What is Work Order Management?

A work order is an authorization for the execution of maintenance, repair, inspection, installation or other types of tasks on an industrial asset or equipment.  Work orders are also referred to as WO, maintenance orders (MO), maintenance work orders (MWO) etc.  Work orders can be hand-written, paper-based maintenance forms, maintenance daily log book entries, system-generated printouts, digital work orders like maintenance software, mobile app etc.

Work orders are the basic elements of any maintenance operation.  Work orders track the work done on assets at a fundamental and elementary unit level.

Work order contains the who (asset, WO owner,  maintenance manager, technicians), what (work to be done, type of job), where (plant, area, maintenance location), how (work instructions, maintenance team co-ordination, spares replacement) and when (date, shift and time) and why (issues, alerts and notifications, warnings, symptoms, failures, preventive maintenance, corrective maintenance). 

MaintWiz_Work order management system

Work orders help in the initiation of the maintenance process, work order creation, prioritization, work organization, technician assignment, task allocation, progress tracking and status updates,  maintenance work supervision and work completion. Work orders also contain much useful information on asset life, asset performance, maintenance cost, spare replacement history and failure phenomena.   Work orders serve as a key constituent of maintenance strategy in asset life cycle planning and plant maintenance management.

For which assets can work orders can be created?

Work orders can be created for different types of industrial assets like facilities (eg. plants, project sites, buildings, and other physical locations), equipment (eg. machinery, their assembly & sub-assemblies, critical components), tools (eg. forklifts, cranes), instruments, utilities (eg. compressors, boilers, generators, captive power plants), fleet (movable assets), linear assets (eg. pipeline, transmission networks) etc.

MaintWiz_Work order management assets

What is the need for a work order?

Work Orders help in

  • Defining the problem statement for the maintenance work 
  • Detailing the tasks to be carried out in a structured and sequential manner to address the specific issue.
  • Assigning the maintenance technicians and scheduling the maintenance jobs to be carried out.
  • Tracking work orders with the time and materials expended to compute the cost of maintenance
  •  Tracking downtime to compute availability, reliability, mean time to repair (MTTR) and mean time between failure (MTBF), and improving operational efficiency.
  • Tracking all the failures, repairs and restoration work done on an asset to have a complete equipment history.
  • Analyzing the failures and instituting countermeasures to prevent their reoccurrence through Root cause analysis (why-why analysis).

What are the Components of a Work Order?

Work order details the who, what, when and how of carrying out the task at hand.  Work Order Components include

  • Asset: Specific equipment or facility on which the work needs to be performed. Asset identification tag, area and location help in identifying the asset quickly and precisely.
  • WO description: Description of the work that needs to be performed
  • Stakeholders: The work order requestor is the person initiating the WO. The owner is responsible for completion. Maintenance Technicians are the resources executing the order and the Supervisor is the one overseeing them. Other stakeholders include safety officers, store clerks for spares inventory, work approvers etc
  • Work Order Status: As the work order is attended to, it traverses through a series of states from initial, assignment, approval, work in progress, completion etc. to reflect the current level of progress.
  • Timelines: Timestamps are captured on work order creation, assignment, completion etc. to calculate the elapsed time, wrench time, waiting time etc. It’s also used to calculate equipment downtime and labour hours expended.
  • Alerts and Notifications: Status communications to stakeholders (email, SMS / Text messages, in-app notifications) sent periodically or on trigger events (Work Order creation/closure, machine On / Off time recording etc.)
  • Maintenance Checklists: Checklists or Job plans are detailed lists of maintenance tasks and sub-tasks and the sequence in which each of them needs to be carried out. Task lists can also specify expected results. Work Order Owner or Maintenance Manager can assign tasks and sub-tasks to other resources that are required to carry out the individual tasks.
  • Spare Parts: Any spare part replacements for maintenance or restoration can be captured for inventory management.
  • Completion Notes: Upon work completion and handing over, the maintenance team can record their evaluation of issue cause and resolution steps.
  • Root cause analysis: The maintenance team performs a why-why analysis to ascertain the root cause analysis of the breakdown maintenance and to prevent a recurrence.
  • Permit to Work: Certain hazardous conditions require securing permits to work prior to work commencement. The Designated Safety officer will inspect the preparatory work and safety measures before issuing the permit.
  • Workflow approvals: Securing approvals from maintenance managers and supervisors when certain thresholds are crossed (eg. Cost of Spare parts greater than a specified amount)

Apart from these, a work order can also contain information on on-site controls, energy controls, outsourced job orders to vendors, documents and pictures relating to the work order (pre, post-breakdown pictures) etc.

