What is a work order and how do you manage them?

What is a maintenance work order and how can you manage them using categorisation, software and best practice. We explore all of these questions in this article.
What is a work order and how do you manage them?
Written by
Tom O'neill
Published on
November 23, 2023

A work order is usually a task or a job for a customer that can be scheduled or assigned to someone. A work order can be from a customer request or created internally within the organisation. Work orders may also be created as follow ups to inspections or audits. A typical work order will include some of the following information:

  • Requestor
  • Date of request
  • Request details
  • Location
  • Preferred completion date
  • Priority level
  • Work approved by
  • Description of completed work
  • Work completed by
  • Date of completion

Similar terms to a work order

A work order is one of those interchangeable terms that has a number of different meaning to different people, it also can slightly different names depending on who you speak to. some alternative terms used to describe the same concept as a maintenance work order include:

1. Work Request: This term is commonly used to refer to a maintenance task or job that needs to be completed. It signifies a request for maintenance or repairs, similar to a work order.

2. Service Request: This term is often used in the context of service-oriented industries or facilities management. It represents a request for maintenance or services to be performed, similar to a work order.

3. Job Order: This term is used to describe a specific task or job that needs to be executed. It can refer to a maintenance job or work assignment, similar to a maintenance work order.

4. Service Order: This term is typically used in service-oriented industries to denote an order or request for a specific service, including maintenance services. It encompasses the same concept as a maintenance work order.

5. Work Ticket: This term is often used to describe a document or ticket that outlines a particular maintenance task or job. It contains information similar to a work order, including the description of work, location, and any special instructions.

6. Repair Order: This term is primarily used in the automotive industry to refer to an order or document that authorises repairs on a vehicle. It represents a similar concept to a maintenance work order but is specific to automotive repairs.

7. Maintenance Order: This term is a more general description of an order or request for maintenance work. It can encompass various types of maintenance tasks and is similar to a maintenance work order.

These terms may be used interchangeably or may have specific connotations based on the industry or organisational context. Ultimately, the purpose of these terms is to capture and communicate the need for maintenance or repair work to be performed.

9 Types of maintenance work orders

Work orders are often referred to in Maintenance Management Systems. They are usually grouped into a few different categories based on what the issue is. We have listed some of the most common types of maintenance work orders below:

The 9 Types of Maintenance Work Orders

1. Preventive Maintenance (PM) Work Orders: These work orders are scheduled and performed to prevent equipment or systems from failing. They involve routine inspections, servicing, and replacements to ensure optimal performance and prevent breakdowns.

2. Reactive Maintenance Work Orders: These work orders are created in response to equipment or system failures. They involve repairing or replacing faulty components, restoring functionality, and addressing any issues that have caused the malfunction.

3. Emergency Maintenance Work Orders: These work orders are generated for urgent or critical maintenance tasks that require immediate attention to avoid safety hazards, major disruptions, or significant financial losses. They are usually unscheduled and prioritise rapid response.

4. Predictive Maintenance Work Orders: These work orders are based on predictive maintenance strategies that utilise data analysis and monitoring to predict equipment failures or performance degradation. They aim to proactively address potential issues before they cause significant problems.

5. Shutdown/Turnaround Maintenance Work Orders: These work orders are associated with planned shutdowns or turnarounds of entire systems or facilities. They involve comprehensive maintenance, inspections, repairs, and upgrades during the downtime.

6. Calibration Work Orders: These work orders involve adjusting or calibrating equipment to ensure accurate measurements, performance, or compliance with specific standards. Calibration work orders are common for instruments, gauges, and control systems.

7. Routine/General Maintenance Work Orders: These work orders encompass routine tasks such as cleaning, lubrication, filter replacement, adjustments, and minor repairs. They are typically part of regular maintenance schedules and aim to keep equipment in optimal condition.

8. Warranty/Service Contract Work Orders: These work orders pertain to maintenance tasks covered under warranties or service contracts with external vendors or manufacturers. They involve requesting and coordinating the necessary services to address equipment issues or maintenance requirements.

9. Safety Inspections Work Orders: These work orders focus on conducting safety inspections to identify potential hazards, non-compliance with safety standards, or risks to personnel or the environment. They may involve corrective actions or recommendations for improvement.

These categories are not mutually exclusive, and a maintenance work order may fall into multiple categories depending on the specific circumstances and requirements of the task. Also some of these works orders are only relevant to certain types of companies. 

8 typical stages of a maintenance work order

Typically, a maintenance work order goes through several stages from its creation to its completion. The exact stages may vary depending on the organisation and the maintenance management system in place, but here are the common stages that a work order typically goes through:

The 8 Stages of a Works Order

1. Creation/Initiation: The work order is created or initiated when a maintenance request or requirement is identified. This can be done manually or through a computerised maintenance management system (CMMS). The work order is assigned a unique identifier and includes information such as the description of the work, location, priority, and any associated documents or instructions.

