April 15, 2022


Maintenance 101: How Does a Work Order Work? (With Examples)

Maintenance 101: How Does a Work Order Work? (With Examples)

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “maintenance?” For us, it’s work orders—digital work orders are the heart of MaintainX’s work order (WO) software.

When Chris Turlica, our co-founder and CEO, surveyed the deskless workforce several years ago, he was shocked. He couldn’t believe how many world-class companies were still managing maintenance tasks with pen and paper in the 2000s!

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According to the Maintenance Management Buyer Report 2018, 75 percent of companies use paper, spreadsheets, or nothing at all to manage maintenance tasks.

The more Chris learned, the more one thing became abundantly clear: global operational and maintenance professionals were long overdue for a technological revolution. The kind of revolution that had catalyzed a new era of productivity, efficiency, and convenience for their office-dwelling counterparts to be precise.

If you don’t know a ton about work orders or WO software, we’ve got you. In this article, we’ll answer the question: how does a WO work?

work order

What Is a Work Order?

A work order (WO) is a document that provides maintenance technicians with the information they need to perform assigned tasks on tangible assets. 

WOs often include essential details, such as who assigned the project, to whom, and how one should complete it. Organizations use WOs to organize routine maintenance duties, reactive maintenance needs, safety inspections, and quality control inspections. The documents are used for both planned and unplanned maintenance. 

Why Create a Work Order?

The four primary purposes for generating WOs are to: 

  • Explain an equipment problem that needs inspection or repair
  • Provide technicians work instructions and asset background information 
  • Outline resources, labor, and materials required for maintenance 
  • Track the work performed on each asset for historical records

However, depending on the industry, organizations may use the documents in various ways. For example, restaurants may assign WOs to outline routine maintenance tasks on fryers, HVAC units, and POS systems. Conversely, industrial manufacturers are more likely to assign work orders for both maintaining and repairing complex pieces of equipment. 

work order

Industries That Use WO

Nearly every industry uses WOs to organize assigned maintenance tasks. However, some use them more than others. Below are three sectors that rely on the documented technician assignments most frequently:

  • Facility Management:. Facility managers assign technicians a variety of maintenance tasks to keep client-owned buildings running smoothly. Workers are responsible for maintaining lighting, plumbing, recycling, and energy systems. Management also routinely creates WOs to assign safety inspections, cleaning checklists, and other standard operating procedures (SOPs). 
  • Manufacturers: Operational managers rely on WOs to track the status of expenses, repairs, and internal service requests. Even the smallest of manufacturing facilities typically houses hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machinery. Having accurate historical records of asset upkeep is paramount to making cost-effective O&M decisions—in terms of PM scheduling, parts management, and equipment replacement milestones. 
  • Field Service: Field service managers depend on WOs to ensure their field technicians carry out complex tasks efficiently, effectively, and accurately. Road technicians, electricians, and engineers rely on several specifications to determine how to repair malfunctioning machinery off-site. 

Other industries that use such task-management documents include food service, hospitality, education, government municipalities, and more. 

Example of a Work Order

Before the digital revolution, WOs existed in various paper formats from post-it notes to snap-off work order pads.

Whenever someone needed maintenance work, the maintenance worker would bring this pad and fill it out on-site. He would leave the white copy with the work requester and submit the yellow copy to management for record-keeping. 

Today, organizations have ditched the paper pads in favor of digitized, private request forms. Moreover, managers can now track the status of all assigned projects through a centralized software dashboard. Below is an example of a MaintainX digital work order:

work order
MaintainX Work Order

As you can see in the images above, WOs contain several basic pieces of information to inform workers how to get jobs done. Next, let’s take a closer look at what’s included within a typical paper or digital work assignment.

What Do WOs Include?

Components of WOs vary depending on the type of business. However, the most commonly included elements are:

  • Name of the requesting party
  • Explanation of the problem 
  • Instructions to fix the problem
  • Name of the assigned technician 
  • Estimate of the costs involved
  • WO number (for tracking)
  • Name and location of the asset
  • Anticipated time and date for completion 
  • Attachments such as images, manuals, and SOPs

Looking to customize a work order of your own? MaintainX has a free library of SOP templates to get you started:

Click here to download our free maintenance work order templates.

work order
MaintainX Work Order

Lifecycle of Maintenance Work Orders 

Maintenance WOs are living documents. Translation: they go through several stages from beginning to end. The following workflow is typical of standard operating procedures (SOPs) across industry lines:

  • Production: The manager contemplates the resources and work needed to complete a maintenance job and then assigns the task to an appropriate technician, along with a deadline for completion. 
  • Performance: Upon performing said maintenance, the technician documents all resources used—time, costs, labor, material—to get the job done. 
  • Closure: Once the task is finished, the technician closes the order. The WO now serves as a company record stating maintenance was performed on the particular asset. If using paper, management files the WO in a binder or labeled folder in a filing cabinet. If using digital work orders, management doesn’t need to do anything at all. 
  • Analysis: Depending on maintenance program thoroughness, management may periodically review work order statistics to analyze program effectiveness. For example, a department might review its monthly WO history to calculate its Planned Maintenance Compliance (PMC) rate. The metric shows the number of completed planned tasks vs. the total number of planned tasks in the form of a percentage.  
  • Reference: Finally, management may later reference WOs to prepare for audits, machinery replacement, warranty fulfilments, and employee performance evaluations.

Though simple in theory, effectively tracking work order life cycles can be tricky. Especially, if you run a large facility that typically has dozens of open WOs floating around at once.  

The easiest way to monitor progress is through the use of work order software (more on that in a moment). Now, let’s take a closer look at an important subset of the SOP life cycle: the work request. 

work request

Work Request Management

We can’t answer the question, “How does a work order work?” without discussing work requests. A work request is a formal document that reports an out-of-order piece of equipment, machine, or company asset. Essentially, it’s the preamble to the WO. 

Maintenance technicians, employees, and tenants sometimes submit paper or digital work requests when they notice something isn’t working correctly. Upon receiving work requests, operational managers either approve or reject them based on available resources. 

The Work Request Workflow 

  • Stakeholder submits a work request
  • Management approves the work request 
  • Management creates a work order. 
  • Management assigns technician to WO.
  • Assigned technician consults the WO for instructions
  • Assigned technician signs off after completing the task
  • Management files the WO or CMMS automatically stores it as “closed.”

Of course, the primary advantage of digital work requests is that assigned tasks will no longer fall through the cracks. Organizations, both big and small, often struggle to balance work requests with planned maintenance activities. 

Cloud-based digitization combined with at-a-glance, work order management calendars allows businesses to never lose sight of open maintenance projects. Let’s take a closer look at how the maintenance management process works with CMMS.

work order
MaintainX CMMS

Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) and WOs

Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) is software designed to handle all data related to O&M management. The software boosts the efficiency of maintenance organization, asset management, and O&M spending. 

Moreover, it also can reduce costs associated with downtime, inefficient scheduling, and equipment replacement. However, the best part about CMMS is how easy it makes work order creation. Of course, like any type of technology, some platforms are easier to navigate than others. MaintainX prides itself on being the most-user friendly CMMS on the market. 

In fact, the user interface is so simple that anyone with a smartphone can figure out how to create a work order in less than 5 minutes. Our engineers spent hundreds of hours coding special design features, like large buttons to accommodate gloved hands on site. MaintainX’s intuitive functionality makes creating WOs as easy as 1-2-3! 

Obviously, there are many steps in between initiating a new work order and closing out a completed assignment. Read this article, which includes step-by-step screenshots, to learn how to create a digital work order using MaintainX.

Advantages of Using Digital Work Order Templates 

Using CMMS work order templates has four main advantages:

  • You don’t have to be a technical expert to create functional templates. 
  • You are free to attach procedures. forms, and checklists to conveniently clarify the steps involved in completing multi-step work orders. 
  • You can easily tweak the cloud-based forms whenever you want. 
  • You may have heard the saying, time is money, and, therefore, opting for pre-made templates saves crucial time

As we’ve shown, digital work order systems have many benefits over their analog counterparts. We hope this article answered your question: How does a WO work? If you’re ready to ditch the paper stacks in favor of a more streamlined workflow, we’ve got you covered. Try MaintainX—the first CMMS platform with chat.

MaintainX: Reenvisioning How Work Orders Work

MaintainX is a cloud-based maintenance management system designed with convenience, affordability, and security in mind. Users can sign-up, log-in, and begin creating WOs immediately from their desktop or mobile devices. 

Our clients save an average of 20 maintenance management hours per week when switching from analog procedural systems to MaintainX. If you want to learn why businesses of all sizes are leaving us rave reviews like the one below, we invite you to give us a try!

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Caroline Eisner
Caroline Eisner
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