What are the different types of Work Orders?

An important classification that is used in maintenance organizations is whether it is a planned work order or unplanned work order.  Routine maintenance activities that are scheduled,  preventive maintenance programs, shut-down or turn-around maintenance, plant equipment upgrades etc. are all planned in advance and executed with minimal impact to shop floor activities and production operations.  Breakdowns, deteriorations and other sudden failures are unplanned.  Unplanned maintenance work impacts the availability,  equipment performance, downstream process equipment/assembly line,  production output and plant operations. 

Work orders can also be classified based on the nature of the work

  • Breakdown Work Order:   A work order generated on demand to restore equipment after an unexpected failure.
  • Preventive Work Order:  A Preventive work order (preventative maintenance work order or planned maintenance work order) is generated based on a planned maintenance schedule to carry out routine maintenance tasks.
  • Corrective Work Order: A work order is generated when a potential failure is discovered. Remedial maintenance work is planned and carried out to resolve the possible failure before it occurred
  • Calibration Work Order: A work order generated on an instrument to recalibrate the measurements at specified periodicity to ensure statutory compliance
  • Inspection and Audit Work Order:  A set of routine inspection tasks to assess the equipment condition, performance, operating environment etc.
  • Service Order:  A work order to carry out daily operational tasks on the equipment like cleaning, lubrication, inspection, tightening and adjustment-related work.
  • Other types of work orders in maintenance software include installation orders, change work orders (changing the mould, dies, and another tooling), and job orders for outsourced work. 

Work orders may also be classified as internal or external work orders, depending on the originator.  Manufacturing organizations create work orders and assign them to external vendors if the specific equipment is under OEM warranty, Annual Maintenance Contracts (AMC) or requires specialized skills for maintenance.   OEMs that manage the equipment life cycle of the assets installed at customer premises, often get the work order requests or work orders initiated externally by customers. 

Large maintenance projects like CapEx build-outs, Shut down maintenance (turn around maintenance), Management of change etc. involves the generation of numerous work orders on different related assets.  Each of these work orders refers to a specific, singular endeavour performed on a specific asset to deliver a certain result.  Projects require the execution of numerous such work orders, in a coordinated and sequential manner and within a defined time.

What is a Work Order Request?

A work order request (work request) is created by users outside the maintenance department and assigned to the maintenance team.  Work request can be an instruction, notice, alert or warning received or for a routine inspection.  The maintenance department will review the work request received and may upgrade it to a work order. 

Key differences between work order requests and work orders are

  • Work order requests are raised by non-maintenance departments whereas work orders are raised by maintenance teams
  • Work order requests carry information from the production perspective and may require additional investigation prior to upgrading as work order
  • Work order requests carry only the essential information about the asset and problem, for the work order initiation.  Work orders will contain additional information including issue details, failure mode, work priority,  sequence of tasks, a timeline of activities, resolution procedure, why analysis etc.

How are Work Orders generated?

Work orders can be generated manually or automatically.   Machine operators can raise work order requests that can be upgraded to work orders.  Maintenance teams themselves can create work orders directly, upon notification of any breakdowns or performance deteriorations.

Maintenance organizations driven by manual processes prepare a paper-based maintenance planning schedule or Time-based maintenance in Excel sheets, that have the full maintenance calendar for the year.  Each of the 52 weeks will have scheduled maintenance work allocated and displayed on the maintenance planning board.  The maintenance team will create the preventive maintenance work orders for the week and complete the maintenance activities.

Maintenance supervisors and team members can also review the non-conformance reports (NCRs) received an opportunity maintenance item notified and upgrade them as maintenance work orders as well.

CMMS Software and Enterprise Asset Management Systems (EAM Systems) may have preventive maintenance schedules defined as per elapsed calendar time.  Every day at a pre-defined time, a batch process will be run to generate the scheduled preventive maintenance work orders for the day.  The system will generate the scheduled maintenance work orders and assign them to the maintenance teams for work order execution.

MaintWiz_CMMS work order system

Usage-based and condition-based maintenance schedules also create the maintenance work orders automatically.   Business rules are pre-defined in the system and every time a meter reading is entered in the system, either manually or captured from automated data sources (like PLC, SCADA, MES, Internet of Things etc.), it will be validated against the business rules set and if trigger conditions are met, the preventative maintenance work orders will be generated automatically.

