Work orders enable organisations of your size to service customers effectively and efficiently, and can be a key tool in sustaining growth. But only if they’re effective.
You’re coordinating across numerous departments and various stakeholders under a precise schedule – it’s vital the work order process is as streamlined and uncomplicated as possible.
Implementing a work order management system can save 15-30% of your maintenance budget, because of the reduction in downtime, lower material costs, and increase in productivity. Work order software will almost always bring benefits, but only if it’s part of a wider effort to align your organisation with best practices for work orders.
Let’s take a look at what that means.
Best practices in managing work orders
When planning installation and maintenance work for clients, best practices for work orders mean you need to:
- Standardise work orders across your organisation. Work orders are sensible for larger projects, but you may find employees ignoring them on the smaller jobs. A standardised process where all jobs initiate a work order helps you build a cohesive system where jobs aren’t lost or delayed.
- Define the workflow. Mapping your processes enables you to begin each work order with a breakdown of the services required and the workflow through your organisation. If you use job management software, you can template work orders. Then, all a user needs to do is choose the type of work that needs to be done from a drop-down menu, and the process will be mapped for them.
- Initiate a robust approval process. Who is responsible for approving work orders prior to assigning them? This approval process is a vital step, because it means the work order is checked for its required information. It also considers safety concerns before it goes back to the client or out to the wider team.
- Create a priority matrix. When juggling large work orders, a system for prioritizing stages of work will improve efficiency, as well as keep clients happy. It will also identify and eliminate safety risks. Many HVAC companies rely on user-defined priorities, which isn’t ideal – everyone thinks their job is urgent or vital.
- Manage the schedule. When it comes to scheduling, a human brain can only deal with so much detail. Software doesn’t have that limitation. It will save your bacon by juggling numerous work order types, ensuring urgent work is prioritized, and assigning and executing efficiently.
- Track inventory. One of the biggest hurdles in increasing productivity is waiting for parts to arrive once a work order has been issued. Maintaining an up-to-date inventory enables your team to react quickly to emergencies and to continue running a tight maintenance schedule.
- Maintain product information. Another problem that holds up productivity is the inability of team members to get important information quickly. Being able to access service history, parts lists, maintenance logs, and where certain devices are located on a premises, ensures that your work orders are actioned seamlessly.
- An ability to set goals and analyse KPIs. A tremendous wealth of information is stored and inputted into your work orders – you should be able to use that information to inform business strategy.
Great systems underpin successful work orders
A work order may look simple to the client, but the processes that go into putting that order together can be extremely complex. When those systems and processes are in place, your team improves productivity and works more effectively. You’re also able to gain visibility and control over your data – and insights gathered can be used to improve efficiencies further.
Example: Wrench Time
To see whether a work order is successful, we should consider what one planner refers to as wrench-time. This is the time actually spent on the tools, in conducting maintenance or installation work.
The author’s research points to a baseline of 40% wrench-time in a highly reactive environment, with many operators reporting even lower numbers (25%, 20%, or as low as 10%). Your instinct might be to blame the workers, but poor processes account for most of this unproductive time.
Common problems interrupting wrench-time include:
- Firefighting: Too many emergencies all over the place, with high reactivity.
- Meetings and briefings.
- Waiting: For parts to arrive, for plant to be shut down, for other people to finish their jobs, or for additional information like drawings or specifications.
In a best practice environment, these problems don’t exist. Instead, when the worker receives the work order, they feel confident that the right approvals have been gained, that the parts are available, and they can easily reach the unit and perform the work. Wrench-time can be significantly improved.
The safety aspect of best practice work orders should also not be discounted. HVAC systems incorporate chemicals and electronics that present safety hazards to workers and the public. Sending workers in with the right information, and all the parts needed to finish a job, means fewer accidents and improved response times for emergency repairs.
Automation can be used to great effect when it comes to maintenance contracts on HVAC systems. That’s where software like myFLO comes in. It gives you the ability to compute tasks at lightning speed, and get a big-picture overview of workflows and maintenance work schedules. Remember, once the work order process has been mapped, most steps – from inventory management, job allocation, customer communication, right down to scheduling – can be automated.
The most noticeable impact of improved automation is financial.
Your “wrench workers” in particular will appreciate improvements to the system. When they can get in and complete their jobs with ease, it will improve company culture. Too often, wrench-workers bear the brunt of client’s anger over long wait times.
Many HVAC maintenance needs are on mission-critical and safety-critical equipment (for example, in hospitals or retirement homes). Absolutely no one wants to place lives in danger because work is delayed or the right parts aren’t available. An automated system can factor these in when prioritizing, and will ensure you’re always prepared for mission-critical and safety-critical maintenance.
The financial and efficiency rewards of automation will also reach your clients. According to a research article from July 2018, automation can dramatically reduce costs for clients. For them, time is money, especially if HVAC system faults mean they can’t operate a business for several hours while they wait for repairs.
Facility Maintenance Management comprises 65%-85% of the total cost of facility management. Therefore, if you can reduce the time spent on repairs and maintenance, you will decrease their costs. It’s estimated that automated work order systems could reduce equipment downtime by as much as 20%.
Over time, automation can also provide you with those valuable insights and KPIs you can use to grow the business and decide on strategy.
Best practices in work orders improves your service delivery
Following best practices and adopting automation for work orders allows your team to:
- work more efficiently
- decrease wait times for clients
- provide wrench-workers with the tools they need to do their jobs
- decrease the number of complaints
- improve your safety record
- respond quickly to mission-critical and safety-critical requests, and
- provide superior service to your clients.
The benefits of getting your work orders in, well, order, far outweigh the work of getting them right.
myFLO has been putting best practice work orders in place almost since we started.
To find out how we can help you improve your service delivery, talk to our experts today on 1300 78 46 60.