Work Orders & Work Order Management
Project Management touches upon many different aspects when delivering, one of those aspects are work orders. Work orders should do more than simply describe jobs to contractors. There are many different types of work orders that can be used and any business can benefit from implementing a superior work order process.
A work order is the channel between the customer and the work to be done. It’s the paper trail defining what needs to be done, by when and for how much. As project managers, we would have signed off or been given a work order, but is there a real understanding on why it is such a crucial link in many business transactions.
A work order is a document that describes a job between a customer and a contractor. Work orders can be generated for use within an organization, but they most commonly serve as a contract between the customer and whomever they contract to execute the desired work.
A work order includes a description of the job with an estimate of what it will cost to get it done, including labour, parts and materials. There might be forms attached depending on the type of work being assigned, which may require permits or other paperwork.
The work order will also have information on the location where the work is needed, who will carry it out and the timeframe in which it should be completed. The customer information is also included and can be used as an invoice for the work.
Work orders standardize workflow and create a simple and fast process for scheduling, assigning and tracking work while documenting resources and tracking performance. Primarily used in the construction industry for service requests, but can also be used for products, inspections and audits. In manufacturing a work order is often called a sales order when a build or engineering is to take place.
Regardless of what industry a work order is used in, it is used to track and monitor progress of the status of the job. This is true when used in field service or within an industry that is tasked with regular inspection. In that regard they act almost like a status report.
In terms of structure there are several types of work orders.
- Quotes: This type of work order is a list of products with their pricing included. These quotes are captured and the customer can then make the decision as to whether they meet their financial requirements for the work. These products are not committed to inventory.
- Orders: The difference between a quote work order and an orders-based work order is that the latter is a list of products that are more likely to be purchased by the customer. Therefore, these can be committed to an inventory.
- Unplanned Work Order: This addresses work that has not been planned ahead, such as when machinery breaks down.
- Planned Work Order: When there is work that recurs and can be scheduled, such as preventive maintenance, then it’s called a planned work order.
- Internal Work Order: These are work orders that originate from someone in the organization and are sent to another person in the organization.
- External Work Order: When a work order originates from outside the organization.
- Manual Work Order: This work order is scheduled by hand after getting a work request.
- Automatic Work Order: When a work order can be set up to automatically schedule assignments, such as a software tool.
These types are somewhat flexible in that once the work order is made, it can be changed from a quote to an order, detailing how many products on the quote can be committed to. An order to a quote has the order-only information, such as an authorization date.
A work order is in effect a task. It’s a way to describe, assign and track a job to make sure it is completed on time and within an agreed-upon budget. Managing the creating and flow of a work order as it moves from initiation to execution and completion is key.
The work order process follows three steps:
1. Create a
new work order
2. Traffic through the organization
3. Close the work order when complete
In terms of those who are involved in work order management, they include the person who requested the work, the individual who is authorized to approve it and those who carry it out.
Having some reporting mechanism will also help to keep track of the work and make sure that it’s finished by the deadline. When finished, payment is required, and so payroll needs to be involved to manage any down payments and then final pay.
Project Software can help organize work and drive efficiency. Generating, tracking and paying for work orders is enhanced by cloud-based tool that provides real-time data to always know if the project is on schedule.
Kanban boards can be used to create work orders, add attachments, set priorities and track progress. Work orders are made on cards that are then placed beneath columns that represent the phases of the work, which can be customized to match an organization’s nomenclature.
Keep track of progress on dashboards that automatically reflect status updates and calculate metrics such as time, tasks, costs and more. If the crew is predominately in the field, as long as there is internet connectivity, they can update their status or collaborate by commenting at the task level.
Time logged on work can also be tracked with time sheets that streamline payroll as well. They’re secure and easy to use. Let us know your work order experience, approach taken and results to the project’s success. All the very best on your project management journey.