What is a work order? Six steps for the perfect work order

Table of Content

Work orders serve as the backbone of your maintenance endeavors, propelling your team forward and facilitating the transition of tasks. Yet, in a vast array of work orders, ranging from dilapidated ones to robust, high-performance ones, lies a spectrum of possibilities. This piece aims to delve into optimizing maintenance work orders, ensuring your operations glide as seamlessly as a high-end sports vehicle.

What is a work order?

What is a work order?

A work order is a formal document or electronic record that details a specific task or job that needs to be completed within an organization. It serves as a directive or request for maintenance, repair, installation, or any other type of work to be carried out.

Key components typically included in a work order are:

  1. Description of Work: A clear and concise explanation of the task or job to be performed. This may include details like the nature of the work, location, equipment involved, and any specific instructions.
  2. Priority Level: Indicates the urgency or importance of the task, helping in task prioritization and resource allocation.
  3. Assigned Personnel: Specifies the individuals or team responsible for completing the work, along with their contact information.
  4. Timeline or Due Date: Specifies the deadline by which the work should be completed, ensuring timely execution.
  5. Materials and Resources: Lists the necessary materials, tools, or resources required to perform the task.
  6. Authorization and Signatures: Includes approval signatures or authorization from relevant personnel before the work can commence.

Work orders serve as a formal way to track and manage various tasks within an organization, providing a structured approach to managing maintenance, repairs, projects, or other operational activities. They help in organizing work, ensuring accountability, and maintaining a record of completed tasks for future reference and analysis.

Work order vs work request

Work orders and work requests are related but serve different purposes in the management of tasks within an organization:

Work Request:

  • A work request is an initial document or form submitted by someone within an organization to communicate a need for a particular task or service.
  • It’s often a request for maintenance, repairs, or any other type of work.
  • Work requests are usually less detailed than work orders and serve as a way to initiate the process of addressing a problem or fulfilling a need.
  • They may include basic information such as the nature of the issue, location, urgency, and contact information of the requester.

Work Order:

  • A work order is a more comprehensive and detailed document generated based on an approved work request.
  • It contains specific instructions, details, and requirements necessary for completing the task or service.
  • Work orders provide information on what needs to be done, by whom, deadlines, materials or resources needed, cost estimates, and sometimes additional instructions or safety guidelines.
  • Once a work request is approved, it is often converted into a work order, which then serves as a guiding document for the technicians, contractors, or employees responsible for completing the task.

In essence, work requests initiate the process by identifying a need or issue, while work orders formalize and provide detailed instructions for executing the requested work.

Types of work orders

Types of work orders

 can vary based on the industry, organization, and the nature of the work being requested. Here are several common types of work orders:

  1. Routine Maintenance: These are scheduled, recurring work orders designed to maintain equipment, machinery, or facilities in good working condition. They often include tasks like inspections, lubrication, or minor adjustments.
  2. Corrective Maintenance : Generated in response to a specific issue or problem, these work orders address repairs, replacements, or fixes needed to resolve a malfunction or breakdown.
  3. Preventive Maintenance : These are proactive tasks aimed at preventing potential issues. They involve systematic checks, replacements, or repairs to avoid future breakdowns or failures.
  4. Emergency : Urgent requests requiring immediate attention to address critical situations, such as equipment failures or safety hazards that could cause significant disruption if not resolved quickly.
  5. Installation or Construction: These involve setting up new equipment, constructing new facilities, or implementing new systems within an organization.
  6. Service : Typically used in service-based industries, these orders detail specific tasks requested by customers, such as repairs, installations, or maintenance services.
  7. Internal: These encompass various internal tasks within an organization, ranging from office maintenance, IT support, administrative tasks, or any other internal service requests.
  8. Capital : These orders involve significant investments or projects, often requiring substantial resources and budget allocation. They could include renovations, upgrades, or major installations.
  9. Specialized : Tailored to specific industries, these orders could include tasks like quality control checks, environmental compliance, or specialized services unique to certain sectors.

Each type of work order serves a distinct purpose and requires specific instructions, resources, and expertise to complete the designated tasks efficiently. Organizations often use a combination of these types to manage their operations effectively.

What is the work order lifecycle?

What is the work order lifecycle?


