How to Create a Work Order System (That Works)

March 23, 2021 in Maintenance



How to Create a Work Order System (That Works)
Table of Contents

Every company needs organizational systems to manage business processes. 

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) ensure that technicians perform and complete assigned tasks correctly, efficiently, and cost effectively—every time. Without foolproof procedures in place, different employees will execute assignments in different ways, for better or worse! 

When it comes to maintenance departments, one of the most essential SOPs an organization can have is a system for work order management. Equipment reliability is paramount for success in today’s global economy. One might say work order systems are the backbone of reliable business operations! 

In this article, we’ll answer the question: how do you create a work order system? We’ll also share some basic information about types of work orders, digital vs. analog work orders, and tips for strengthening work order management. 

Let’s get started: 

How to Create a Work Order System

A work order system is a documented process to assign, complete, and document operational and maintenance activities according to organizational standards.

High maintenance-task volume requires organized work order management systems. Without streamlined processes in place, your business may suffer from decreased productivity, time-consuming miscommunications, and costly technician errors. 

Create a work order management system by following these eight steps: 

1. Understand the Types of Maintenance

Technically speaking, maintenance work orders fall into three primary categories: recurring planned work orders, planned work orders, and unplanned work orders

Maintenance managers use these work order types to provide workers with instructions for executing chosen maintenance strategies. The more complex pieces of equipment under a maintenance department’s care, the more likely it uses a combination of several maintenance strategies to keep equipment running in optimal condition. 

The four primary types of maintenance are: 

Corrective maintenance is a type of work order maintenance that restores assets to working condition after they have already broken down. CM includes troubleshooting, disassembling, readjusting, repairing, replacing, and realigning equipment. Unplanned maintenance is often assigned in the form of a work request or emergency phone call. 

Preventive Maintenance, also called scheduled maintenance, is performed according to usage and time-based equipment guidelines. Everyday PM tasks include adjusting, cleaning, lubricating, repairing, and replacing equipment parts. PM recurring work orders can either be scheduled using a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) or traditional paper work orders. 

Predictive maintenance is an advanced form of preventive maintenance that relies on machine learning technologies to establish baseline patterns of “normal equipment operations.” These metrics are then combined with complex algorithms to predict future behavioral issues and schedule PM tasks at optimized dates. Vibrational analysis, acoustic analysis, and infrared analysis are the primary types of PdM technologies used by leading maintenance departments. 

Condition-based maintenance uses devices, sensors, and scheduled tests to measure real-time equipment behavior. When assets approach agreed-upon qualifications for maintenance, installed sensors trigger the assignment of automated work orders via CMMS.

Most SMBs use a combination of preventive and reactive maintenance, while larger organizations with several expensive assets are more likely to incorporate PdM and CbM technologies into their maintenance programs. Determining which types of maintenance to use on which pieces of equipment and when necessitates a lengthy discussion and is beyond the scope of this post.

Check-out the section “How to Build a Maintenance Strategy” from this post for more information on how to match assets with maintenance strategies. 

2. Assess Paper vs. Digital Work Order Methods

how to create a work order system

Once you’ve identified your organization’s ideal maintenance strategies, it’s time to consider how you will create, distribute, and monitor the work orders. You have two primary options: Paper work orders and digital work orders.  

Paper work orders are paper sheets that include important instructions for performing assigned maintenance tasks. Most paper work orders include an asset’s name, location, historical data, and possibly a QR or barcode. 

Of course, writing recurring work orders by hand is a time-consuming process. The more equipment you’re responsible for maintaining, the more tedious paper work orders feel. 

Alternatively, digital work orders are what they sound like—work orders created digitally using software. Managers most commonly create digital work orders using spreadsheets, online forms, free work order generators, or computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS).

While digital work orders provide plenty of benefits—increased flexibility, convenience, and transparency—their most noteworthy one is saved time and money. The good news is that today’s cloud-based work order software programs are available for nominal monthly fees. And, in some cases, providers even offer free versions with substantial functionalities. 

3 Reasons to Go Digital 

Need more motivation to adopt a digital work order system? Paper work orders are often associated with lost data. Besides the risk of losing historical records, misplaced work orders translate to complex auditing processes. 

Check out the following statistics gathered by American Micro

  • Busy organizations misplace 7 percent of paper documents, costing on average $220 to reproduce them. Alternatively, digital work orders stored in cloud-based software eliminate the chance of losing paper trails entirely. 
  • Nearly 75 percent of company time using paper work orders is wasted searching for and filing work orders. Conversely, employees can quickly access digital work orders via smartphone, and the CMMS organizes them automatically.
  • Studies show work order software can improve time management by 40 percent by allowing deskless workers to access work orders directly from mobile devices in the field. 

Additionally, digital work orders make it infinitely easier for managers to organize service data to improve PM scheduling down the road. For these reasons, digital work orders are hands-down the more convenient and reliable work order solution.

3. Implement CMMS Software

Have you’ve chosen to “go digital” at this point? Smart choice! Your next step is to choose a method to create, assign, and track your digital work orders. As previously mentioned, spreadsheets, online forms, free work order generators, and computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) are available.

