Running a trades business involves a lot of documentation. There’s building certifications, job quotes, invoices, and safety forms. However, one of the most important documents trades businesses must stay on top of is the work order. In this guide, we explore what work orders are and how your business can use a work order management system effectively.
What is a work order and why are they used?
A work order is a formal document that authorises jobs for contractors and technicians to complete. It contains vital information, such as:
- job description
- material requirements
- work location
- contact details
- time frames
Work orders can be internal requests for companies that manage their own assets or a contract between a client and a trade service business.
Work orders are especially crucial in construction, asset maintenance, plumbing, and other trades industries. These companies use work orders to schedule jobs and brief contractors on the scope of work. Once a work order has been assigned, managers and clients can refer to these forms to track progress and check whether project deliverables are met.
Are work orders the same as purchase orders?
A work order is typically a maintenance job, repair or task assigned for a technician to complete. They are used in field service industries to assign, track and manage work, calculate project costs, or audit a work site.
A purchase order deals with parts and items and serves as the official confirmation of an order. Field workers may need to create purchase orders to get the tools and parts to complete the job listed on a work order. A purchase order can also sometimes be part of a work order if items are required to accomplish the tasks outlined in the work order.
The different types of work orders
There are several types of work orders, which serve various purposes. These include:
Construction work orders are the various assignments involved in a new construction or renovation project. This includes foundation work, bricklaying, plumbing and electrical system installations, painting, and more.
These are scheduled jobs that aim to minimise the risk of asset or equipment breakdowns. Preventive maintenance work orders can be for equipment adjustments or tune-ups, routine cleaning, and asset upgrades.
Inspection work orders send out technicians to assess the jobsite and/or evaluate the performance of key assets.
Use case: A inspection work order can be used for jobs such as aircraft or equipment inspections.
These work orders are requested when unforeseen issues occur and require immediate repairs. Situations that call for emergency work orders may include repairing burst pipes, faulty electrical systems, and structural building damage.
Safety work orders are tasks that protect personnel from health and safety hazards, such as posting caution signs and removing exposed live wires.
Use case: A safety work order is issued as a priority and will indicate the severity of the problem such as faulty equipment or safety hazards.
On-demand work orders are for assets and equipment that you want to run to failure. Run-to-failure is for a specific class of assets and equipment such as light bulbs. In this example, it's best for the light bulb to fail as it has low criticality and is cheap and easy to buy, carry, and replace.
Third-party work orders are for work that needs to be done that is beyond the technical abilities of the maintenance team.
Third-party work orders can be used for jobs such as hiring third-party movers.
Any maintenance task that isn't considered a preventive maintenance, inspection, emergency, or corrective maintenance task.
A general work order can be used for jobs such as setting up/taking down equipment or painting jobs.
Internal work orders usually originate from someone in an organisation and are sent to another person within the same organisation.
An internal work order is generally logged by staff members and is usually related to a building they are working in.
What information should a work order have?
To increase your company’s efficiency, you should standardise work order templates. Here are the key details to include in your work orders:
- Company name, address, phone number, website, and other pertinent contact information
- Work order numbers for archiving and tracking jobs
- Requester name, customer ID, and department (if the work order is an internal request)
- Priority levels, with 1 being the most urgent and 4 for routine jobs that can be fulfilled within 10 days
- Job start and finish dates that match the client’s expected deadlines
- Job location and billing address information for when the work is completed
- A job description that includes the labour and expertise involved in the project (e.g., electrical, plumbing, bricklaying, etc.)
- Material requirements and specification (e.g., fittings, wires, wood planks, etc.)
- Estimated costs of labour and materials
- A box where assignees can write additional information about the work order
- A signature line at the bottom of the work order form
What is a typical work order submission process?
A work order submission process tracks the life cycle of a work order. Eliminating friction at each stage of the work order process is crucial to improving efficiency. By ensuring you have a fully functioning work order process in place you can better manage maintenance and service requests. Below you can find a flow chart for a typical work order submission process.
How to make work order processing easy
Implementing a cloud-based system will save facility and field service businesses countless hours processing work orders by funnelling them into a centralised platform for review and actioning. These systems are usually known as computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS), work order management systems and job management software like WorkBuddy.
STEP 1A job is created in WorkBuddy.
STEP 2The request sends a work order using email.
STEP 3WorkBuddy imports and processes work order.
STEP 4Job created in WorkBuddy for your business to review, schedule and dispatch to a technician.
STEP 5The technician is onsite to complete the job request.
WorkBuddy’s work order process
Why do you need a cloud-based system?
