Work orders streamline operations, keeping processes within an organization running smoothly and efficiently. They play an important role in a number of industries. So, how do you create one?
A work order is a document created to define and authorize work that needs to be completed. It outlines the specific task that needs to be accomplished, usually maintenance, field repairs, installations or similar technical work. Along with the task, it contains all the crucial information necessary for completing it, such as the person to whom it’s assigned, the priority level of the assignment, the resources necessary and the date by which it must be completed.
A work order is typically initiated by the customer or client in one of the above scenarios — maintenance, repairs or other similar work that requires someone with specialized skills to complete. When the customer makes the request, the organization responsible creates the work order, filling in the necessary information and passing it along to the person who will carry it out.
The work order process begins with the customer or client making the request for a specific task to be accomplished. Perhaps, for example, a sink is in need of repair. The customer will contact the plumbing company with the request — fixing the sink — and the task is initiated to become part of the company’s workflow.
After the company receives the request or they’re notified that repair or work is needed, they create the work order. In order to create it, they will need to gather all the necessary details, as outlined below. A company will often have a template or software (or another tool listed below) to streamline and simplify the process. That way, every time they need to create a work order, they can use this tool to make the process and task easier to complete.
Once the work order is created, the business or organization will determine who is responsible for fulfilling it. Then, they will assign the person who will complete it and deliver it as appropriate. They will also schedule it, establishing when it should begin and the date it should be completed. The business fulfilling the work order will also determine its priority, deciding where it falls within the hierarchy of other work orders and tasks that must be fulfilled at a given time. The schedule will be created based on this hierarchy, ensuring that everything is accomplished in the correct order.
After the work order is created and assigned to the appropriate person or persons responsible for fulfilling it, the business delivers it to said party, letting them know that they need to complete the specific task. Whoever receives it will look over the work order to ensure that they understand all of the terms and have the appropriate resources and materials they need to successfully complete it. If they have questions or don’t have the proper resources, they will discuss it further with the employer or organization that issued the work order.
This is the step that is the whole purpose of the work order — the time it’s actually fulfilled. The person or persons responsible will complete the work order according to the specified terms laid out in the document, whether it’s a quick repair, lengthy installation or something else entirely. Once it has been completely executed, the case can be fully documented and closed, which brings us to the next step...
During and at the work order’s completion, the entire case should be documented from start to finish. Whoever is completing it must take meticulous notes about the processes they’re using, the resources and systems necessary, any issues or hiccups they encounter along the way and any other pertinent information. Not only will this create a log and history that provides a record of the work order and its fulfillment, but it will also allow the organization to assess what went right, along with issues that should be addressed the next time around.
After the work order is completed and fully documented, the organization responsible will declare the issue resolved. At this point, the business will generate an invoice that requested payment from the customer or client for which the work order was initially generated and fulfilled. Once the invoice has been paid in full, the work order is fully completed, and the case is closed.
This is the very beginning of the work order: the specific task that needs to be accomplished. A full description of this responsibility must be included in the document, including the demand for the work and the specific steps that must be done in order to fulfill the work order.
To whom is the task assigned? The organization must make this decision prior to issuing the work order. If multiple people or an outside vendor must be part of the process, that should be stated in the document, too.
The party who needs the task completed or problem resolved should also be stated within the order. This will be the particular client or customer, as well as the overseeing member of the organization, such as the manager of the person responsible for completing and submitting the work order.
The work order must state key dates involved, including when the request was submitted, when the work order itself was initiated and when it must be completed. Additionally, it should include any critical benchmarks, if the work order is to be completed over a period of time. The final document should also state the number of hours or another length of time it took to complete the task.
What materials, documents, tools and information does the responsible party need to complete the task in the work order? This is an important part of the request because the person or people who fulfill it need to know what they should have in order to fully complete the task at hand.
The organization responsible probably has plenty of tasks they need to complete at a given time. So, any time something new comes into the pipeline, the organization will assign it a priority level according to where it falls within the hierarchy of the responsibilities. This scale should be established beforehand, such as a color or number system or a descriptor, like high, medium or low.
The party responsible for fulfilling the task also needs to know where they should be doing so. If it’s a building, for example, the work order should list the name of the building (if applicable), the address, the city and the zip code. If it’s a specific room or location within a larger campus, the details must be provided, so the employee can find it successfully.
If there are risks associated with completing the task, the person to whom you assign it should be aware of them. Whether health or safety-related, these risks must be fully spelled out in the work order, so the parties responsible bring any appropriate protective equipment or resources and carry out the task according to specified safety procedures.
Often, a work order demands specific skills or qualifications in order for the assigned person to fulfill it successfully. To make sure this person has the requisite expertise, you should outline these skills in the work order. You should also state any benchmarks that are necessary to meet in order to achieve the end goal, including the skills and qualifications necessary for achieving these milestones.
Finally, the work order should include any other pertinent information necessary for completing the work order. The person fulfilling it should take notes during the process to ensure that the task is completed successfully, as well as to provide relevant information that may pertain to it. For example, if the worker encounters problems, they should note them within the work order.
Traditionally, businesses have used a pen and paper to manage work orders. This is probably the easiest and most straightforward means of handling them. But given the more advanced methods available these days, this may not be the best approach for your business. After all, papers can easily be misplaced, handwriting can be misread and so on. Still, there’s no doubt that this is probably the cheapest way of handling work orders.
Another fairly simple and straightforward system is spreadsheets, such as Excel or Google Sheets. This addresses some of the issues with pen and paper, such as problems misplacing papers. Because it’s digital, you won’t lose track of the work order. But this does lack the bells and whistles of software.
Because work orders are so common in many industries, there are a number of templates available, both digital and in print, to streamline the work order process. These templates usually include spaces to list all the information that should be included, supplies necessary and other critical notes. This is a good option for busy or new organizations that don’t have the time to create their work orders from scratch.
Computer maintenance management systems (CMMS) leverages cloud computing and other technologies to streamline the work order process. This not only makes generating these files easier, but it also allows businesses to track their status in real-time. Plus, you can track them from any location with an internet connection and view their history in one place.
There are many different brands of CMMS, such as:
1. eMaint CMMS
This scalable software is ideal for small businesses. In addition to work orders, the CMMS facilitates inventory and supplies tracking, workflow, maintenance and repairs and much more. When any circumstances change or updates occur, the software sends automatic alerts.
Using UpKeep, team members can create work orders from any location, receive alerts from multiple devices, see the progress of specific tasks, review due dates and more. One feature is the addition of color-coded priority notes.
3. Hippo CMMS
This user-friendly system addresses needs across a wide variety of industries, helping them streamline the work order and maintenance process. The web-based CMMS has an easy-to-use graphical interface.
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.
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