A five-step framework for creating best-in-class work orders

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The internet is filled with articles about best practices and advice for everything under the sun. But best practices aren’t always best when applied in real life, where the circumstances are often less than ideal.

It’s no different when it comes to advice about creating work orders. This advice shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, it should act as a guide to help you build personalized work orders that fit your facility’s unique workflows, priorities, and team.

We created a guide that breaks down the five stages of work order maturity so you can evolve your maintenance program at a speed that makes sense for your team.

5 stages of work orders

Learn how to build work orders from start to finish

Stage 1: Building a solid foundation

This stage aims to build good habits to capture valuable and accurate data. Simplicity is key at this stage. It’s the best way to ensure your team uses any new work order template or workflow you create.

What to include in your work orders at this stage:

  • Specify the maintenance type required, status, and the main priorities of the work order.
  • Define a suggested completion date. Setting a date helps you understand if your team is completing your work on time or being compliant with audit guidelines.

How to use your work order data at this stage:

This stage helps you understand how much reactive maintenance you’re doing and where it’s happening. You can use this data to identify what’s causing your team to be reactive instead of proactive. For example, you may see that a lot of your reactive work requires a contractor. You may consider hiring someone who has the skills of a contractor to turn that into preventative work.

Stage 2: Making work orders easily repeatable and referenceable

The goal of this stage is to include appropriate steps, instructions, and visual aids to make completing work orders easier. You can also ensure relevant completion notes and follow-up images are available for future maintenance work or technician training.

What to include in your work orders at this stage:

  • Create a written task list. This is useful if you have similar assets that require the same repairs. It saves time when deciding what work needs to be completed for scheduled or preventive maintenance and standardizes those repairs. Review these lists regularly to ensure they are still relevant to the work being done.
  • Adding manuals, pictures, diagrams, and other resources to work orders helps technicians unfamiliar with the tasks understand exactly what needs to be done and what the finished product should look like.

How to use your work order data at this stage:

This stage offers an opportunity to speak with experienced technicians to document what they do. You can use this information to create a step-by-step task list with visual aids and diagrams. You’ll end up building a solid maintenance library with tasks, checklists, and diagrams that new and existing technicians and contractors can quickly reference.

Stage 3: Understanding labor hours

It’s great to know the number of work orders completed. But it can be hard to schedule maintenance tasks without knowing how many hours are being dedicated to each one. The actions in this stage will help you capture accurate data on how your team is spending its time so you can understand labor costs and how to make time-consuming work more efficient.

What to include in your work orders at this stage:

  • Create a place to log labor hours for all technicians, operators, and contractors. This can be done manually, but it requires workers to be honest with the number of hours they’re reporting.
  • Give expected hours for each task in the work order so you know which ones are causing delays. This also gives technicians an idea of how long each task should take so they can prioritize work.

How to use your work order data at this stage:

The data you collect at this stage helps you make business decisions with the numbers to back up those decisions. For example, if a piece of equipment is breaking down frequently between scheduled repairs, it might be worth replacing the equipment entirely.

Learn how to weed out the inefficiencies in your maintenance schedule

Stage 4: Tracking parts and costs

This stage is all about understanding what parts are used when they’re used, and what they cost for each asset. This will help you identify the inventory needs of your facility and make sure the parts you need are available when you need them.

What to include in your work orders at this stage:

  • You can track parts by incorporating a “Parts used” field into your work orders so you know exactly when and where parts are being used.
  • Listing parts on a work order immediately adds a cost to the work order. Ensuring costs are tracked accurately allows the leadership team to monitor costs across all maintenance activities.
  • Cataloging parts lets you know whether a part has moved from the storeroom, the material costs, and labor costs. Once you get into the groove of cataloging commonly used parts, you can begin to understand the consumption needs of your facility.

How to use your work order data at this stage:

Now that you have a better understanding of the part consumption needs of your facility, this information can be used when purchasing parts. It will tell you what parts are used frequently and what stock needs to be replenished. It also helps you make informed business decisions on maintaining or replacing existing assets.

Stage 5: Using work order data to anticipate failure

Anticipating failure is tricky, it takes lots of data to predict when equipment might fail and why it failed. Luckily there are some tools you can apply to your work orders to collect the data you need to improve your maintenance strategies. These elements also provide insight into how breakdowns affect your production and how that translates to your bottom line.

What to include in your work orders at this stage:

  • Add failure codes to any reactive or corrective work orders. A failure code can be applied to a work order for quick reference as part of work order standardization. Failure codes can be displayed as numbers but are more commonly written as alphanumeric acronyms. They’re used to identify breakdowns quickly so they can be given the required attention. There are commonly used industry failure codes, but each company typically has its own list associated with different types of failure.
  • Consider routinely incorporating root cause analysis (RCA) practices into your maintenance strategy to get to the “why” of your facility’s breakdowns.
  • This is where you should also consider logging asset downtime either manually or with the help of an integrated PLC.

How to use your work order data at this stage:

With these new elements in place, you can also begin to utilize condition-based maintenance with quality meter reading data or asset run-time data. When assets fail, you know how to fix them and prevent the same breakdown from happening again.

Everything you just read in five sentences

  • A solid foundation for work orders starts with specifying the completion date, maintenance type, and status.
  • Make it easy to reference work order details (for both new and existing technicians) by including photos, diagrams, and other visual elements.
  • Track labor hours to understand how much time each task is taking so you can plan more accurately and justify hiring decisions.
  • Catalog parts on work orders to understand what parts you’ve used, how you’ve used them, and how much they’ve cost you so you can plan and budget with fewer unknowns.
  • Failure codes and root cause analysis (RCA) are your best avenues for finding the reason an asset broke down so you can limit or eliminate the cause of failure.

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