The FM Professional

How Poorly Organized is Your Work Order Management?

David Spence
November 12th, 2013

Tracking Work Orders Efficiently

fm work ordersFacilitiesNet writes that there are several benefits to work order tracking. First, it shows that maintenance workers are dedicated to good service when working with other departments. Second, it can improve “labor efficiency” by noting how much time it took to complete an order, then using that data to plan accordingly in the future. Third, it makes the workplace safer for all involved.  However, none of this will be true if your work orders are a disorganized mess.

Poor Communication

For example, say a worker sends a message that there’s something wrong with the refrigerator in the break room. This raises more questions than it answers—what’s wrong with the refrigerator? Which break room, and on what floor? With so little detail given, you won’t know how to solve the problem in a quick and efficient way.

Encourage workers to be as specific as possible when they’re describing a problem. (Maintenance Technology suggests that requesters use the senses in their orders, using words like “saw,” “smelled,” “heard,” etc.) This will cut down on the back-and-forth, and help you resolve the problem much faster.

Not Enough Data

Likewise, if a repair person completes the order, simply noting that “Problem was fixed,” you’ll have very little information that will help you avoid the issue again. How was the problem fixed? If the issue was mechanical, did they have to complete a quick repair, or did they have to replace any parts? If you know the answer to these questions, work orders can help you know some key things, like whether you should fix an item or just replace it, or whether you should perform ongoing maintenance. Without this info, however, you may end up spending more time, money and manpower than is necessary.

Verbal Work Orders

Some workers may feel it’s easier to tell a maintenance worker about a problem as they pass them in the hallway, instead of going through the trouble of filling out any forms, waiting for a response, etc. However, verbal communication should not count as a work order, for a few reasons.

First, there’s no guarantee that the maintenance worker will remember what they’re told when they’re juggling several other responsibilities that day.  Second, even if they are able to repair what’s broken at that moment, you won’t have a record of what was done.  If unplanned repairs become commonplace, you’ll never get an accurate picture of how your maintenance team spent their time. This will make it much harder for you to plan and allocate team members in the future.

Paper Work Orders

While tracking orders with paper is slightly better than using word of mouth, it’s still not the best option. As facility managers can be all too aware, it’s easy for things to become muddled between different spreadsheets, documents, etc. Conflicting reports or outdated information can plague a work order system.

To avoid these problems, many companies are turning to solutions that track the order’s progress from its inception to its completion. These programs can note factors like the time of day the order was requested, the number of issues caused by one root problem, and even the satisfaction rate for how quickly the team responded to requests. What once was an array of mixed-up information is now being stored in one central and accessible place—with a lot of specific data included, to boot.

What are some of the biggest problems you’ve faced with work order tracking? 

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