Work Order Management 101: How to set up a flawless work order management system
Maintenance work is infinite — maintenance teams are not. How, then, can you succeed at your job? By building a best-in-class work order management system.
If you are getting overwhelmed with maintenance tickets and sick of looking at disorganization in your team, this guide will give you all of the tools you need to raise your standards and implement work order management best practices.
To make sure we are on the same page, let’s start with a definition.
What is Work Order Management?
In short, work order management is how you manage lots of work orders at one time. This is why you need a system.
In an ideal situation, only a few work orders come in each day, and you can quickly fulfill them yourself at a low cost. In reality, your organization is complex, and with that, your work order management requirements become more challenging to manage.
To succeed, you need properly trained workers who can follow defined procedures. On top of that, you also need a robust system that can help you automate the process and handle a high volume of work orders.
The benefits of having a robust WO management system
Standardize your maintenance workflows and eliminate paperwork.
Create a centralized hub to schedule, assign, and track labor hours.
Track maintenance performance (percentage of planned vs. preventive work, costs associated with performed work, downtime, etc.).
Estimate and monitor labor, parts, and miscellaneous costs and pricing.
Stay on top of your inventory management — order parts and supplies so things can get done on time and within budget.
Avoid fines and maintain regulatory compliance more easily because you are organized.
A work order management system provides real-time tracking and regular updates in the process.
Using a work order management system has many positive impacts on your overall effectiveness. Limble customers measure:
CMMS can significantly streamline your work order management processes. However, the software itself is not a solution. It is a tool like any other — only as good as the person using it.
Before we get into optimizations and best practices, let’s review a standard work order management workflow.
What does a typical Work Order Management process look like?
At this point, we will presume that you know how to create a proper work order and instead focus on how to manage them. To understand the work order process, we have to review:
When are new work orders created
How do they flow through the organization
What happens with them when the work is completed
This will help us describe what the standard work order management process looks like in practice, and how it fits into the overall maintenance management workflow.
There are three different parties involved in a WO management process:
Work requester: The person who submits maintenance requests. Usually a machine operator or an employee outside of the maintenance department.
Work approver: The person who reviews and approves maintenance requests. This responsibility falls onto a maintenance manager/supervisor/planner/coordinator.
People carrying out the work: Maintenance mechanics and technicians that execute the required work in the field and on the plant floor.
Below is a graphic that represents a standard work order management process in a visual form, based on a received work request.
1) The process usually starts with a Work Request
The majority of maintenance work requests are submitted by machine operators and other employees at your facility. They want to report that something is not working properly and that a technician should come over to fix it.
If you are doing things the old-fashioned way, that request is submitted via a text message or a phone call, possibly entered into a spreadsheet as well. Modern organizations use computerized maintenance management software like Limble so their workers can submit work requests through a work request portal.
You can customize Limble’s WR portal however you want, asking for specific information during the submission process. Once you are done, share the link on the portal with all stakeholders. This way, anyone with a mobile or desktop device can submit a work request in less than a minute.
Below are a few screenshots that showcase how our work request portal can be customized.
2) Work Requests become Work Orders
Not every work request results in a work order. Here are a few situations in which a work request might be blocked:
The submitted work request asks for something that is not under the jurisdiction of your maintenance team
The problem was resolved before anyone had time to review the submitted work request
The resources (technicians/tools/spare parts) for completing the required work are not available. In this situation, the work order might still be created — and immediately put on a deferred maintenance backlog.
Work requests that are not approved should be archived. A corresponding notification should be sent to the person that submitted it.
These exceptions aside, most work requests are approved and subsequently used to create a Work Order.
3) Technicians receive the WO and get to work
A WO can be assigned to an individual or a team (i.e., the morning shift). If you’re still using paper, a technician will usually get the WO from their supervisor, with the instructions on where to go and what to do.
Businesses that have implemented a mobile work order management system have this process way more streamlined. When maintenance work orders are created, the assigned technician(s) automatically receive a push notification and an email.
Depending on the priority of the work order, a technician might start working on it right away or tend to the WO when his schedule clears up.
Limble’s mobile app makes it easy for maintenance technicians to have all the information they need at their fingertips at all times. It also streamlines work order tracking for managers, enabling them to know what’s happening with their maintenance operations in real-time.
4) The Work Order is completed and closed
After the required work has been performed, a technician will close the work order. If they are using Limble CMMS (other vendors follow a similar approach), they will do the following:
Enter the amount of time spent performing the work.
Confirm which spare parts and material they used.
Attach pictures/leave completion comments (if there is anything of importance to note).
In Limble, no one has to go hunting for work orders filed away in a cabinet in the upstairs office. All completed work is automatically logged in the corresponding asset card.
Limble tracks detailed WO history for each asset
Top 5 Work Order Management best practices
Productive maintenance teams have a few things in common:
They have clearly defined goals, procedures, and responsibilities.
They actively work on improving their internal processes.
They use maintenance software to automate and streamline work.
They know how to set up their maintenance team for success.
Here’s how you can set up your team for success when it comes to work order management.
1) Build SOPs and checklists
Find the person in your team that is best at completing specific tasks. Ask them to break down their approach in the form of steps. Use that to define standard operating procedures and/or build maintenance checklists. Save them into your CMMS software in the form of templates, and attach them to Work Orders as needed.
You can use Limble’s PM builder to quickly build all kinds of SOPs and checklists.
Congratulations! You have made a huge step towards optimizing maintenance work at your facility.
2) Develop a method for prioritizing maintenance work
Deciding which Work Orders should have higher priority should be a systematic process relying on clearly defined metrics, not something that is done based on a feeling or assumptions. In other words, how you prioritize maintenance work should reflect its true effect on the overall operations of the plant and asset management.
