A Guide to Work Order Software

What it is and how it can benefit you

Jonathan Trout, Noria Corporation

A Guide to Work Order Software

Work order software helps manage and simplify incoming and outgoing orders across multiple industries. Below, we'll talk about the versatility of work order software and how it can help you stay organized, streamline your processes and become efficient across multiple aspects of your business.  

What Is Work Order Software?

Before we take a look at what work order software can do for your organization, it's important to understand what work orders are. Simply put, a work order can be defined two ways: an order sent from a client or customer or an order created internally to perform an action. Work order management is the correct and timely processing of these work orders.

In the manufacturing world, work order software is a modern management tool that uses features to help organizations keep track of preventive maintenance and organize and report on incoming and outgoing work orders. Orders generally refer to maintenance or repairs to assets, vehicles, machinery, tools or facilities. Maintenance work orders are prioritized and created as one of two types based on the criticality of the service or asset:

  • Preventive: assets maintained on a regular schedule to prevent future failures
  • Corrective: assets repaired after a breakdown has occurred; also known as reactive maintenance

You'll most likely come across work order software tailored for specific industries like delivery and travel, manufacturing and facilities maintenance. Let's take a look at how work order software is customized for specific industry requirements.

  • Delivery and travel: Any organization with vehicles in the field or fleet vehicles will have a significant number of work order requirements. Aside from keeping track of vehicle maintenance, work order software can help with routing and dispatching using GPS on mobile devices as well as managing truck inventories.
  • Manufacturing: Manufacturing work order software differs from what you would find in the service industry in a few aspects. Perhaps the most notable difference is the emphasis manufacturing work order software puts on quality management. Manufacturing companies use work order software with features like product inspection, inventory control and quality assessment coordination optimized for their operation. Software with computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) capabilities helps ensure machinery remains in operation at all times.
  • Facilities maintenance: Facilities maintenance crews use work order management software by using features like location-based tracking, identifying where work was performed, for whom and who is responsible for costs.

Regardless of your industry, work order software greatly simplifies incoming and outgoing orders by creating digital, trackable documents to show what needs to be done and how it should happen. For maintenance facilities, work order software has one main goal: to complete quality work quicker and at minimal cost. Over time, work order software paints a picture for key decision makers of how efficient the overall operation is. Using historical work order data, management can analyze processes and identify improvements with how assets are managed.

 

Types of Work Order Management Software

The type of work order software you choose should be based on the size of your operation and how many processes you're looking to streamline. For example, larger companies usually need more than a standalone work order management software, while this might be sufficient for smaller organizations. Conversely, a CMMS platform featuring work order tools might be too much for smaller companies. Here are your options when it comes to the types of work order software from which to choose:

Work Order Software types
  • Standalone software: Standalone work order solutions incorporate multiple features and tools that focus on the creation, organization and distribution of work orders. Standalone work order software includes integrations to various programs like your customer relationship management (CRM) software, asset management tracking software or contract management software. When looking into standalone work order management software, be sure to check if your current software has the ability to integrate directly into the standalone software.
  • CMMS/EAM: Instead of integrating or connecting with multiple platforms as you would with standalone software, a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) or enterprise asset management (EAM) software often includes work order management tools and modules built in with other features. These platforms help with internal maintenance, repairs and scheduling jobs. Organizations responsible for the maintenance of multiple buildings or properties, maintenance teams and/or material assets generally find a CMMS/EAM platform with work order management features helpful with preventive maintenance, inspections, emergency management and corrective maintenance. You can think of CMMS/EAM platforms as a one-stop shop with all work order management features built in.
  • Field service management (FSM): Industries with an extensive number of team members constantly working in the field — such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); plumbing; electric; utilities and property maintenance — use field service management software with work order features built in. An FSM platform with built-in work order tools allows for vehicle tracking, the distribution of work orders in real time to mobile employees and more.

While every company will not need all the available features or tools that come with work order software, it's important when researching software to choose a solution that connects the most team members with the least amount of data duplication. This may mean analyzing your current system to identify what types of custom integrations you can ask the support team to build for you. If you're starting from scratch, see what work order software integrates well with your current systems.

 

Work Order Software Features

As discussed previously, work order software can be tailored to specific industries by including various features. When choosing a work order software, consider features specific to your industry and how they can help your operation run more efficiently. Some of the most helpful standard features on work order software include:

  • Work order creation/modification: Having all order forms from direct entry or web submissions in one system lets you modify things like completed or in-process maintenance and repair orders. You can also use templated or guided order entry tools to enable employees to quickly and accurately communicate requests and instructions.
  • Work order tracking: One of the most standard features of any work order software is the ability to track orders as they move from initial entry to order completion. This feature helps maintenance managers prioritize tasks by assigning criticality levels to each asset and alert staff when a crucial asset needs repairs. Work order tracking features also let you automate regular maintenance by scheduling tasks through a calendar.
  • Work order reporting: Work order software collects data as orders are processed through the system. This data allows you to see trends in operational downtime, materials and repair costs, third-party maintenance companies, and in some cases the causes of issues. Reporting tools can also help you monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) on things like error rates and time to completion. This information can be traced back to who performed the task, what equipment was used and which processes were followed. These metrics enable managers to create reports and form a comprehensive outlook on maintenance costs and processes.