2. Planning/Scheduling: Once the work order is created, it needs to be planned and scheduled. This stage involves determining the necessary resources, materials, tools, and personnel required to complete the work order. The work order is assigned a scheduled date and time based on factors such as priority, availability of resources, and operational impact.

3. Assignment/Dispatch: In this stage, the work order is assigned to a specific maintenance technician or team responsible for executing the work. The technician receives the work order details, including the scope of work, location, and any specific instructions or safety considerations.

4. Execution/Work in Progress: The assigned technician or team begins executing the work order. They perform the required maintenance tasks, repairs, inspections, or other activities outlined in the work order. During this stage, progress is tracked, and any updates, changes, or issues encountered are documented.

5. Material and Resource Management: If the work order involves the use of materials, spare parts, or specialised equipment, this stage focuses on ensuring the availability and proper management of those resources. It includes activities such as ordering, receiving, storing, and issuing the necessary materials and tools to the technician or team.

6. Completion/Closeout: Once the work is finished, the work order is marked as completed. The technician or team updates the work order with relevant information, such as the work performed, any replacement parts used, hours worked, and any additional notes or observations. The work order is then closed, indicating that the maintenance task has been successfully completed.

7. Review/Approval: Depending on the organisation's processes, completed work orders may undergo a review and approval stage. This involves a supervisor or manager reviewing the work order details, verifying the completion of the tasks, and ensuring the quality and compliance with standards.

8. Documentation/Reporting: Work orders generate valuable data for maintenance management and analysis. In this stage, the relevant information from the completed work order is documented and recorded. This includes maintaining records of work orders, capturing maintenance history, generating reports, and updating maintenance records and databases.

These stages provide a general overview of the typical lifecycle of a work order. However, it's important to note that different organisations may have variations or additional stages based on their specific maintenance processes, industry requirements, and the sophistication of their maintenance management systems like FaultFixers.

Best practice for managing work orders 

Managing work orders efficiently and effectively involves following best practices to ensure smooth workflow, timely completion, and accurate documentation. Here are some best practices for managing work orders:

1. Standardisation: Establish standardised procedures and templates for creating, processing, and tracking work orders. This ensures consistency and clarity in communication and reduces errors or misunderstandings.

2. Centralised System: Utilise a computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) or a dedicated software solution to manage work orders. A centralised system allows for easy creation, tracking, assignment, and documentation of work orders, improving visibility and accessibility of information.

3. Clear and Detailed Descriptions: Provide clear and detailed descriptions of the work to be performed in the work orders. Include specific instructions, required materials or equipment, and any safety considerations. This helps technicians understand the scope of work and minimises confusion.

4. Prioritisation: Assign priorities to work orders based on factors such as safety, impact on operations, and urgency. This enables efficient resource allocation and ensures that critical tasks receive prompt attention.

5. Proper Planning and Scheduling: Plan and schedule work orders in advance, considering the availability of resources, required downtime, and technician availability. Efficient scheduling minimises delays and allows for optimal allocation of resources.

6. Effective Communication: Maintain open and effective communication channels between requesters, technicians, and managers. Ensure that all stakeholders have access to the necessary information and can provide updates or clarifications as needed.

7. Real-Time Progress Tracking: Utilise a system that allows for real-time tracking of work order progress. This provides visibility into the status of work orders, enables proactive intervention if issues arise, and helps in monitoring performance metrics.

8. Documentation and Record-Keeping: Maintain accurate and up-to-date documentation of work orders, including completion status, work performed, parts used, and any additional notes. Proper record-keeping facilitates historical analysis, trend identification, and compliance tracking.

9. Continuous Improvement: Regularly review and evaluate the work order management process to identify areas for improvement. Gather feedback from technicians and stakeholders, analyse data, and implement changes to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

10. Training and Development: Provide training to technicians and other staff involved in managing work orders to ensure they understand the process, tools, and expectations. Continuous training and development help improve skills and maintain a high level of proficiency.

By following these best practices, organisations can streamline their work order management process, improve communication and collaboration, and enhance the overall efficiency of their maintenance operations.

Benefits of using work order management software

Using a work order management system offers several benefits over traditional pen and paper or spreadsheet-based methods. Here are some advantages of using a work order management system:

1. Centralised and Organised Data: A work order management system provides a centralised repository for all work orders, making it easy to access, track, and manage information. This eliminates the need to sift through piles of paper or multiple spreadsheets, ensuring data is organised and readily available.

2. Improved Efficiency: Work order management systems automate various tasks, such as work order creation, assignment, and tracking. This streamlines the entire process, reducing manual effort and saving time. Technicians can receive work orders directly on their mobile devices, eliminating the need for physical paperwork.

3. Real-Time Updates and Notifications: Work order management systems offer real-time updates and notifications, allowing technicians and managers to stay informed about the status of work orders. This enables prompt decision-making, facilitates communication, and ensures timely completion of tasks.

4. Enhanced Collaboration and Communication: Work order management systems enable seamless collaboration among team members. Technicians can access work order details, update progress, and communicate with colleagues or managers within the system. This improves coordination, reduces miscommunication, and enhances teamwork.

