Work Order Management And The Anatomy Of A Work Order Explained

The Anatomy Of A Work Order

What do you do when you want to make sure that a certain task is performed correctly and on time?

You create a task, describe what needs to be done, assign it to a specific person, and place a due date. And when you do all that, you basically have a work order.

But we can’t tell you all of the secrets here in the intro. For detailed explanations, you will have to read the rest of the article where we take a look at:

  • information that needs to be included on a standard maintenance work order
  • how work orders fit into organizations’ general workflow 
  • how to effectively manage a high volume of work orders with Limble CMMS

What is a work order?

Work order (abbreviated WO) is a task that is scheduled and assigned to a specific person. While the term can be used more broadly, it has found its home in the maintenance industry where it is used to assign work to maintenance technicians. It can be written/printed on a sheet of paper or in the form of a digital document.

Work orders are most often the result of specific work requests (sometimes called work tickets) and as such can be categorized in a few different ways.

Types of work orders

Based on the type of problem that needs to be addressed, a work order can be categorized as:

  1. unplanned work order (used to address unplanned maintenance activities like unexpected machine breakdown)
  2. planned work order (used to schedule some preventive maintenance work)
Depending on where the work request (abbreviated WR) is coming from, we can categorize work orders into:

  1. internal work orders (work requests comes from someone inside the organization)
  2. external work orders (work request comes from someone outside your organization)
Based on how they are scheduled, we can talk these types of work orders:

  1. manual work orders (scheduled by hand, often by a maintenance manager or maintenance supervisor after receiving and reviewing a work request)
  2. automatic work orders (work order software like Limble can be set up to automatically schedule WOs based on your calendar or based on data coming from condition monitoring sensors installed on your equipment) 
Most organizations will actively track only the first work order type we listed so they can compare how much preventive vs reactive maintenance work they are doing. As you can imagine, this is very important information for organizations that want to transition from reactive to preventive maintenance or simply want to track and compare costs associated with preventive and reactive work.

The anatomy of a maintenance work order (which information should be on a WO)

In this section, we are going to discuss which information should be included on a work order so the person performing the required work knows exactly what they need to do. 

Elements of work order
Here is the essential information that should be a part of a standard maintenance work order:

WO element #1: Who requested and/or approved the work

The person that submits work order request and the one that approves it will never be the same person. If you are going to include one or both of their names on a work order is something that depends on your workflow. 

In most cases, maintenance managers or maintenance supervisors will review work requests and assign them to specific technicians if approved. In an alternative scenario, some maintenance technicians will have the authority to review incoming work requests and decide which one they want to pick up. In both cases, it is not a waste to know who authorized a work request (be it a supervisor or the technician himself).

Now, if you are running a property maintenance company or just dealing with work requests that are coming from outside of your organization, then your technicians should also know who requested the work so they can follow up for more information if needed.

WO element #2: What kind of work needs to be performed

An essential part of a work order is the description of the work that needs to be performed. If we are talking about simple task, then a single sentence summary can do.

For more complex work assignments, a list of steps (read instructions) can be included on the work order. For instance, one might include a maintenance checklist that explains the steps needed for executing a specific maintenance task. Alternatively, a more detailed task description will usually be enough (as it is just not plausible to create maintenance checklists for every task a technician might need to perform).

WO element #3: Where the work is being performed (location/asset)

When you have a bigger facility or manage multiple locations, “fix a fridge on the second floor” does not always narrow things down enough. 

A proper work order should say at which location is the asset in question and include some sort of number that uniquely identifies the asset (like a serial number).

More and more systems support barcode scanning (Limble included) so technicians can quickly check if they are looking at the right asset. For example, by using the camera on their mobile device, they can scan the barcode and Limble will automatically load maintenance history and data for that asset.

WO element #4: Who is supposed to perform the work

This part is self-explanatory. Every work order should be assigned to one person (a specific technician) or to a group of people (i.e. morning shift) to ensure the work actually gets done.

WO element #5: What is the due date and time

A great way to end up with a big deferred maintenance backlog is to NOT specify by when should the work be completed. 

As we mentioned multiple times throughout this post, a proper work order needs to be assigned to someone and have an expected completion date and time. If you’re wondering why “time” is important, it is because a maintenance technician will usually have multiple tasks scheduled for each day and some tasks have to be performed earlier than others.

For example, if a machine needs to be lubricated before the afternoon shift starts, then there is a clear time by which that needs to happen. In this scenario, the WO can’t just say to “lubricate machine XY this Thursday”.

