For facility maintenance and field service businesses, maintenance work represents a reliable revenue stream. However, managing a constant influx of requests, keeping up with technicians in the field, and tracking equipment can overwhelm your staff, especially as business grows. Incorporating best practices in managing maintenance work orders will help you control the chaos and get your team operating smoothly.
Put All Necessary Information in the Work Order
Typically, a work order includes at least the requester, task description, assignee, and scheduled date. But if your team needs other information regularly, develop a process to include it in each request. You may want to add job instructions, equipment specs, supplies lists, customer contact details, travel directions, or access codes. If helpful, you could also include requirements which helps schedulers determine the right tech, such as necessary skills or certifications.
Define and Use Meaningful Status Tags
A work request goes through several stages from submission to billing, and it’s easier for your team to know where each is in the process if you assign statuses. Typical status labels include “new request,” “approved,” “work in progress,” and “complete.” But you might need others for special situations, such as “parts on order” or “declined.” These terms serve as shorthand, so managers quickly know what’s been done and what’s left for each job.
Status terms have to be meaningful and consistent to work properly. Specify the terms your company will use and stick with them. Also, help employees get in the habit of updating status regularly.
Define Priority Standards for Managing Time Conflicts
Inevitably, you’ll have weeks when maintenance work orders overwhelm your ability to respond immediately to each one. Before that happens, set up a system of priorities which tell your team which requests should be addressed first and which might need to wait.
When determining high, medium, and low priority work, consider the type of equipment involved, the customer relationship, and any contractual obligations such as response times. For example, you may assign high priority for work on machinery that’s essential for your customers to do business. A request could get medium priority if the customer can still operate but productivity suffers. And low priorities would include repairs which don’t impact customer operations significantly.
Assign priorities at work order creation, even if there are no conflicts at the time. Then, if an urgent request comes in, you can easily determine which low priority jobs could be postponed.
Save Records of Past Maintenance Work Orders
A maintenance work order is your record of each job. And together, over time, they reveal patterns, such as how long equipment tends to last, what kind of repairs are needed regularly, and how long it takes to complete different jobs. Using old work orders as a reminder of previous experience and lessons learned, your team can estimate work more accurately, avoid past mistakes, and refine offerings to better serve customers.
Many companies struggle to make use of past records because it takes time and effort to collect, organize, and analyze the information. But the data captured from completed work orders can save money and help grow your business, so it’s worth the effort.
Document Work in the Field
When your technicians are on-site fixing equipment, they should be able to document their activity in the work order and add photos if needed. The documentation serves as proof of maintenance done and enhances the historical record. Often techs find other problems with equipment which aren’t on the original service request. If so, the notes and photos can easily transform into a new work order.
Use a Common Calendar
Managing work orders involves complex logistics. You have to fill technicians’ schedules, minimize down time, ensure they have all the supplies needed, and keep customers informed. It’s easier to plan efficiently, if everyone works from a common calendar.
With one schedule for all techs, managers know where everyone should be at any point. When a new request comes in, the dispatcher schedules the right staff to minimize down time. And if there are last minute changes, you can adjust with minimal disruption.
Streamline Handling for Recurring Work
With some jobs, like preventive maintenance, you’re doing the same service on the same equipment for the same company at regular intervals, so it doesn’t make sense to recreate a work order for each visit. Simplify the process by designing reusable templates or making duplicates of past orders.
And if possible, set alerts for pending preventive work. Many customers forget to schedule maintenance on time, which is lost work for you and may cause equipment failures later. With alerts, you can set up the job up, keeping customers happy and your techs busy.
Use a Field Service Management (FSM) Application
Even the most dedicated field service companies have a hard time following these best practices if they’re still using pen and paper or email and spreadsheets to manage work orders. These manual approaches take time. And when people get busy, they take shortcuts which undermine your efforts at sustaining best practices. A robust FSM automates the manual tasks and offers additional functionality, which helps you stick to best practices and makes them even more effective.
With an FSM, your team will
- Easily fill out detailed maintenance work orders.
- Simplify work order submission with templates and duplicate requests for recurring work.
- Update statuses in the field.
- Allow techs to attach photos and make notes about each job.
- Store records of previous customer work to support new jobs.
- Provide easy access to past work, so you can find old records when you need to.
- Connect job requests to relevant equipment manuals, diagrams, and customer access instructions.
- Assign priorities to each job so it’s easy to rearrange the schedule if emergency requests come in.
Follow Best Practices the Easy Way with BlueFolder
BlueFolder’s cloud-based FSM application turns work order chaos into focused productivity. Your team will submit, assign, and schedule work orders with a few clicks. Technicians can access relevant documents, instructions, and customer history from the field on any connected device. And it takes just a few minutes to update the work status, enter notes, and add photos, so you can get the invoicing process started.
BlueFolder’s integrations with common billing applications and calendars streamlines your entire operation. And the customer portal gives clients the status and updates they need without having to call and ask you for it. Plus, the application is so easy to use most companies are up and running in a few days.
Many field service companies struggle with work order management, but yours doesn’t have to be one of them.