Tracking a work order through the work order life cycle and knowing its progress is paramount in keeping customers happy and cash flow. By have a work order system in place, businesses will:
- Have a digital trail of all your work orders
- Know where your bottlenecks are
- Prioritise work orders
- Automate work orders for proactive maintenance
- Know the health of your business and the performance of your work orders
- Easily report to your clients the progress of your work order status
Features a sound work order system should have are:
Automation of work order receival
Work order importer
If work orders are received straight to an inbox, a work order importer is a must-have to start the work order process without the need to manually enter data into a system.
Generally, work order importers can read the format the work order is in i.e., PDF, HTML, CSV when it hits a dedicated inbox. From there it will set up a job in the system it is linked with for the end-user to start processing.
WorkBuddy’s work order importer function works to this notion, it can read work orders sent to a dedicated inbox and automatically create a job in its operations panel ready for review and action.
Recurring work orders
Businesses that conduct proactive asset maintenance need a system that can automatically create recurring work orders based on preset time frames. Ideally, your job management system should auto-generate work orders as part of a proactive asset maintenance program. This assists in reducing unplanned downtime, equipment failure, and risks associated with faulty equipment.
Once a work order is created, it should go into an operations board for review and processing. The key components this part of the system should have are the following:
- Job information structured in an easy-to-read format such as a job card
- Be listed based on priority, deadline and/or location
- List all the tasks that need to occur to complete the work order
- Approval workflows built-in
The WorkBuddy operation dashboard can be used to view, create and assign planned and unplanned work orders. It is also useful to keep detailed records of all the people involved in a work order and time spent to complete jobs.
Read more about how WorkBuddy helps with job management.
Technician scheduling and dispatching
When a work order is approved it then needs the right technician assigned to complete the repair request. In some cases, it can be an employee, in other cases, it can be a contractor. When making the decision on who to send out, a system should be able to make this process easy by:
- Having a stored list of employees and contractors with details of their:
- Current certifications and licenses
- Knowing how to prioritise the job based on its status, required by date and location.
- Being able to have a high-level view of employee and contractor schedules to prevent overbooking their day.
- Assigning the job to the employee or contractor you choose.
Work orders can be automatically scheduled, accessed, and tracked through WorkBuddy. This provides both technicians and management with a comprehensive record of work completed and scheduled. A work order schedule is created, resources assigned to the work order, and a date and time specified. This information is sent to the assigned technician via push notification on the WorkBuddy field app.
The technician can view the work order, access job information, view checklists, perform the work, and close the job. Upon completion, notes, time spent, materials used, and other information is automatically logged and can be used to generate useful reports.
Read more about work order job scheduling and dispatch.
Mobile field app
After a person/contractor is assigned to the job they should receive a notification on the field app which should be linked back to the work order management system.
They should have access to the following information:
- Priority of the job
- Where the job is located
- Contact details of the site
- Tasks that need to be completed including safety checks
When they are completing the allocated tasks they should be able to:
- Check in and out of the job for time tracking
- Upload evidence like photos and videos that the job is complete
- Get customer sign off that the job is complete
- Communicate with head office on progress
With the WorkBuddy field app, teams can submit and receive work orders through their smartphones. This is particularly useful for assigning emergency work orders to technicians who are currently out on the field. They don’t need to go to a dispatch desk to get their assignments because they can access new work orders from anywhere. Read more about how the WorkBuddy field app can help with work order management.
Most work order management systems will simplify the work order invoice process for the sales and billing departments. When a work order is completed, the system should be able to automatically generate and issue an invoice out of the work order.
Technicians can use WorkBuddy to log checklists, billable hours, and job-related expenses to prove that they’ve met deadlines and deliverables. They can then capture electronic signatures from clients or contractors to close out the work order efficiently. When a work order is completed, field technicians can generate sales invoices on-site and offer digital payment methods through WorkBuddy. The system then sends clients an automated follow-up email to make sure your company gets paid on time.
You’ll want to make sure your work order management software provides easy-to-read analytics reports, so you can periodically evaluate key performance indicators (KPIs). This will help your business make smarter business decisions and identify new opportunities to drive business growth by learning from your work order management processes.
WorkBuddy fully incorporates advanced business reporting features so you can gain insights into productivity trends and bottlenecks. It’s also easy to build reports on technician productivity and service delays to adjust your approach to job scheduling. Take a look at WorkBuddy’s advanced business intelligence and reporting features.
Client portals allow users to receive real-time information on jobs without having to call or email.
In the WorkBuddy client portal, clients can design their own work request form and allow users to raise new job requests, view appointments and search, sort and track work orders on mobile or desktop.
“Before WorkBuddy we used to do things more manually. I would need staff triple the size we have now to cope with the number of work orders WorkBuddy can process.”
Assett Group Services
If your business requires you to issue and keep track of frequent work orders, you should consider upgrading to the WorkBuddy work order management system. With WorkBuddy, your business will benefit from a user-friendly and feature-rich platform that will help reduce costs, increase productivity, and enhance team member compliance. Book a demo today to check out WorkBuddy’s unique work order management features.