The work order lifecycle refers to the various stages a work order goes through from its initiation to its completion. It typically involves several steps:

  1. Work Request Initiation: The lifecycle begins when a work request is submitted, either by an employee, customer, or through an automated system, outlining the need for a specific task or service.
  2. Work Order Creation: Once the work request is approved and evaluated, it is converted into a work order. This involves detailing the specific tasks, resources required, timelines, and any other necessary instructions.
  3. Assignment and Scheduling: The work order is then assigned to the appropriate individual or team responsible for completing the tasks outlined in the order. Scheduling involves setting deadlines and determining when the work will be carried out.
  4. Authorization and Approval: In some cases, especially for significant tasks or expenses, the work order might need additional authorization or approval before work can commence.
  5. Execution: This phase involves carrying out the tasks outlined in the work order. Technicians, contractors, or employees follow the instructions provided to complete the assigned work.
  6. Monitoring and Updates: Throughout the execution phase, supervisors or managers may monitor progress, update the status, and make necessary adjustments as required.
  7. Completion and Verification: Once the tasks outlined in the work order are finished, there is a verification process to ensure that the work has been completed according to the specified requirements.
  8. Documentation and Recording: Details of the completed work, including any observations, materials used, time taken, and other relevant information, are recorded for future reference and documentation.
  9. Closure and Evaluation: The work order is officially closed, marking the end of the lifecycle. Post-completion evaluations may be conducted to assess the efficiency of the process, identify areas for improvement, and gather feedback.
  10. Archive or Storage:  details, documentation, and any associated records are stored or archived for future reference, compliance, or auditing purposes.

The lifecycle aims to ensure that tasks are carried out efficiently, documented properly, and provide a structured process for managing work requests within an organization. Each stage is crucial in maintaining accountability, tracking progress, and facilitating effective communication throughout the process.

How to write a good work order in six steps

Writing a good work order involves clear communication, detailed instructions, and essential information to ensure the task is completed effectively. Here’s a six-step guide:

  1. Title and Description:
    • Begin with a clear and descriptive title that summarizes the task or service to be performed.
    • Provide a brief but detailed description of the work to be done. Include specifics about the issue, task, or service requested.
  2. Detailed Instructions:
    • Break down the task into clear, step-by-step instructions. Use bullet points or numbered lists to make it easy to follow.
    • Specify the tools, materials, and equipment required to complete the job. Include quantities if applicable.
  3. Priority, Timeline, and Deadline:
    • Indicate the priority level of the work order (urgent, high, medium, low) to help with scheduling and resource allocation.
    • Set a realistic timeline and deadline for completion. Consider the urgency of the task and any dependencies.
  4. Contact Information and Responsible Parties:
    • Include contact information for the requester or anyone else who should be informed about the progress or completion of the task.
    • Clearly specify the person or team responsible for carrying out the work. Include names, roles, and contact details.
  5. Safety and Special Instructions:
    • If the task involves any safety precautions or specific guidelines, highlight them clearly. Ensure that safety instructions are prominent.
    • Include any special instructions, such as site access details, specific procedures, or client preferences.
  6. Review and Approval:
    • Before finalizing the work order, review it for accuracy, completeness, and clarity.
    • Ensure that the necessary approvals or authorizations are obtained before assigning the work order.

By following these steps, you can create a comprehensive and effective work order that provides clear guidance to those responsible for carrying out the task or service. Clarity, detail, and accuracy are key elements in writing a good work order.

What should be in a work order?

A comprehensive work order consists of 16 distinct sections designed to furnish maintenance workers with vital information essential for understanding and executing the given task proficiently. Below, you’ll find the breakdown of these 16 components. Additionally, utilizing this work order template can significantly enhance the creation of more precise work orders. Similar to other products from your facility, work orders must be crafted meticulously and devoid of flaws. Any discrepancy within the process can potentially disrupt the entire workflow.