In addition to these common attributes, there are several optional features that can add valuable functionality to your work order software. These include:

  • Website/software integration: Probably one of the most important add-on features is website integration. Software as a Service (SaaS) or web-based software has quickly become the most popular form of software because of its ease of use and minimal installation requirements. The ability for your work order software to work seamlessly with other software in your organization is key. For example, your work order software may identify and alert you to the need for a certain part or material. If the part is not in stock, your work order software can automatically initiate a purchase request to obtain the needed part.

    In the services industry, having your work order software integrated with third-party websites allows your clients to place orders via an online form through a web-based portal.

  • Barcoding: Barcoding is essential for keeping track of inventory. Putting a unique barcode on each asset and all materials gives employees the ability to pull relevant data on the scanned item instantly. Using a barcode system with your work order software can save you time by not having to search for a specific item in the database.
  • Mobile access: Most manufacturing and field services teams spend the majority of their time on the plant floor, at other facilities or out in the field and away from their desktop computer. Mobile phones and tablets are common tools for remote workers, and having mobile access to work order software is vital in today's world. For example, fleet vehicle drivers can put in a service order from the field if their truck breaks down or get updates to their schedule in real time.
  • Status updates: Visibility on where each order or job is in a process can be another advantageous feature of some work order software. Receiving status updates and monitoring completion allow you to benchmark intervals during the order process and create reports on how quickly and precisely orders are processed. Ultimately, by tracking key benchmarks, you can accurately predict order completion.
  • Change orders: Work orders aren't always set in stone. It's not uncommon to come across changes to the work order or how the work order is to be completed after it has been created. This feature lets you change work orders on the fly and alert the appropriate employees of the change in real time.
  • Rules-based approval: Work order approval can be managed through work order software by using two concepts: access control and conditional logic. Access control gives only a few individuals access to certain areas of the software, such as the ability to approve work orders or schedule resources. Conditional logic is used to automate the approval process.
 

Benefits of Work Order Software

Asset maintenance is an essential aspect of any business. When done right, it can be viewed as more of a money-making side of your business as opposed to a cost. Work order software can help small- and large-scale operations organize, simplify and automate the bulk of asset maintenance. So, what kind of benefits can you expect from implementing work order software?

Work Order Software benefits
  • Reduction in unexpected issues: Preventive maintenance is key in reducing unexpected issues. Work order software gives you the ability to schedule preventive maintenance tasks, preventing breakdowns by anticipating potential issues. Work order software also helps streamline and automate workflows by decreasing emergency maintenance occurrences and giving technicians orderly preventive maintenance tasks.
  • Detailed data/improved budgeting: Work order software provides you with an in-depth look at how maintenance tasks are being performed and supported over time. Comparing real-time data to KPIs or customized goals lets you continuously improve your maintenance processes. Up-to-date records or even having real-time recorded data enables management to plan and budget more accurately.
  • Increase efficiency: Maintenance automation is a big time-saver. Work order management software allows you to get rid of paper tickets and other paperwork and lets you manage everything from a centralized dashboard on your computer or mobile device. Automating processes reduces the chances for mistakes, disorganization, duplication and inefficiencies.
  • Controlled access to information: Work order software lets you set access clearance based on a person's role or other determining factor. For example, some users can change information like maintenance schedules or task assignments, while others can only check, report on or view certain tasks. Controlled access to information helps with accountability and improves predictability and reliability, which leads to better performance.
  • Process and inventory tracking: Work order software either has built-in process and inventory tracking or can integrate with your current inventory tracking system. Real-time tracking through processes lets the software categorize tasks, making it easier for management to obtain a live snapshot of an order's progress. If you're in the service industry, real-time process tracking allows customers to track the progress of their order(s) from the start of processing to delivery.

    Inventory tracking lets the software automate the process of ordering new equipment or parts as the need arises. Work order management software keeps a running count of each component or part, and when the supply becomes low, it can place an order. This prevents sudden shortages of parts or having excess inventory in storage.

 

How Much Does Work Order Software Cost?

If you're considering purchasing work order software for your business, it's important to sit down and discuss what you want the software to do for you. Perhaps you are a large-scale business looking for a work order management tool that can integrate with your established software to increase maintenance efficiency. Maybe you are a new business seeking work order software that can do everything from automating customer orders and maintenance schedules to inventory control.

Like most SaaS or web-based software, companies generally list their prices as monthly or annual subscription-based fees. Each package has varying features, typically ranging from a basic package to an advanced or professional package. Most work order software packages come with a free trial and range in price from $40 per month for a single user to more than $200 per month for multiple users.

Whatever your needs, ask about customizing work order software to fit your needs and ensure you're improving your processes while avoiding paying for features you don't need.

Subscribe to Reliable Plant


About the Author