Annual Maintenance Contracts (AMC) and Warranty services contracts stipulate certain periodic maintenance activities.  These can be configured and planned maintenance work orders can be generated manually or via the system as well.

Direct integration with DCS, M2M interface, intelligent machines can also trigger maintenance work orders, whenever there is a stoppage.  DCS and other interfaces will send the digital work order request along with the timestamp and error code to the CMMS / EAM system and a breakdown work order will be raised automatically with the failure code.

Define the Work Order Process Life Cycle

The work order process passes through a sequence of steps from problem identification to rectification.  As the work order progresses through the different statuses, more information about the issue and potential resolution is known.

Illustration of Work Order Life Cycle:

Problem Identification: The incidence of a breakdown or maintenance activity that needs to be carried out has been identified either manually or by a system

Work Order Request: If the problem identification has been done external to the maintenance department, said by the user department, a  work order request can be generated.

Work Order Creation: Work orders can be created by the system (preventative maintenance) or by the maintenance team (directly or by upgrading work requests).  The work order management software will have tracking details, owner, technicians assigned, work details etc.


Planning & Scheduling: Planned work orders can be scheduled for execution at a specific time in future. Breakdowns and other emergency maintenance are unplanned and need to be attended immediately.   

Assignment: Based on the nature of the job, the task list and sub-tasks can be assigned to one or more people, who have the requisite skills.

Execution: Execution of work is carried out by the maintenance team as per the work order instructions. Individual work may involve preliminary work like securing work permits and following safety procedures. Performance starts with troubleshooting in case of failures.

Resolution / Work Completion: Upon resolution or work completion, equipment is handed over to production.  Certain equipment may need configuration to bring back the same state when it broke down.   The work order is marked as complete.  In certain organizations, the production team may be marking work orders as complete, after verification and upon a certain cooling period.

Root Cause Analysis: For breakdown work orders, based on the nature of the problem, downtime, criticality of equipment and impact, a why-why analysis is performed to determine the root cause analysis and other contributing factors.

Recurrence Prevention: Suitable corrective and preventive maintenance actions are taken to prevent the recurrence of the same problem in future. Learning organizations also implement equal corrective and preventive measures for all the equipment belonging to the same equipment class across the enterprise (Horizontal Deployment).

What is Work Order Management?

Work order management is the collective set of processes and activities followed by the maintenance teams in executing the work order.  It defines the life cycle of the work order from initiation to completion. 

The work order management process involves identification of the problem, assessment of impact and prioritization, scheduling maintenance activities, resource assignment, troubleshooting, coordinating with other stakeholders, defining and executing the remedial measures, recording the tasks, progress, time and costs, and resolving the issue. Work order management brings a structured approach to managing maintenance activities and processes systematically.

What are the Benefits of Work Order Management?

  1. An efficient work order management system strives for planned maintenance to reduce unexpected failures, thereby avoiding downtime loss.
  2. Increases effectiveness during breakdowns by enabling well-organized response and faster restoration.
  3. Extends the life of enterprise assets via proactive preventive maintenance
  4. Improves maintenance productivity through a structured approach and enables access to all relevant information including equipment history, design documents, past failures, responses, etc.
  5. Streamlines operations via a standardized process, thereby increasing the consistency
  6. Increases compliance with Safety, Health & Environmental Norms
  7. Optimizes total cost of ownership of the equipment
  8. Enables continuous improvement by tracking parameters and consistently improving them over time

What are the different Work Order Management Systems available?

Work order Management was managed heuristically initially.  Maintenance organizations that follow manual processes used

  • Paper-based forms and templates for work order information capture
  • Planning boards to give an overview of the maintenance backlogs and planned maintenance work for the year/quarter/month/week etc.  Calendar views depicting equipment schedule and maintenance team work allocation
  • Daily log books to record the planned preventive maintenance activities and completed work orders
  • Maintenance metrics are generated out of these manual records. Paper-based graphs and charts that depict the various maintenance metrics are prepared manually and displayed.

As computerization increased, maintenance teams started managing these activities electronically.  Spreadsheets (Excel sheets) are used for managing the preventive maintenance schedules,  document templates for a list of maintenance tasks and spare replacement, and a combination of productivity tools for maintenance metrics and reports.

