Maintenance teams need structure to do their jobs effectively — guesswork always needs to be kept to a minimum. That's why they leverage documents known as work orders to delegate and track their tasks and responsibilities.

Here, we'll go over what work orders are, see what they might cover, review the difference between them and work requests, detail the work order management process, and get a helpful template for you to make work orders of your own.

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There's no single, catch-all category that covers all work orders. Each one is unique — even if it's for recurring maintenance. Still, your average work order will generally fall within one of five buckets. Those include:

    • Emergency — A work order dedicated to fixing an asset that has broken down unexpectedly
    • Preventative Maintenance — A work order that covers routine maintenance of assets to prevent future stalls or breakdowns
  • Inspection — A work order that lets a maintenance technician know that they need to inspect, monitor, or audit the condition of an asset
  • General — A work order that doesn't fall under any of the emergency, preventative, inspection work order umbrellas
  • Corrective Maintenance — A work order dedicated to correcting issues discovered when executing an emergency, preventative maintenance, inspection, or general work order

Work orders are often conflated with similar documents called work requests. Let's take a look at what distinguishes one from the other.

Work Order vs. Work Request

The key difference between these two types of documents stems from who issues each form. Work orders typically come from maintenance teams themselves to delegate responsibilities, whereas work requests come from non-maintenance staff to make maintenance teams aware of tasks that need to be fulfilled.

Once a work request is received, a maintenance manager assigns the specified action to someone on their team. For instance, a work request might come through making maintenance aware that a certain machine has broken down. From there, a maintenance manager would convert the request into a work order and delegate a staff member to fix the equipment.

The work order management process can often be boiled down to a simple progression — covering everything from work request approval to closure. Here's what that progression usually looks like.

1. Work Request Approval and Work Order Creation

In many cases, the work order management process starts after someone submits a work request. If the work request is deemed urgent and necessary by a maintenance manager, a work order is created.

2. Prioritization

Work orders generally aren't fulfilled as soon they come in. Certain tasks are more pressing than others — so naturally, the more urgent ones get priority. For instance, maintenance staff would probably prioritize an emergency work order over a preventative maintenance one.

3. Scheduling

Once work orders have been prioritized, they need to be scheduled based on their degree of urgency. Scheduling also rests on other factors — like availability of technicians, availability of supplies, and manufacturers' timelines for routine equipment repairs.

4. Assignment

Once a work order has been scheduled, it needs to be assigned to a member of the maintenance staff who's qualified to carry it out.

5. Distribution

As you can assume, a work order can't be fulfilled if the person tasked with carrying it out never receives it. So once one has been assigned, it needs to be distributed to a qualified technician — that can happen in person, via mobile, in an email, or through a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

6. Execution

Work order execution is exactly what it sounds like. It's the stage in the process where the work order is executed — when a technician carries out the task specified on the document.

7. Documentation

Once a work order has been executed, the technician involved should document what was done, the time it took to do it, which tools were used, and any other relevant information that can shed light on how the task at hand was carried out.

8. Closure

Once the work order has been fulfilled and the technician tasked with it has documented how it went, the order is closed — and the technician is free to work on other projects.

Now that we have some background on work orders and how they're managed, let's take a look at a helpful template you can use to put work orders of your own together.

Work Order Template

work order template

Now that you have a template to create your own work orders, here's a look at what a work order might actually look like in practice.

Work Order Sample

work order sample

Image Source: SafetyCulture

Work orders are central to virtually every maintenance team's operations. They provide the necessary structure to reliably delegate and execute the responsibilities that keep company assets sound and operations moving. If you have any place in requesting or carrying out maintenance at your business, you need to have a grip on how these documents work.

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Originally published Apr 1, 2022 8:00:00 AM, updated April 01 2022

Topics:

Accounting