How to Write Work Orders: A Simple Guide

In fast-paced industrial environments, the simple work order serves as the backbone of effective facility management and preventive maintenance programs

A work order is a document that delivers details related to a maintenance task like clear instructions for technicians. It’s the pivotal communication tool that bridges the gap between identifying that an asset needs maintenance and getting the necessary work done. Maintenance teams use work orders to ensure tasks are completed the right way. The documents also help simplify performance tracking and support a more strategic asset management program altogether.

Let’s take a look at what it takes to complete a work order. 

What goes into a work order?

Putting together a clear, concise work order is crucial for properly executing maintenance tasks. A well-written work order includes the following key components:

  • Work order number: This unique identification is included because it helps track and reference the work order throughout its lifecycle. 
  • Description of the task: Every work order needs a detailed explanation of the work that needs to be done. The goal is to give the maintenance team a thorough understanding of the job they have to do and reduce the need for follow-up questions that might contribute to extra downtime
  • Assigned maintenance technician or team: Work order requests often include the ID and contact information of the technician or team responsible for completing a task as well as those who assigned the work order. This helps build accountability and improve performance tracking by creating a trackable paper trail
  • Expected completion date: Work orders should include proposed due dates and completion timelines. This helps you prioritize tasks to plan and schedule future work. Make sure to leave space for technicians to note their actual completion dates.
  • Special instructions: You may have to follow a certain maintenance schedule, or use tools or special procedures to get a given job done efficiently. A work order may, for example, include a safety checklist to ensure maintenance departments adhere to company procedures or meet industry requirements.

By including these components in your work orders, you’ll keep everyone in the loop. That usually cuts down on the confusion and mistakes that can lead to excess downtime.

Different types of work orders

With so many different types of maintenance, you inevitably encounter a wide variety of work orders. It’s helpful to get to know all the different variations to ensure your documents suit your maintenance workflows and the department’s needs.

  • Preventive maintenance work orders: These are scheduled tasks based on time or usage to proactively maintain equipment. For more advanced organizations, these work orders may involve predictive maintenance tasks. They all help decrease the likelihood of unexpected equipment breakdowns.
  • Corrective maintenance work orders: More on the reactive maintenance side of things, corrective work orders are usually issued after some kind of issue is identified. Perhaps equipment has broken down and needs to be brought back to full functionality, for example.
  • Emergency work orders: Managers issue these work requests when an unexpected breakdown occurs that requires immediate attention.
  • Inspection work orders: These service orders are usually much more routine and deal with evaluating the overall condition of equipment and infrastructure. They help catch any potential troubles before they escalate or become a real problem. 

By using different types of maintenance requests and work orders, your managers can adjust workflows to make sure they send resources to the right places and always hit their productivity targets.  

How to write a work order: a step-by-step guide

Attention to detail is key when it comes to writing a work order. Make sure you accurately capture all necessary information about the task:

  1. Identify the problem or need: What needs to be repaired or replaced? Is it unexpected or is it just routine maintenance? Start by indicating what the maintenance task involves.  
  2. Pick the work order type: Now that you know the nature of the issue, pick the corresponding request. It may be preventive, corrective, emergency, or inspection.
  3. Fill out the work order form: Create a physical or digital work order, using a work order template to save time and ensure consistency with established best practices. Make sure to include all key details noted above. 

Work order management software also helps with this part of the process, offering features that a spreadsheet alone can’t hope to match. A Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) streamlines everything from submitting the initial work request to automatically generating the work order itself. CMMS software also provide centralized dashboards for tracking the maintenance department’s performance against key KPIs and simplifying all aspects of work order management.

What comes next?

Issuing a work order isn’t the end of the process. Once you’ve sent out the work order, it’s time for the maintenance worker or team assigned to the project to execute.

  • Task execution: The assigned technician or team starts the work that needs to be done, sticking to the instructions in the work order.
  • Progress tracking: Team members provide status updates and project details in real time (often through a CMMS). 
  • Completion: This usually involves updating the work order status and documenting the work that was performed.
  • Review and refinement: Team members review how the job went. With an eye on key metrics, they can identify opportunities to make process improvements and refine maintenance operations

Best practices for effective work order management

You’ll have more success in maintenance management if you follow proven best practices like these.

  • Use clear and concise descriptions: Each work order should have a clear, detailed description of the task. Clarity eliminates confusion and gives direction to workers.
  • Be realistic: Does your timeline make sense given the complexity of the task or the availability of resources? You want high-quality work and you’ll risk mistakes and burnout if you push your team too hard or expect more than is reasonable. 
  • Prioritize tasks based on criticality: Prioritize work orders based on key factors like the importance of affected equipment, safety risks, or the cost of potential downtime. You want to address the most critical issues right away so you can keep the most important equipment running. 
  • Remember, safety is everything: Compliance and attention to regulatory standards are key. Include safety instructions and any necessary precautions in every work order. 
  • Provide regular training and feedback: Team members should get regular training on best practices, including lessons on how to use CMMS software effectively. Encourage feedback to continuously improve the entire work order process.

Download our free work order template

As you work to make your maintenance program the best it can be, time-saving tools like our free work order templates can help you: 

  • Make your work order management system and its processes consistent across maintenance teams and facilities
  • Eliminate confusion in the work order workflow
  • Enhance your maintenance team’s overall efficiency and performance

Explore Limble’s free maintenance templates & checklists to see how it can help you transform your preventive maintenance program and introduce strategies to excel.

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