Manufacturing organizations developed their own homegrown business applications (work order management software) for production management, shop floor planning and maintenance management.  Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP Systems) like SAP, Baan (Infor) and Oracle Apps have  Plant Maintenance modules as part of their portfolio. Facilities Management software and Field service applications honed their work order management features. OEMs also started supplying certain limited functionality maintenance management software with narrow work order capabilities.

MaintWiz_Work order management systems

With growing complexity and sophistication in enterprise business requirements,  asset management and plant maintenance became business-critical.   Specialized and ready-made commercial off-the-shelf software applications and systems evolved.   Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS Software), Work Order Management systems (Work order software), Enterprise Asset Management Systems etc. grew with different focus areas and specializations to support maintenance management activities and asset life cycle operations.

The emergence of newer technologies like cloud, mobile, big data and internet of things, and convergence of application functionalities has given rise to a modern breed of applications.  Industry 4.0-based integrated asset management and maintenance applications today are offered as Software-as-a-Service (Saas application), that are ready to use with no additional hardware.  These Industry 4.0 CMMS systems help plant maintenance teams quickly build their asset register, set up preventative maintenance schedules and generate work orders.   Industry 4.0 CMMS software also connects with operational technologies to provide a unified view of assets and automatically creates breakdown work orders upon stoppage.

What are work order analytics?

Work order analytics is the application of math, statistics and modelling to work order-related data to analyze, visualize and predict patterns.   Work order analytics help in improving the efficacy of maintenance operations.   Maintenance metrics and asset insights generated are used for making better business decisions.  Work order analytics facilitate a measure-manage-improve approach to improve asset management and maintenance strategy.

MaintWiz_Work order analytics

Maintenance Work Order analytics includes

  • Equipment Metrics:  Availability, Overall Equipment Effectiveness
  • Failure Metrics:  Downtime, MTTR, MTBF, Failure code analysis
  • Performance Metrics:  Schedule compliance, work orders classification by priority, type or status, resource productivity
  • Financial Metrics:    Cost of Maintenance, Total Cost of Ownership, Downtime loss
  • Predictive Analytics:   Machine failures, Equipment Risk, Reliability, Residual life

Aggregate analysis of all work orders for specific sites, groups of equipment, nature of the issue, severity of impact or over a particular period of time can be done. Maintenance metrics generated can be useful to benchmark equipment against standards, equipment trends over time and equipment performance against peers.  Maintenance work order  Analytics can also help in detecting early warning symptoms of failures, planning, and scheduling maintenance activities, deploying learnings horizontally across peer equipment classes and monitoring efficiency.

Advanced CMMS can integrate with smart machines, sensors, and the internet of things to capture real-time parameter data and features built-in algorithms and intelligent models to predict failures.

Why is MaintWiz CMMS the best choice for managing your Work Orders?

MaintWiz is a new age industry 4.0 CMMS software platform that helps you to digitize your maintenance operations and assist you in converting the routine maintenance transactions to management metrics. MaintWiz is offered as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, with mobile enablement to facilitate data capture at the point of work by the operational staff.

MaintWiz Industry 4.0 CMMS software is a Simple, Easy to use, Integrated, Cost-effective and Scalable solution.  Principal advantages of the MaintWiz CMMS solution include:

  1. Software as a Service: MaintWiz  is accessible anywhere, anytime and over any device
  2. Simple: Designed with easy-to-use and intuitive screens. Easy to learn and start using without any complex training
  3. Comprehensive: Powerful features to manage different types of work orders viz. breakdown, preventive, shut-down,  corrective and service orders, to meet the unique needs.
  4. One-Click Maintenance: The mobile Application enables One-Click Maintenance via QR code.  All the routine maintenance activities including work order creation to completion can be done on mobile devices, at the point of work.
  5. Scheduling: Supports sophisticated time-based, condition-based and event-based scheduling activities with relaxed rules for set-up. Excel templates for quick upload of schedules and checklists ensure the shortest cycle time to go live
  6. Root cause Analysis: Features why-why analysis to investigate root cause for breakdown work orders and implement corrective action, preventive action (CAPA)
  7. Instrument Calibration: Set up instrument calibration schedule and generate calibration orders to meet statutory compliance
  8. Action-oriented insights: Detailed analytics and interactive reports to support in-depth analysis and provide 360-degree insights on failures, productivity, schedule compliance, etc.

MaintWiz Industry 4.0 CMMS is offered on a monthly subscription basis, and thus there is no upfront capital investment. Once you sign up, you can start using it on the same day to create maintenance work orders and set up preventative maintenance schedules.

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