What is a Work Order?

By Brian Sugarman on March 2, 2021
Tags: Business Operations, Productivity

Person typing on a laptop

Work orders are tools that are commonly used in many industries to request the performance of a task or job. A work order is typically going to be generated by a customer’s request, but it can also be generated within an organization for an internal request.

These requests are usually to perform a specific task, like a request for maintenance or a request to follow up on a previously performed service. They are normally sent to a maintenance team or another example would be a request that is sent out to a field service technician. 

Work orders can sometimes be generated automatically using a maintenance management system or a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS software) that’s designed to schedule preventive maintenance. 

One distinction to note is that the work order is not typically the request, but rather it’s the follow-up step that happens after the submission and approval of the request form. It’s also important to point out that work orders are not the same as purchase orders, but they may trigger a purchase order or vice-versa.

Work orders are used every day across countless businesses and industries. These tools are incredibly powerful, and they can even help to create efficiencies for your business and improve operational workflows for organizations of all sizes and complexity. 


What are the Key Elements in a Work Order?

Work orders can have a variety of different elements depending on the specific use case. So if you’re a property management company, your work order is probably going to look somewhat different than that of a field service company doing telecom work. 

Despite the different use cases, it’s still vital that work orders contain some essential information that is universal across all work order forms. Here is our list of the essential information that all work orders should include:

  • Address and location information: Providing the job location is critical so teams know where the work needs to be performed.
  • Designated contact information: It’s important to have the designated person’s contact information, in case there is an expected delay in arrival for performing the work or if questions happen to arise in connection with that work order. This contact may also be different from the requestor if there happens to be a facility manager or other worker that is present instead. 
  • Due date: Having a due date for a work order is important for preventing a backlog of work and it gives you the ability to predict downtime due to maintenance or repair work going on.
  • Request date: You will want to keep track of when requests were submitted, and including a date helps to ensure that work requests don’t fall through the cracks.
  • Requestor information: It’s possible that a different person will be present than the person who actually submitted the request for work or maintenance service. It can be helpful to have the requestor’s information to reference, in case there are questions related to the request.
  • Assigned field technicians or maintenance team: Work orders should always contain information about the teams that are assigned to fulfill the order. This helps companies track work being performed and helps to ensure that the correct individuals are responding to the request.
  • Instructions for work to be carried out: Work orders should always include detailed instructions to avoid any ambiguity about the required work.


By following these best practices and including all of these elements in your work order requests, your team will encounter fewer issues when carrying out maintenance tasks and this will help your teams maximize their efficiency and maintain their KPIs.


How do work requests and estimates become work orders after approval?

It’s typical in most situations that clients will receive an estimate for work based on the work requested that was submitted. Once a request or estimate has been submitted, the customer, maintenance manager, or some other decision-maker will then either approve or deny the work.

If a denial happens for whatever reason, a notification will be sent to the requestor that provides them with the reason for rejection and the opportunity to follow-up or to resubmit the work order request.

But if the work request is approved, it means that the work order process has now begun.

The approval of a work request can be generated in real-time with more advanced work order management systems that are able to automatically schedule work orders and subsequent maintenance tasks. In less advanced systems, an approval might require a maintenance manager to manually schedule the services with the maintenance team. 


Handling work orders with work order management software

A great way to handle maintenance work orders is by using a work order management system or maintenance management system that can help to automatically generate dispatch calls or job orders, and it can trigger various processes or workflows to occur. 

Companies that want to improve their KPIs and overall customer satisfaction should consider using these systems to streamline their operations and create business efficiencies. Additional benefits of using these systems include:

  • Automatically generated reminder phone calls about scheduled work to be performed
  • Insights into potential backlog of work orders depending on various metrics 
  • Ability to track and report on overall work performance

Businesses have found that these types of software systems can scale to meet their growing needs and organizations of all sizes have found that the tools are accessible and easy to get started.