How to tell if your work order management system is effective

How to tell if your work order management system is effective

No matter what type of facility you manage, and regardless of your experience, things in your building are going to break down. It is inevitable – but what happens after an HVAC system or fridge breaks down will differentiate you from other facilities managers.

Managing maintenance and repairs using an established system is not only an excellent idea, it is arguably essential for facilities managers.  Work order management can improve labor efficiency by documenting and compiling important information about each repair.  It also makes the workplace safer for all involved, and it can help you save money on major repairs.

However, managers may not see these positive outcomes if they don’t have an effective work order management system in place.

What is a work order?

A work order, sometimes referred to as a service request, is a task, action item, or job submitted by a tenant or manager, for someone who can solve the problem. A work order may be created for something as small as a dead lightbulb, to something as urgent as an overflowing sink. The priority of the orders is determined by the criticality of the service required.

It’s not uncommon for work orders to be submitted following audits or inspections. A work order may be used to request products, services, or both.

What is work order management?

Work order management can be defined as the purposeful and timely processing of work orders. Any established set of procedures designed to receive, document and resolve broken assets within the building would be considered work order management. The level of sophistication can vary wildly from one building to another.

While work order management doesn’t sound too complicated, it can be a complex process that consumes hours of a facility manager’s time…if done by hand. Fortunately, software is making this process much easier and less time-consuming.

Effective vs. ineffective work order management systems

There’s more than one way to design and implement a work order management system. However, facilities managers must keep in mind that they are not the only ones who will need to participate in the process.

Service or product providers, as well as tenants and employees, will need to be able to submit and receive some information. It really helps if there is a systematic and simple process for them to share and receive that information.

Effective work order management systems

  • Every request begins with an actual work order. The first step toward ensuring efficient work order management is to create a physical or digital work order for every job. It sounds obvious, but tenants will often tell facilities managers about an issue as they pass you by. Or, perhaps they will make a phone call about an issue. While you hear the message, it’s not hard to forget about it by the time you get back to your desk. By requiring tenants to use a standardized work order form, the problem can be moved in the correct direction instead of placed at the bottom of a long to-do list.
  • Orders are prioritized and categorized. What happens in the next steps of the process will largely depend on the type of work that is required. It’s necessary to have a well-defined set of categories within the request form that makes it easy for the employee to choose what type of work is being requested. It’s an even quicker process to submit these forms digitally using a software app like Office Control. The software makes it easy for management to make changes or redirect orders when necessary.
  • Requests are assessed before the work begins. To avoid costly delays or mix-ups, all orders should be subject to a formal approval prior to actual execution and assignment. Approval may be contingent on all required fields being accurately completed, as well as urgency and budget. Once a request is approved or denied, a notification can be sent to inform the person who made the request of the status change.
  • Appropriate access is assigned to others. If you are using an online system, you will likely have to set permissions so that users only have access to what they need. For example, you wouldn’t want to give tenants the authority to approve their own requests. Flexible software will allow you to create and maintain groups of users who can be granted permission to submit, edit or modify certain components of a work order based on their group. Access can be granted to tenants without giving them the ability to modify the core functions or settings of orders.
  • Routine maintenance jobs are prescheduled. Prescheduling preventative or routine maintenance is an important part of keeping an office running smoothly. Things like elevators and printers will require regular care; otherwise, they will “die” sooner than they should. If busy managers can preschedule these types of repairs in advance, they’re far less likely to forget about a job that needs to be completed two months from now.
  • Inventory counts are automated. Inventory information should also be a part of your work order management system. That’s because it will allow you to see if a part that is required to complete the request is available, or if it needs to be ordered. Some software systems may have a section to track inventory. These types of features eliminate the need to check manual inventory records before approving a work order, and tenants are instantly informed about repair timelines.
  • Tenants are kept in the loop. Your tenants will greatly appreciate updates regarding their request. Even if they have to wait a week for the repair to occur, it’s better to give them information and acknowledge that the request has been reviewed and approved than leave them in the dark.
  • Useful data is collected and assessed. A great system incorporates data such as the average time it takes to complete a repair, how often certain assets require care, etc. These numbers can help managers make changes to repair processes, and improve their own performance when it comes to responding to or completing requests.

Ineffective work order management systems

  • No standardized request/order form. When tenants or facilities managers don’t have a standardized form to use, each request ends up looking different. They may forget to include critical information, and that ends up slowing down the entire process because the manager has to ask more questions before they can move forward with the request.
  • Orders are not categorized or prioritized. Urgent issues may sit longer than they should if requests are not properly categorized. It’s also harder to determine who needs to be involved with the request if the type of work that needs to be performed is not obvious.
  • Service providers don’t have access to information they need. A service provider doesn’t want to be forwarded the conversation that you and a tenant had about a cracked window, nor do they want to start a job without any information. This is another instance where a standardized request form comes in handy.
  • Tenants don’t receive updates. Tenants who do not receive status updates about their submission, or at least confirmation that the request has been received, are left to wonder if the issue they reported will ever be fixed. Employees who must perform in an uncomfortable environment are usually less productive and far unhappier.   
  • Orders/requests are not updated once created. If you don’t update your system, you may end up wasting time trying to figure out which issues still need attention and which ones have been completed. Keeping paper records makes this task more challenging. It’s far simpler to update an electronic record.
  • Inventory/budget is not considered. If work is approved before inventory and budget have been consulted, managers may have to backtrack. Or worse, they end up going way over budget.
  • Does not include preventative maintenance. It’s easy to forget to arrange care for assets and items that require regular maintenance. But if equipment doesn’t get the attention it needs, it could end up breaking down completely.
  • Records are not analyzed or assessed. If old requests are stuffed into a filing cabinet or tossed out, you’re missing out on valuable information.

Work order management software helps managers stay on top of requests

Work order management software will streamline processes and remove inefficiencies. It is often one feature available in a comprehensive workplace management software system.

Some of the tools that accompany a work order feature include smart scheduling assistants, inventory management, mobile apps, and analytics. Salesforce found that companies that used software to process and manage work orders saved 15-30% of their maintenance budgets. Similarly, they saw, on average, a 20% reduction in equipment downtime!

No matter how you decide to manage work orders, it’s important to establish and follow a system that makes sense for you and your tenants.

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