A successful work order management process should be standardized, structured, and able to transition smoothly from one stage to another. It should avoid unnecessary complexity, striving for simplicity whenever possible. Ideally, a business’s work order management process encompasses several departments and professional specializations. Managers, in other words, should strive for the sweet spot between an overly bureaucratic system and an ad-hoc one. Here’s an outline of key areas of the work order management process that no operation should go without.
Managers and operations chiefs should develop and institute a uniform, consistent process for creating work orders within their organization. Work order initiation should be relatively simple and accessible while still requiring essential information like job details and end-users. All tasks, regardless of size, should require a work order. Whether it’s a 20-minute parts replacement or a weeks-long, multi-site project, you want work order initiation to be standard practice.
Making sure every task your field team executes is documented through a work order is important for several reasons. First, it can help guarantee that your business gets paid for all its work. Second, mandating work order initiation for all jobs can decrease the amount of information that needs to be communicated after work is started. The crucial details are in the work order for all stakeholders to see. This can eliminate backtracking emails, phone calls, and meetings that waste time and cover old ground.
Once a work order is started, the next stage should be approval. In this stage, an operations manager or supervisor should review the work order and decide whether or not it should proceed further along the work order management chain. At this stage, operations heads are primarily looking for red flags that could justify the suspension of a work order. These include safety issues, budgetary concerns, or scheduling conflicts.
Managers like you are the only team members whose scope is large enough to consider every facet of the operation, and whether a particular work order could impact any of them. The approval stage is your opportunity to identify whether a work order presents problems for the rest of your company. Focus on factors that could jeopardize employees’ safety, operational workflow, or the health of the organization as a whole.
A strong, reliable work order management process will have a system for prioritizing work orders. It’s important to remember, though, that this system should rely on objective criteria rather than individual employees’ preferences. High priority status is typically reserved for work orders that are time-sensitive, involve client or employee safety, or could result in damage to assets or customer loyalty if not immediately addressed. Lower priority items include routine tasks such as maintenance and preventative work.
After a work order has been approved and given a priority status, it must be assigned. This is the stage where operations chiefs can really shine. Here they demonstrate their in-depth knowledge of service work, the field technicians at their disposal, and field team schedules. A manager’s goal in this step is to find the technician with the availability and expertise to execute. Assigning work orders is a tricky balance that must take into account skill sets, schedules, and field locations.
Work order management software better prepares managers for this critical step in the work order management process. These platforms often feature dashboards that can provide access to technician schedules, real-time mapping visualizations that show their locations, and inventory data. Once you’ve assigned a work order to a field team member, other team members, supervisors, and back-office personnel can see the status update. This provides a level of transparency to help ensure everyone is on the same page throughout the workday.
When assigning work orders, managers must also make sure they’re equipping their field techs with enough information to succeed. Work orders should be accompanied by detailed descriptions of the job and the client, service and compliance codes, SLA category, and any parts or equipment that should be brought to the service site. In addition, techs should be able to access instructional information on the job. Detailed, task-specific instructions can help your technicians expand their skill sets, improve first-time fix rates, and keep customer satisfaction high.
Work order management software can be an excellent platform for field support materials and custom workflow management. Through accessing the software from their mobile devices, technicians can reference digital manuals, step-by-step processes, or video guides. Taken together, these resources can serve as a critical fieldwork safety net.
“Execution” refers to the stage in which the field service engineer (FSE) completes the task defined in the work order. All previous steps are designed and implemented to make sure this step takes place under the safest, most ideal circumstances. FSEs should understand what the work order entails, what equipment and/or parts are required to complete it, and what reference materials to use if they run into problems. The execution of work orders should be efficient but never rushed. Throughout the process, lines of communication between field techs, managers, and back-office personnel should always be open.
After an FSE completes a work order, it enters the closeout phase. At this point, the status of the work order is updated to “completed,” and office personnel can close the work order and create an invoice. The time between when a work order is completed and when a client receives an invoice can vary dramatically. Businesses with work order management platforms can shrink that time frame down substantially. With this software, companies can create invoices and trigger the payment process immediately after jobs are completed.
In today’s field service industry, managers are more focused than ever on key performance indicators (KPIs). For example, if you’re the operations chief at a telecommunications firm, you’ll want to focus on KPIs specific to telecommunications. These may include total subscribers, service quality, call drop rate, minutes of usage (MOU), and average revenue per minute (ARPM). Work orders can provide the raw data that gives you these measurements. Without using work order data to track KPIs, knowing where your operation stands may be difficult.
Work order management software can turn work order data into sophisticated dashboards that give managers powerful glimpses into their business. These graphs and charts can illustrate everything from efficiency and first-time fix rates to idle time and figures on missed appointment windows.
A business’s work order management process doesn’t have to be complex or slowed by unnecessary layers of approval. But it does need to be diligent. Successful processes can ensure every work order receives the attention and vetting critical to carrying out jobs in a responsible fashion. In many cases, work order management software can be the difference between an adequate process and an outstanding one. Using the latest industry technology, these programs can maximize stakeholder visibility at every stage of the work order life cycle. They can also equip field techs with a repertoire of digital resources to help them confidently execute service work.
EnSight+‘s bundle of intuitive, interconnected functionalities have a low learning curve and a high level of utility for a range of businesses. Please feel free to take a look at our EnSight+ page to learn more about work order management software.
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