.
However, the process can be challenging if it’s not well organized. A maintenance request that anyone at the company can log can be difficult to manage. Also, problems such as repeated work orders, the same task assigned to different technicians, and missed service appointments can arise.
As a facility manager, you’ve probably wondered about the best way to handle work orders. After all, only efficient management can guarantee that things run smoothly and components get fixed when broken.
Factors to Consider
Some factors can help you choose which work order management system works best for your facility:
- Type of Facility– Depending on the type of business, any customer or employee can submit work requests to the maintenance team. This accessibility means that, depending on the size of your company, you will have to review and approve dozens of requests before issuing the work orders to your crew.
- Types of Tasks– Maintenance tasks are generally divided into planned and unplanned The first is all those tasks that you already know in advance (the so-called routine inspections). On the other hand, unplanned maintenance is done after the damage occurs, when a piece of equipment suddenly stops working. Only efficient work order management allows for properly planned maintenance.
- Maintenance and Non-Maintenance Employees– A reduced maintenance crew may organize relatively well with fewer resources. However, the larger the group and the number of employees on-site, the greater the need for an improved system.
- Budget– Maintenance tasks need to fit within your department’s budget, so it’s essential to avoid unexpected breakdowns that require emergency repair (often more expensive).
Ways to Manage Work Orders: Pros and Cons
The best-written work order will do no good if it is not appropriately managed. A facility manager’s role is to ensure that all work orders move from one step to the next through to completion. There are several ways to manage work orders effectively.
Pen & Paper
Work orders filled with pen and paper have been around since the dawn of maintenance. They’re probably the easiest and cheapest system to put in place.
- It doesn’t require any specific training or learning
- Current “paper trail” for documentation
- Tech malfunctions do not delete paper copies
- Copies on paper can be lost/damaged more easily
- Less accessible for employees with different abilities
- It can’t be accessed remotely; you need to have the printed document in hand
- Not eco-friendly
- You can’t see the entire workflow as there’s no integration with other systems
The paperwork took up a lot of space and wasn’t an ecological option anymore. Whiteboards emerged as the first evolution of the analog system, allowing the reuse of the same space. In this case, work orders are manually placed on a large board in a single central area.
- Requires little or no training to use
- Everyone can see the display, so there’s no possibility of disputes about what it says
- No need to worry about losing copies, as everything is in one location
- The whiteboard is fixed in a single place, and the team will need to check it frequently (which can be inconvenient)
- If employees don’t add (or forget to add) work orders themselves, the system is useless
- Hard to keep updated
Excel spreadsheets became a great ally of facility managers, relatively simple to use and archive – and digital.
- Eliminates paper and physical space to write down work orders
- It can be checked anywhere (as long as Wi-Fi is working)
- You can view everyone’s workflow together
- No adaptability to different/changing needs
- Can’t send notifications or be customized
- It can get messy very quickly if employees don’t have access to the spreadsheets or if they don’t have enough training using Excel
A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a natural evolution of the other systems: software that completely automates the process, from task request to completion.
- Software for managing work orders allows integration with other existing software and systems
- In addition to managing work orders, you can also use it to make other areas run more smoothly (you can track assets and tasks to give you usable data, for example)
- It can send automatic notifications
- It has an interface where people can submit work orders themselves
- It can be accessed from smartphones
- It can be pricey, so you want to make sure it’s a worthwhile investment
- Requires specific learning to use, and you will need to train employees and everyone involved with the process
All methods for organizing and managing work orders have pros and cons. When making your decision, remember that the system’s effectiveness will depend on the people who use it. Just as the whiteboard only worked when the staff wrote down the information on it, the CMMS needs to be adequately updated with data.
Don’t forget to provide full training for employees and use hybrid management systems while deploying a new interface. You can make the transition smoother by keeping work orders on paper that are gradually being used to feed the CMMS. Nothing prevents you from using the software while maintaining a whiteboard with summary information to the crew.
It’s possible to manage work orders on paper or whiteboards indefinitely. However, as companies grow, it can become more complex, especially when you need to track assets (their state of repair, when you last inspected them), schedule services, and maintain clear, organized communication with your staff.
The importance of choosing the right system involves factors such as time, money, and resources to invest in technology. Be aware that a new system will require new training for your team. Innovation is always happening, so new solutions continue to improve.
Managing Work Orders Makes Everyone’s Life Easier
An efficient maintenance department necessarily undergoes proper management of work orders. When this happens, your technicians work with more organization, focus, and safety, and it becomes easier to establish a preventive maintenance program to keep the company’s assets in order.
There are several ways to manage work orders, and you can even mix some of them. However, think of CMMS as the fastest, most practical solution for improving workflows and tracking tasks and assets. This step will make everyone’s lives easier – yours, your technicians, and the company as a whole.
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