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 should aim for the sweet spot between too much control and too little oversight. Here’s an outline of key areas of the work order management process that no operation should go without.
Try to develop and institute a uniform, consistent process for creating work orders within your organization. Work order initiation should be simple, covering essential information like job details and end-users. All jobs without exception should generate a work order. Whether it’s a 20-minute parts replacement or a weeks-long, multi-site project, initiation should be standard practice. You’ll want to be sure that every task your field team executes is documented through a work order. This is important for several reasons.
First, it can help guarantee that your business gets paid for all its work. Second, when all jobs have a work order, everything is on record in an organized and accessible system. All stakeholders have access to the same, complete information. This can eliminate backtracking emails, phone calls, and meetings that waste time and cover old ground.
Once a work order is started, the next step is 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 chain. 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.
Operations managers are the ones 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 decide if a work order presents problems for 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. This system should rely on objective criteria, not individual employees’ preferences. High priority status is typically reserved for work orders that are time-sensitive and/or present safety issues. Lower priority items include routine tasks such as maintenance and preventative work.
After a work order has been approved and given priority status, it must be assigned to a technician. This is the stage where operations chiefs can really shine. Here they can 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 process. These platforms feature customizable dashboards to quickly access schedules, real-time vehicle and personnel locations, inventory data, etc. Once you’ve assigned a work order to a field team member, other relevant personnel can see the 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 their field techs have the information needed to succeed. All work orders should be accompanied by detailed descriptions of the job and the client. Be sure to include service and compliance codes, SLA category, and any parts or equipment needed at 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, 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 and quality assurance a priority.
After an FSE completes a work order, it enters the closeout phase. The status of the work order moves to “completed.” Office personnel can now close that work order and create an invoice. The time between and when a client receives an invoice can vary dramatically. Businesses with work order management platforms can shrink that time frame down substantially. Companies can create invoices and trigger the process immediately after a job.
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. However, 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.
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