Since MaintainX is a work order software provider, it should come as no surprise we recommend going with CMMS. The software has flexible scheduling features that allow field technicians to review work history, track assets, and document job notes. Such capabilities are advantageous when it comes to solving equipment malfunctions as efficiently as possible. Here’s a quick look at the dashboard of a MaintainX account user:

how to create a work order system
MaintainX work order software

In addition to work order management, modern desktop and mobile applications allow for collecting, segmenting, and analyzing detailed O&M data points. App users can search for information via vendor, asset, location, and more. Translation: No more time wasted hunting down details stored in heavy filing cabinets. 

Management can instantly pull up a report on the maintenance history of essential company assets upon request. This feature comes in handy for several reasons. For example, one MaintainX customer uses the software to compile manufacturer-requested historical information for warranty equipment and parts fulfillment. 

how to create a work order system
MaintainX Advanced Reporting Metrics

Depending on an organization’s size and the number of assets it owns, technicians may find it challenging to remember which assets were last worked on and when. Digitized notes provide helpful reminders as to what did and didn’t effectively solve previous issues.

Operational managers also use CMMS to track key performance indicators and metrics like Mean Time to Repair (MTTR), Planned Maintenance Percentage (PMP), and Scheduled Maintenance Critical Percentage (SMCP). Such metrics, along with worker time and cost tracking, can foster deep insights into opportunities for improving facility maintenance programs.

4. Create Work Orders for All Tasks

Some companies only use digital work orders for significant maintenance assignments. But we suggest creating work orders for every task, large or small. Over time, your organization will develop complete historical records to inform optimal times for both asset and parts replacements. 

For example, if a particular part is constantly in need of replacement, your department may decide to increase the number of spares kept on hand. This way, your team can avoid the expedited shipping costs associated with ordering emergency parts. 

Alternatively, your CMMS advanced reporting dashboard data may suggest a particular asset’s Useful Life has expired. In other words, your organization would save more money in the long run by purchasing a completely new piece of equipment instead of performing frequent maintenance on an old asset. As reported by Plant Engineering, 40 percent of unplanned downtime is due to aging equipment. 

5. Use SOP Templates

Expand complex work orders with attached Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) templates. The accompanying checklists help reduce human error by outlining clear protocols to follow. 

They also help improve adherence to quality control, safety, and efficiency standards. The best procedural templates include several form field options, like pass/fail, multiple choice, and checkboxes. Here’s a quick look at an SOP created using MaintainX:

standard opearting procedures
MaintainX CMMS mobile checklist

Users can also expand upon SOP templates with attached work instructions, manuals, and illustrations to provide workers with more detailed support. 

6. Prioritize Work Orders

Undoubtedly, organizing maintenance tasks with digital work orders simplifies O&M management. However, savvy operational managers take things a step further by prioritizing work orders based on competing needs. Establishing an asset hierarchy that informs task prioritization is especially important for industrial manufacturers relying on complex machinery. 

In such instances, the company is losing thousands of dollars every minute a critical piece of equipment is down. As reported by the International Society of Automation (ISA), the average factory loses 5 percent of its productive capacity and takes up to a 20 percent loss because of downtime. A manufacturer’s bottom-line can include a whopping 800 hours of downtime, translating into millions of dollars of lost revenue!

Considering maintenance teams are known for being perpetually understaffed, and not all equipment is equally important, management must maximize available resources. 

7. Automate Work Orders for Recurring PMs

The best thing about creating a digital work order system is you don’t have to assign recurring tasks manually. While CMMS can absolutely handle unplanned maintenance work orders, it really shines when it comes to scheduling PM tasks. 

Management can set repeating work orders for daily, weekly, or monthly intervals. It can also use the software to automate PMs according to usage triggers. MaintainX’s Meters feature allows maintenance teams to track odometer readings, engine run times, cycle counts, and more. 

Examples of when an organization may want to trigger automated work orders: 

  • A storage tank is above safe capacity
  • A temperature reading is below a safe threshold
  • A chemical reading has reached a precise amount
  • A vehicle reaches 5,000 miles of use

Check out the video below to learn more about how to integrate meters into work orders:

8. Develop a Review Process

Finally, create a management system to review work order progress. Choose key performance indicators (KPIs) to help advance your organizational goals. At a minimum, calculate your monthly planned maintenance percentage (PMP). 

PMP measures the number of planned maintenance tasks in comparison to all maintenance tasks. Then, determine where improvements may need to be made.  

Try Work Order Management Software Today

Regardless of the industry, work order software is hands down the most effective way to create, assign, and manage work order assignments. MaintainX’s work order management software helps simplify work order management for operational managers and maintenance technicians by:

  • Streamlining Communication: Provides work order commenting, team messaging, and individual messaging thread options for instant communication throughout the day. 
  • Managing Inventory and Parts: Enables management to conveniently track available equipment parts crucial to ongoing facility operations. 
  • Providing Advanced Reporting: Customized dashboard provides managers with both a bird’s eye view and detailed reports on maintenance department performance. 
  • Real-Time Monitoring: Allows management to conveniently see all open, in-progress, and closed work orders with the click of a button. 
  • Simplified Invoicing: Managers can convert digital work orders to PDFs to email with attached invoices. 

Want to understand why McDonald’s, Hilton, and Marriot all manage their work order systems with MaintainX? 


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