An added benefit of setting time for completion is that it helps work planers (maintenance managers and supervisors) to schedule and organize workload between different team members (as it forces them to think how much time is needed to complete a certain task while scheduling maintenance work).

WO element #6: Work priority

No matter which maintenance strategy you use, your maintenance team will have to deal with some amount of unplanned work. Natural disasters, accidents, human error, and machine malfunctions are things you can never completely avoid.  

The ability to assign work priority to a WO helps technicians decide which work needs to be done first. This is especially important in emergency situations when you need all-hand on deck. In such situations, you can use a mobile CMMS to create the work order of the highest priority and send a push notification to all technicians you need to come in for emergency maintenance.

WO element #7: Which spare parts/tools a technician might need

This is not a critical component, but we found it important enough to implement it into Limble CMMS workflow. Whoever uses our software can, for each new work order, assign which spare parts a technician might need to execute a given task. 

This information lowers the chance that technicians will have to go back to the storage/inventory room in the middle of a repair. You can imagine how much cumulative time it saves, especially if maintenance activities are often performed on the other side of the campus or at completely different locations. It can significantly reduce idle time and make sure your technicians spend more of their time performing preventive and repair work.

An added benefit of using CMMS software is that will automatically track a lot of information for you like when was the request submitted and by whom, who approved the work, when was the WO created, how long did it take to perform the work, and more. This data can then be used to generate all kinds of useful reports.

If you do not have access to work order management systems and still need some help creating work orders, you can try out this maintenance work order template.

The standard work order management process

To understand the work order process, let’s take a look at:

  1. when are new work orders created
  2. how do they flow through the organization
  3. what happens with them when the work is completed 
This will help us describe how the standard work order management process looks like in practice and how it fits into overall maintenance management workflow.

#1) The process starts with a work request 

More often than not, maintenance requests are submitted by machine operators or other employees at your facility. They want to report that something is broken 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. Modern organizations use a CMMS software and their workers submit work requests through a work request portal.

work request portal Limble CMMS
#2) Work requests become work orders

Not every work request results in a work order. Work requests are reviewed by managers/supervisors/technicians (different organizations have different workflows and job positions). 

Here are a few situations in which a work request might be denied:

  • submitted work request asks for something that is not under the jurisdiction of the 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 WO might still be created – and immediately put on a deferred maintenance backlog
Work requests that are not approved are archived and corresponding notification is sent to the person that submitted it.

That being said, most work requests are approved and subsequently used to create a WO.

#3) Technicians receive the WO and get to work

If you followed closely so far, you know that a work order should be assigned to a person or a team. If you’re still using paper, a technician will usually get the WO in the paper form from their maintenance manager that has the instructions on where to go and what to do. 

Organizations that have implemented a mobile work order management system have this process way more streamlined. When a maintenance manager or supervisor creates the WO, the assigned technician(s) automatically receive a push notification and/or 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.

#4) The work order is closed

When the required work is performed, a technician closes the work order. If he is using Limble CMMS, he will do the following:

  1. enter how much time he spent performing the work
  2. enter which spare parts he needed
  3. attach pictures/leave comments (if there is anything of importance to note)
  4. leave completion notes
  5. click  the “Complete” button
Work order in Limble
After the WO is closed, the system will automatically update the equipment maintenance log of the corresponding asset, notify the work requester that the job is finished, and calculate total cost of the performed job.

On the other hand, if you’re still stuck using paper records, the WO is usually placed in a box/filing cabinet that holds completed work orders. The problem with this approach is that it often results in missing or damaged records, which we all can agree, is less than ideal.

Here is a graphic that shows all of this in a visual form:

work order management process

How to effectively manage work orders with Limble CMMS

Limble CMMS is built to follow the standard work order management process which makes it really easy to implement Limble in any organization. That being said, the software does also provide you with enough flexibility to adjust it for specific scenarios. 

Here is a list of Limble CMMS 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 needed spare parts are always in stock.
  • Easy-to-use calendar: Calendar allows you to view all open work orders and upcoming PM schedules which makes it easy to estimate 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.
  • Word order management system: Limble’s work order management module is built to streamline work order management by following the best practices outlined in this article. You can schedule work in a few simple clicks, add and change work priority levels, receive automatic push and email notifications, track work progress on the go, track critical KPIs, attach pictures and invoices, record time spent, and much more.
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 like in practice:


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 is their maintenance team 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. 

Either way, modern maintenance teams that use modern CMMS solutions will not only be tangibly more productive but can also report the work that is being performed and reasons why it is (in)effective.

If you’re looking for a software solution to help you automate your maintenance work, Limble CMMS has everything you need. Start a 30-day trial and see it for yourself.

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