Work orders are the most common part of a maintenance crew’s routine. These are documents which, in simple terms, provide all the information about a maintenance task that needs to be performed. When executed well, work orders are essential in helping facility managers and technicians organize, prioritize and accomplish tasks.
However, the process can be difficult if it is not well organized. A maintenance request that anyone in the business can log can be difficult to manage. In addition, issues such as repeated work orders, the same task assigned to different technicians, and missed service appointments can occur.
As a facilities manager, you’ve probably wondered what the best way to handle work orders is. After all, only effective management can ensure that things run smoothly and that components are repaired in the event of failure.
Factors to consider
There are a few factors that can help you choose the best work order management system for your facility:
- Type of installation – 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 business, you will need to review and approve dozens of requests before issuing work orders to your team.
- Types of tasks – Maintenance tasks are generally divided into planned and unexpected The first concerns all the tasks that you already know in advance (the so-called routine inspections). On the other hand, unscheduled maintenance is carried out after the occurrence of the damage, when an equipment suddenly stops working. Only effective management of work orders allows properly planned maintenance.
- Maintenance and other employees – A small maintenance team can organize itself 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 must fall within the budget, it is therefore essential to avoid unforeseen breakdowns which require emergency repair (often more expensive).
Ways to Manage Work Orders: Pros and Cons
The best-written work order will be pointless if it is not handled properly. The role of a facility manager is to ensure that all work orders move from stage to stage until completion. There are several ways to effectively manage work orders.
Pen and paper
Work orders filled with pen and paper have been around since the dawn of maintenance. It is probably the easiest and cheapest system to set up.
- It does not require any specific training or learning
- Current “paper trail” for documentation
- Technical malfunctions do not eliminate hard copies
- Hard copies can be lost / damaged more easily
- Less accessible for employees with different abilities
- It is not accessible remotely; you must have the printed document in hand
- Not ecological
- You cannot see the entire workflow because there is no integration with other systems
Paperwork was taking up a lot of space and was no longer a green option. Whiteboards emerged as the first evolution of the analog system, allowing the reuse of the same space. In this case, the work orders are placed manually on a large board in a single central area.
- Requires little or no training to use
- Anyone can see the display, so there is no possibility of dispute over what it says
- No need to worry about losing copies because everything is in one place
- The whiteboard is fixed in one place, and the team will have to check it frequently (which can be inconvenient)
- If employees don’t add (or forget to add) the work orders themselves, the system is useless
- Difficult to keep up to date
Excel spreadsheets have become a great ally of facility managers, relatively easy to use and to archive – and digital.
- Eliminate paper and physical space to write work orders
- It can be checked anywhere (as long as the Wi-Fi is working)
- You can see everyone’s workflow together
- No adaptability to different / evolving needs
- Cannot send notifications or be personalized
- It can get very complicated if employees don’t have access to spreadsheets or don’t have enough Excel training
A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a natural evolution of other systems: software that completely automates the process, from the request of the task to its completion.
- Work order management software allows integration with other existing software and systems
- In addition to managing work orders, you can also use it to facilitate the operation of other areas (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 is accessible from smartphones
- It can be expensive, so you want to make sure it’s a worthwhile investment.
- Requires specific learning to use, and you will need to train the employees and everyone involved in the process
All methods of organizing and managing work orders have advantages and disadvantages. When making your decision, keep in mind that the effectiveness of the system will depend on the people who use it. Just as the whiteboard only worked when staff were writing down the information, the CMMS needs to be properly updated with the data.
Don’t forget to offer comprehensive employee training and use hybrid management systems while deploying a new interface. You can facilitate the transition by keeping the work orders on paper which are gradually used to feed the CMMS. Nothing prevents you from using the software while maintaining a whiteboard with summary information for the crew.
It is possible to indefinitely manage work orders on paper or on whiteboards. However, as businesses grow, it can get more complex, especially when you need to keep track of assets (how well they were repaired, when they last inspected), plan for services, and maintain clear and organized communication with your staff. .
The importance of choosing the right system involves factors such as time, money, and resources to invest in the technology. Be aware that a new system will require new training for your team. Innovation always happens, so new solutions keep improving.
Managing work orders makes everyone’s life easier
An efficient maintenance service necessarily requires good 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 business assets in order.
There are several ways to manage work orders, and you can even mix some of them. However, consider CMMS to be the fastest and most convenient solution to improve workflows and keep track of tasks and assets. This step will make life easier for everyone: yours, that of your technicians and that of the company as a whole.
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