In short, when assigning a priority to a WO, consider the following:
What is the criticality of the equipment
What will be the effects of delaying the completion of this WO.
What are the real-world limitations on executing this type of work (like spare parts, labor, and tool availability).
Changing the oil on a forklift is pretty straightforward. Troubleshooting a CNC machine is not.
There are many resources you can make readily available to handle complex assets and streamline the execution of dangerous or complicated maintenance tasks.
Imagine the following scenario. A machine operator sends a ticket saying that water pressure significantly drops when they turn on hot water. The maintenance manager reviews and approves the request. They create a WO to identify and fix the issue and assign it to a boiler technician.
If they really want to set up the technician for success, they would ensure that work orders include the following information:
Comments left by the person who spotted and reported the problem. For an A+ effort, it also doesn’t hurt to have their contact information in case your technician has follow-up questions.
Complete maintenance history for that boiler.
Its maintenance manual.
The troubleshooting checklist for that model of boiler.
Other relevant SOPs and checklists.
4) Assign tasks based on skills and competencies
Some maintenance jobs require a hammer, while others need to be executed with high precision. Certain tasks can be done with minimal physical effort, while others cram you into tight corners or force you to handle heavy loads.
As maintenance tasks vary in type, scope, and flexibility, so do maintenance workers. Experience, knowledge, physical and mental capability, motor skills, and familiarity with specific tools are just some of the characteristics that differ from technician to technician.
Understanding their team’s skills, competencies, and preferences will enable maintenance planners to match technicians with jobs they are most suited to perform.
5) Automate the process with cloud-based CMMS
There are no two ways around it. CMMS solutions exist to help you automate, organize, and streamline maintenance work — from the top level to the ground level. If a modern, cloud-based maintenance solution is not among your management tools, you are miles away from optimizing your maintenance processes.
If you are not sold on this idea, the following section might change your mind.
Use Limble CMMS as your Work Order Management software
By standardizing and automating the workflow process, increasing visibility into customer, technician, and tool availability, and improving communications, work orders are more efficient, field technicians are more productive, and customers are provided with a better customer experience.
Limble CMMS can help track, automate, and manage work tasks, making a previously paper-intensive process much more efficient. You can provide quality, error-free information tracking your maintenance cost, parts, work requests/orders, etc. You can also keep a detailed record of the number of people who worked on a specific work order, plus the time spent completing it.
This saves everyone so much time and helps maintenance managers cover all their bases.
Here is a list of additional Limble CMMS dashboard features that help you efficiently manage any volume of maintenance work:
Work request system: Enables every authorized person to quickly submit a work request through a simple form instead of interrupting technicians with phone calls or text messages. The work requester will get email notifications about the progress of their request so they do not constantly interrupt technicians by requesting updates.
Automatic inventory tracking: Whenever a technician completes a WO, they can mark how many spare parts they ended up using. Limble automatically updates inventory stock levels according to that info. Along with the ability to set up notifications for low stock levels, this helps managers to do accurate inventory forecasts and ensure that the needed spare parts are always in stock.
Easy-to-use calendar: The calendar allows you to view all open work orders and upcoming PM schedules, which makes it easy to estimate the workloads of different technicians and shifts. New work can, therefore, be scheduled fairly and tracked more easily.
Automatic task creation: Limble supports advanced maintenance strategies like predictive maintenance. What this means in the context of work order management is that you can connect Limble with condition monitoring sensors and set up rules for automatic task creation based on incoming data.
Mobile maintenance app: A flexible software solution that works on mobile devices, Limble eliminates the need to return to a central office to file and submit paperwork. This means your field service techs can have all the information they could need right on their mobile device, ensuring they see what you see in real-time.
To prove these are not just empty words, we highly recommend you check out our tutorial for work order management in Limble and see how all of this looks in practice:
Stay organized and look good while doing it
A well-organized work order program supported by the right digital system can save your company money, streamline department operations, and help you look good at your job.
Effectively managing maintenance work is the main purpose of a maintenance department. If things are breaking down left and right, people will rightfully ask themselves what their maintenance team is doing. The unfair part is that the maintenance team will get a lot of flack when things aren’t working, but very little praise when everything is going smoothly.
Maintenance teams that use a mobile CMMS solution will not only be more productive but also have tangible information they can use to spot bottlenecks and optimize their maintenance workflows.
If you want to test how Limble CMMS handles work orders, you have three options:
"I can track my inventory and it sends me emails when I'm running low on an item. Also that I can track how much time I'm spending on certain jobs over an extended period of time."
— Cody Jensen
Very easy to use, access
"I like the price, the fact I can see it on my phone or the computer. I like that it is internet-based."
— Curt Waisath
Valley Salt LLC
It just works
"Honestly - the customer support has been fabulous. We had a minor feature request that was deployed within 24 hours - which is unheard of. Even better when you consider our business is located in a completely different time zone (somewhere in Australia). Limble is quite intuitive and I love the ability to have assets nested within each other."
— Ed Cronin
Great for smaller or larger facilities
"We haven't fully integrated Limble yet but we are already seeing improvements in our efficiency. As we fully integrate Limble we expect to see more benefits and increase our response and completion times. The customer support has been outstanding. The Limble team is very quick to respond to any questions and they are very open to suggestions."
— Mike Hill
Children's Home of Lubbock
Limble is the best thing to happen to this company
"Limble does such a good job at keeping track of what's been done and letting me know when and what I need to do next."
— Tom Jones
Little Giant Ladder Systems
Great product at a great price
"Terrific customer service, easy to use, and at a great value. Our old Maintenance software was very difficult to use and was very expensive."
— Brian Williams
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