  1. Asset Identification: Which equipment requires attention?

  2. Issue Description: What symptoms or signs were noticed leading to or during the malfunction?
  3. Work Scope: What specific tasks are necessary, and what expertise is needed?
  4. Required Parts and Tools: Are there replacements or specialized tools needed for the job?
  5. Health and Safety Guidelines: What safety measures and equipment are mandatory? Any prior incidents related to similar tasks or assets?
  6. Date of Request: When was the work order initiated and submitted?
  7. Requester Details: Who initiated and submitted the work order along with their department and contact information?
  8. Expected Completion Date: What is the targeted deadline for this work order?
  9. Actual Completion Date: When was the work order successfully completed and closed?
  10. Expected Work Hours: How many hours are estimated to fulfill the work order?
  11. Actual Work Hours: How many hours were required to finalize the work order?
  12. Task Checklist: Is there a detailed step-by-step guide for executing the necessary tasks?
  13. Priority Level: What level of importance does this work order hold? High, medium, or low?
  14. Assignment: Who is responsible for executing the tasks? Is more than one person or an external contractor needed?
  15. Associated Documents: Are there supplementary resources like SOPs, manuals, diagrams, videos, asset history, purchase orders, or images that can expedite the completion of the work order?
  16. Notes: Are there additional observations beneficial for executing or reviewing the work order after its closure? This could involve issue frequency, troubleshooting techniques, or the applied solution.

5 best practices for managing a work order

Absolutely, here are five best practices for effectively managing work orders:

  1. Standardize Work Order Processes: Establish standardized procedures and workflows for creating, assigning, prioritizing, executing, and closing work orders. Consistency ensures clarity and efficiency throughout the maintenance process.
  2. Clear Communication and Documentation: Ensure detailed and clear communication within work orders. Include specific instructions, required resources, safety protocols, and any essential information. Accurate documentation of completed work aids in future reference and analysis.
  3. Prioritization and Scheduling: Implement a system to prioritize work orders based on urgency, impact on operations, safety concerns, and criticality. Efficient scheduling ensures timely completion, minimizing downtime and disruptions.
  4. Regular Review and Analysis: Regularly review closed work orders to identify trends, recurring issues, or areas for improvement. Analyze data to optimize workflows, prevent future problems, and enhance maintenance strategies.
  5. Utilize Technology and Automation: Employ work order management software or a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) to streamline the entire process. Automation can assist in creating, tracking, scheduling, and analyzing work orders, improving overall efficiency.

By incorporating these best practices into your work order management strategy, you can enhance productivity, improve maintenance outcomes, and streamline your maintenance operations.

5 benefits of using work order management software

Certainly! Here are five key benefits of using work order management software:

  1. Improved Organization and Centralization: Work order management software provides a centralized platform to create, store, and manage work orders. It organizes all relevant information, including task details, instructions, schedules, and documentation, in one accessible location. This centralization streamlines communication and ensures easy access to critical data for technicians and managers.
  2. Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity: Automation features in work order management software streamline workflows by automating repetitive tasks, such as work order generation, assignment, and notifications. This automation minimizes manual errors, reduces administrative burden, and accelerates the completion of tasks, leading to increased overall efficiency and productivity.
  3. Optimized Asset Maintenance and Tracking: Work order software often integrates asset management functionalities. It allows for better tracking of asset histories, maintenance schedules, and performance metrics. This facilitates proactive maintenance planning, prevents unexpected breakdowns, and extends the lifespan of equipment and machinery.
  4. Real-Time Monitoring and Reporting: These systems enable real-time monitoring of work progress, status updates, and task completion. Managers can track work orders’ statuses, identify bottlenecks, and allocate resources more effectively. Additionally, robust reporting tools provide insights into key performance indicators, facilitating data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement.
  5. Enhanced Collaboration and Communication: Work order management software fosters better collaboration among team members, technicians, and stakeholders. It enables seamless communication through messaging systems, alerts, and notifications, ensuring everyone involved remains informed and aligned on task requirements, deadlines, and updates.

By leveraging work order management software, organizations can streamline their maintenance processes, improve operational efficiency, reduce downtime, and ultimately enhance their overall maintenance strategy.

Learn how to build work orders easier with software

Building work orders using software can significantly streamline the process and improve efficiency. Here’s a general guide on how software can facilitate easier work order creation:

  1. Templates and Standardization: Work order management software often comes with pre-built templates or the ability to create customizable templates. These templates can standardize the structure and content of work orders, making it easier to populate essential information consistently.
  2. User-Friendly Interface: Software typically offers user-friendly interfaces designed for intuitive navigation and data input. This simplifies the process of entering details for work orders, ensuring that necessary fields are easily accessible and filled out accurately.
  3. Automated Data Entry: Many software solutions allow for automation of repetitive tasks. For instance, data from previous work orders, equipment databases, or inventory lists can be auto-populated, reducing manual data entry and potential errors.
  4. Drop-Down Menus and Checklists: Work order software often includes drop-down menus, checkboxes, and predefined lists for various sections of the work order. These help standardize entries, offer predefined options, and ensure consistency in information input.
  5. Integration with Asset Management: Some software integrates seamlessly with asset management systems. This means that when creating a work order, technicians can easily access asset details, maintenance histories, and specific requirements directly from the system.
  6. Mobile Accessibility: Many modern work order management tools offer mobile applications. This allows technicians or personnel on-site to create or update work orders directly from mobile devices, improving accessibility and reducing delays.
  7. Customization and Flexibility: Good software allows for customization to suit specific business needs. This might involve adjusting fields, adding custom sections, or tailoring the workflow to match the organization’s unique processes.
  8. Guided Workflows: Work order software can guide users through the work order creation process step-by-step, ensuring that all necessary information is captured without overlooking critical details.

By leveraging these features available in work order management software, organizations can streamline the creation of work orders, minimize errors, enhance collaboration, and ultimately improve the efficiency of their maintenance operations.

Work order software vs pen and paper

  Pro      For as long as they’ve existed, work orders have traditionally been handled using pen and paper. Employing written work orders is both cost-efficient and familiar. Paper remains a universally comfortable tool, requiring minimal training, boasting relatively low initial expenses, and offering a tangible record for reviewing previous tasks.
Con       Nevertheless, this approach exhibits significant drawbacks. Paper-based files are susceptible to misfiling, loss, or damage, posing challenges in retrieval and organization. The process of locating and sorting these documents is laborious and time-consuming. Moreover, due to the tendency to record details post-incident, there’s a higher likelihood of inaccuracies in work orders. Additionally, the slower response time to work requests further diminishes efficiency. Collectively, these factors undermine work efficiency and potentially lead to significant financial implications in the long run.

Work order software vs whiteboards


      Whiteboards remain a traditional choice within maintenance departments. Their cost-effective materials don’t strain the budget, and they offer the convenience of having all work orders easily visible and editable in a single centralized location.


  Similar to pen and paper, whiteboards come with significant drawbacks. Maintaining records becomes a significant challenge, and extracting information from these records, if managed,             proves extremely arduous. Consequently, creating asset histories, preparing for audits, and generating work order reports become nearly impossible tasks. Additionally, the work order     management process faces delays as operators and technicians must visit a centralized location to submit or access work requests.

Work order software vs excel spreadsheets



      Excel spreadsheets represent an advancement from using pen and paper or whiteboards. They digitize records, reducing the risk of damage or loss. Additionally, searching for information and generating reports becomes simpler and more efficient when using this digital format.




 However, although spreadsheets offer a slight improvement, several factors make them an unstable base for managing maintenance work orders. Some spreadsheets are confined to individual computers, hindering access to real-time updates on work orders. Even if they are cloud-based, spreadsheets lack the capability to automatically initiate work orders, posing challenges for implementing preventive maintenance effectively. Inputting data and generating reports demands extended periods at a computer and proficiency in the process. Moreover, the capacity to monitor work order progress is limited, resulting in lagging behind in tracking tasks.

Work order software vs CMMS software


  Work order software stands as an independent solution for generating and overseeing work orders. It guarantees that maintenance departments can effectively allocate tasks for timely completion. Additionally, this software generates detailed work records for each asset and provides immediate updates on completed and scheduled tasks. Numerous providers also furnish a mobile application, simplifying real-time documentation of work and facilitating on-the-spot informed decision-making.
A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) extends beyond simple work order management by encompassing a scheduled maintenance scheduler, asset profiles and administration, and inventory control.



  Although CMMS software represents the future, it involves higher initial costs, demands extensive training and a conducive culture for successful implementation, and frequently requires more advanced maintenance approaches. Nonetheless, the enduring advantages of the system far outweigh any initial drawbacks. For further insights, explore our blog highlighting the top 20 benefits of employing a CMMS.


Work orders serve as a cornerstone in excellent maintenance practices. When effectively handled, they provide the stability and organization necessary for your team to operate efficiently. A meticulously constructed maintenance work order and its corresponding process streamline the establishment of preventive maintenance initiatives and responses to unforeseen maintenance issues. Defined roles, smoother workflows, task monitoring, and comprehensive documentation of information become attainable. Selecting appropriate tools and systems for work order management represents the pivotal final element. Once everything aligns, your operation can adeptly master maintenance basics and explore avenues for further growth and success.





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