BlueFolder Blog

How to Build a Better Work Order Process Flow

Dec 15, 2020

Inefficient work order processes and the lack of essential tools such as work order management software can lead to delays in your workflow, higher costs, lack of accountability, and a backlog of to-do lists.

The key to assess your current work order management systems is to identify gaps in your workflows. This allows you to update ineffective methods and restructure the process to help ensure seamless operations from start to finish.

In this article, we’ll examine how to establish a fully functioning work order system that helps your organization better manage and run your work order process flow.

What is a Work Order and Work Order Process?

Work orders are documented requests for repair, installation, or maintenance work for completion. These forms are useful across several industries where continuous equipment maintenance and other service jobs are a vital part of their customer relationships.

The following industries are examples of industries that use work orders to track their service requests:

  • Heat, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
  • Manufacturing machinery & equipment service
  • Industrial equipment service
  • Commercial food equipment service
  • Medical equipment service
  • Commercial security system installation and service
  • Fire detection and suppression system installation and service
  • Facilities maintenance

These types of companies often leverage work orders to track projects, tasks, expenses, working hours, the status of assignments, staff deployed, and other operational aspects.

Work orders can either be written or printed on paper or submitted as digital documents. A work order may be categorized based on:

  • The type of problem. Planned work orders are used to schedule preventive maintenance work. Unplanned work orders are for addressing unexpected maintenance activities such as equipment breakdowns.
  • Who initiated the work request. This can either be internal or external work orders.
  • How the work order was scheduled. Manual work orders are scheduled by hand and usually on paper. Using work order tracking software, you can set up automatic work orders to automate your work order scheduling based on data from your equipment’s installed condition monitoring sensors or your calendar.

A work order process is a system designed to ensure accountability and timely delivery in each step required to complete work requests, from the initiation to the invoicing stage.

Establishing an efficient work order process flow helps your organization stay on top of your work orders, reduce risks, streamline your workflows, and keep your team updated from beginning to end.

What are the Steps of a Work Order Process and How Can You Optimize Your Process?

While work order processes can vary depending on the complexity of the work, learning the standard process helps you see it in practice, how it fits into your workflow management, and how you can improve it.

Initiation

A work order starts with a work request that contains a description of the work needing to be done, the customer information, contact person, location of the job, billing information, priority levels, deadlines, and account manager.

More specific details and attachments should also be included in the work order, such as images of any equipment to be installed or serviced, serial numbers, and detailed descriptions to avoid potential servicing errors.

Establish a consistent, uniform process for creating work orders within your company. Ensure work orders are generated for every job — whether it’s a single 30-minute parts replacement or a multi-site, weeks-long project — and put all the requests in one place.

For a quicker accomplishment of work orders, leverage templates with the necessary data fields. That way, your staff can simply fill in the same set of details every time. Doing these guarantees that your entire work is documented for all stakeholders to easily track and access, removing backtracking phone calls, meetings, and emails that eat up your time and productivity. Mapping out a formal, consistent request creation system also establishes order, helping your staff understand the workflow and service details needed to complete the job.

Companies often use traditional methods to record work orders, but these have serious flaws that can ruin your efficiency, business earnings, service quality, customer relations, and other things. For example, paper files tend to get misplaced easily. Details you write on whiteboards can be accidentally erased and cannot be archived for long (this is disadvantageous when you need to look up past transactions).

Digitize your documentation of work orders to be sure you do not lose and fail to meet the service requests. Use tools such as customer portal service software that allows your customers to submit work requests, view reports, check the status and see equipment or asset service history more efficiently at any time.

Planning

When creating, approving, and giving priority status to the work order, ask yourself these questions when choosing the right persons for the request:

  • How many people are needed to finish the job?
  • Where is the field location?
  • Which technician is in the closest proximity?
  • What skills and expertise are required for the task?
  • Which among the field staff is available for the scheduled work?

If you do not have any available field technicians, or the service request needs capacities that are beyond what you can presently offer, consider hiring trusted external contractors.

Dispatch and Scheduling

Once you’ve chosen the right technicians, use the dispatch and scheduling features in your field management software to assign the work order. Monitoring assignments on a centralized schedule or dispatch board helps you keep track of equipment maintenance, service appointments, and overall visibility over your technicians’ schedules. It will also help you avoid double-booking and manage customer expectations better.

Share all the necessary work order information with your service techs and give them access to helpful resources, such as:

  • Detailed job and customer descriptions, including job site location
  • Compliance and service codes
  • Required equipment or parts at the service site
  • Information relevant to the asset’s or service request’s history: diagrams, videos showing equipment damage and repairs applied, purchase orders, notes by previous technicians, etc.
  • Essential details, such as real-time personnel and vehicle locations, inventory data, and others.

Providing these resources hastens this stage of your workflow and improves your service implementation.

Fulfillment and Execution

The execution stage is when the Field Service Engineer (FSE) or technician fulfills the task outlined in the work order. FSEs should know what the job entails, the required parts or equipment, and the reference materials to use in case they need it to complete the job efficiently and successfully.

Monitor and record how long it takes to complete every task, keeping your team in the loop at all times and cutting down forgotten minutes. Ensure communication lines among your back-office personnel, managers, and field techs are open throughout the entire process to effectively implement quality assurance.

FSEs should also log everything while working on jobs, including job-related expenses, labor hours, and materials, so it’s easy for your account/service managers to provide real-time cost estimates with your customers. They should even note if a certain device has precarious or sensitive conditions and needs more careful handling, and other details unique to it or the service request that the next delegated FSEs must know.

This helps you correctly handle your next work orders for specific customers, gives insight to improving your support services and processes, improves your technician’s first-time fix rates, and keeps your customer satisfaction high.

Review or Verification

The review stage is where your non-tech personnel checks and compiles the billable charges and verifies all the information’s accuracy before issuing an invoice.

Accomplish your work order charges review as the job nears completion, so managers or team leaders have enough time to reconcile the data, check for errors, and ensure the total numbers’ accuracy. Some projects with many moving parts can be difficult to calculate and verify. Use a work order management platform with accounting software integrations to review and validate your billable activities more efficiently.

Billing & Invoicing

Once the FSE completes a work order, it enters the closeout phase and will be ready for invoicing. As long as the closed work order has gone through the proper checks and balances throughout its life-cycle, issuing an invoice will be quick and easy.

Attach a duplicate of the work order to your customer’s billing statement. File your copy of the invoice to the customer’s folder in your contact database, so you can trace your transactions history efficiently when needed. You should also confirm with your customer if they’d like to keep the same billing address (whether email or otherwise) and mode of invoice delivery (electronically or printed).

Conclusion

Improve your work order process flow by understanding each stage of the process and how work orders move through them and identifying gaps that prevent workflow efficiency. Sign up for BlueFolder’s free trial of their work order management software and tools which will match your unique business needs, streamline your workflows, remove unnecessary tasks that hinder efficiency, and help you produce better and faster results.

By Jeff Emrich