Work orders: everything you need to know about them

Table of Contents

Work orders are the engine of your maintenance operation. They are document that provides information about a maintenance task and summarize the process for completing that task. A maintenance work order is an authorization to perform requested activities. Once work requests are reviewed and approved an official work order is send it over.

Work orders are essential tools because they help everyone from maintenance managers to technicians organize, assign, prioritize, track, and complete key tasks.

A work order should include:

-Description of the task.

-Name of requesting department or individual

-Estimated completion date

-Name of person to complete the task.


-Order or tracking number.

-Client contact details

Types of work orders

There are different types of work orders, but they generally fall into one of the following categories:

Preventive maintenance

Include preventive routines such as cleaning, routine lubrication, air filter change among others. These tasks are designed to prevent a machine from breakage and should comply with manufacturers’ recommendations.


These work orders focus on inspecting and reviewing your assets and are part of a preventive maintenance strategy.


Some work orders are emergencies. These tasks need be performed in order to protect expensive company assets and control damages.


These work orders prevent health and safety risks.


These are work orders related to wiring, lighting or power supplies, for instance.

How to improve your work order process?

To carry out effective work order management and tracking process, follow these tips.

Digitize your work order process

Your paperwork can get lost easily. Using digital work orders will eliminate this problem and you won’t need to worry about misinterpreting messy handwriting. Using digital work orders, your forms get automatically integrated into your company’s system making things easier for every member of your team.

In addition, sending and receiving digital work orders is easier.

Identify the asset and describe the issue

Try to describe in simple words what happened or the malfunction reported. If the cause is not clear, the technicians might waste time trying to find the issue.

Use a work order every time

Some small tasks may seem irrelevant to track, but they add up hours into your team workload each week. Creating work orders for smaller tasks can help your company to save time and troubleshoot issues more easily in the future. Having a system of record, you could check the asset’s work order history and see which parts were replaced recently.

Prioritize your work orders

Some requests must be treated as high priority, especially if they involve site or personnel safety. Other routine maintenance requests may not need to be addressed as first concern and can receive a lower priority (low or medium).

Having a maintenance work order prioritization procedure in place will prevent requesters from marking every work order with a high priority.

Track your inventory

A work order can help you track time and costs. It can also help you track parts, materials, purchase orders, and receipts. That is why many CMMS solutions come with inventory management software. You can even adjust your settings to receive notifications when your inventory is low.

How to create the perfect work order

The best way to identify and resolve work order concerns is to understand the journey a work order takes. Although each one is different, most begin when an internal or external customer initiates a request. Completing a work order can take minutes, hours, days or longer depending upon the complexity of the work. Every work order has three main phases: creation, completion, and recording. These phases can be broken down into different steps such as:

Identify the task

If you work with planned maintenance and carry out routine inspections, you could foresee unexpected breakdown and be ahead of time.

Create a maintenance request

The details of the job have to be put together and submitted to the maintenance team for further action. For example, when a machine breaks down, an operator creates a work request and submits it to maintenance.

Prioritize and schedule work orders

Some jobs are more time-sensitive than others are. Some issues do not need to be fixed immediately, but other are quite urgent. That is why prioritizing every work order is crucial. After prioritizing, you should schedule based on a set deadline. Setting a deadline keeps everyone informed about the priorities.

Assign the work

Each work order has to be assigned to a technician or a group of workers so they can carry out the specific tasks.

The work order is closed and documented

Once a work order is completed, the issue is closed and filed away. A properly organized work order log is essential for building asset histories, reviewing past solutions, preventing future problems and more.

The work order is analyzed

Closed work orders contain valuable information. They can provide insights into your processes that can be used to optimize your operation. Having a work order log also allows technicians to quickly spot any missed steps or alternate solutions if an issue rises up again.

Advantages of implementing work orders

Using work orders, you can get greater control over the maintenance processes. Furthermore, assigning work orders to your team allow you to track and optimize their performance.

Here we have listed few reasons to start using them.

They provide relevant information

A work order provides important information from specific tasks to the entire maintenance processes. If you aim document every work order, you must get detailed information about a variety of problem that might arise. This information will help you to solve problems faster the next time you face similar issues improving work efficiency. By studying this data, you can find the main cause of each equipment breakdown, come up with a solution and decrease the frequency of recurring problems. Furthermore, if an issue keeps arising often, it might affect the entire maintenance process. In such instances, the documented information becomes fundamental because it helps you analyze and understand where the process need improvement.

They help keeping processes organized

Without a work order, employees create maintenance requests informally, with no documentation or proof, which leads to inefficiencies, confusion regarding who has to do what, and about the priority tasks.

Maintenance work order keeps processes well organized

A work order can be a great help to deal with such inefficiencies by forming a formal model to create, assign and complete task requests. As a company, you want to ensure that the most important tasks are resolved first. A maintenance work order specify the priority level of a task.

However, if your business does not use work orders, then priority tasks might not be resolved in a timely manner. This could lead to major costs because of time lost and unavailable equipment.

They improve work efficiency

A work order provides information to ensure that every employee is on the same page. Everyone knows who the technician on the task is, what issues are a priority and when the deadline is.

Effective work orders improve communication so everyone is clear about the role they play. Therefore, there is fewer mistakes, and less time to fix errors or clear up confusions.

Maintenance work orders also provides a standardized process and improve quality since every task is done in a pre-defined and optimized way.

Improves compliance with manufacturing and safety regulations

Facility managers have the means to take responsible decisions to increase compliance with rules and regulations. This ensures the safety of their employees. Effective work orders provides the means to view, diagnose, and improve health and safety conditions and help managers to create a productive manufacturing environment while assuring maximum uptime.

Enhanced productivity

Equipment downtime can turn into poor service, lost profits and higher operational costs. With an organize maintenance work order system, users can receive and create work order tickets increasing productivity. It also decreases turnaround times with quicker work completion and greater transparency.

Benefit of using digital work orders

A digital work order system takes all of the components that make up the work life cycle, from scheduling to completion, and transforms them into one easy-to-access bucket.

An automated work order system eliminate the flow of paper documents or the need to update spreadsheets manually. It speeds up approval, billing and invoicing, and improve communication with your team and with contractors. Perhaps most importantly, it minimizes opportunities for human error.

By using a digital work order solution, you could make a maintenance request through a web app rather than having to make a phone call so assigning tasks to technicians is easier than ever. If new equipment was needed, the technician could make a note on the digital work order, giving everyone real-time updates on the job’s progress.

The bottom line

Work orders are the keystone of great maintenance. When managed properly, they give your team the organization it needs to be efficient. A well-built maintenance work order and work order process makes it easier to establish a preventive maintenance program and react to unplanned maintenance.

Choosing the right tools and systems to manage work orders is the essential piece of the puzzle. Digitizing work order management processes can hugely benefit your organization saving your team time, keeping things organized, managing your resources more efficiently and facilitating data analysis in order to make the required changes faster and in an efficient manner.

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About the author

Sandra Melo
Sandra Melo

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