5. Improved Resource Allocation: Work order management systems provide visibility into resource availability, including equipment, materials, and personnel. This helps in efficient resource allocation and scheduling, minimising conflicts and optimising productivity.

6. Historical Data and Analytics: Work order management systems maintain a historical record of work orders, allowing for analysis and reporting. Managers can generate insights on maintenance trends, identify recurring issues, measure performance metrics, and make data-driven decisions for process improvement.

7. Increased Accuracy and Reduced Errors: Manual methods like pen and paper or spreadsheets are prone to human errors, such as illegible handwriting, data entry mistakes, or misplaced documents. Work order management systems reduce such errors by automating data entry, ensuring consistency, and providing validation checks.

8. Compliance and Audit Trail: Work order management systems can help organizations comply with regulatory requirements and maintain an audit trail. It allows for proper documentation of work performed, including dates, times, and technician signatures. This supports compliance audits and demonstrates adherence to standards.

9. Mobility and Remote Access: Many work order management systems offer mobile applications or web-based interfaces, enabling technicians to access work orders, update progress, and communicate remotely. This flexibility enhances productivity, especially for field-based or remote teams.

10. Scalability and Integration: Work order management systems can be scaled to accommodate growing maintenance operations and can integrate with other software systems like inventory management, asset tracking, or financial systems. This ensures seamless data flow and reduces duplication of effort.

Overall, a work order management system like FaultFixers provides efficiency, accuracy, collaboration, and data-driven insights, leading to improved maintenance operations and better utilisation of resources.

How AI can improve work order management 

The future of work order management with the use of AI (Artificial Intelligence) holds significant potential for transforming maintenance operations. Here are some ways AI can impact and enhance work order management:

1. Intelligent Work Order Creation: AI algorithms can analyse historical data, sensor readings, and maintenance patterns to automatically generate work orders based on predictive or preventive maintenance needs. AI can proactively identify maintenance requirements, initiate work orders, and schedule tasks, reducing manual effort and ensuring timely maintenance.

2. Predictive Maintenance: AI-powered predictive maintenance models can analyze real-time data from sensors, equipment logs, and historical maintenance records to predict equipment failures or performance degradation. By generating work orders based on these predictions, AI enables maintenance teams to address issues before they cause significant disruptions or breakdowns.

3. Smart Resource Allocation: AI algorithms can optimise resource allocation by considering factors such as technician availability, skill sets, equipment availability, and priority of work orders. AI can intelligently assign work orders to the most suitable technicians, ensuring efficient resource utilisation and minimising downtime.

4. Intelligent Scheduling and Routing: AI can optimise work order schedules and routes based on factors like geographic proximity, traffic conditions, and priority. This improves efficiency, reduces travel time, and enables technicians to complete more work orders in a given timeframe.

5. Cognitive Assistance for Technicians: AI-powered virtual assistants or chatbots can provide real-time guidance and assistance to technicians while executing work orders. They can access relevant documentation, provide step-by-step instructions, offer troubleshooting tips, and help technicians make informed decisions on the job.

6. Automated Work Order Updates: AI can automatically update work order statuses, progress, and completion details based on inputs from sensors, IoT devices, or automated equipment. This eliminates the need for manual updates and provides accurate real-time information on work order status.

7. Natural Language Processing (NLP) for Data Capture: NLP techniques enable AI systems to extract relevant information from unstructured data sources like maintenance reports, technician notes, or customer feedback. This helps in automating data entry, capturing critical details, and facilitating analysis for future improvements.

8. Data Analytics and Insights: AI-powered analytics can process large volumes of maintenance data and identify patterns, anomalies, or trends. These insights can help in optimising maintenance strategies, predicting failure patterns, identifying areas for improvement, and making data-driven decisions for work order management.

9. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Support: AR and VR technologies can be integrated with work order management systems to provide immersive visualisations, remote assistance, and training for technicians. This enhances their productivity, reduces errors, and enables them to execute complex tasks with precision.

10. Continuous Learning and Optimization: AI systems can learn from historical data, feedback, and user interactions to continually improve work order management processes. They can adapt to changing maintenance needs, refine algorithms, and suggest optimised workflows for better performance over time.

Overall, the use of AI in work order management has the potential to revolutionise maintenance operations, making them more proactive, efficient, and data-driven. By leveraging AI capabilities, organisations can enhance their maintenance strategies, optimise resource allocation, improve decision-making, and ultimately achieve higher levels of productivity and equipment reliability.


Efficiently managed work orders are essential for effective maintenance operations. They provide the necessary stability and structure to enhance team productivity. A robust work order system simplifies the establishment of preventive maintenance programs and enables quick responses to unplanned maintenance tasks. With clearly defined roles, streamlined workflows, comprehensive task tracking, and well-documented information, a well-constructed maintenance work order process ensures smooth operations. The selection of appropriate tools and systems to manage work orders becomes the vital last step in achieving optimal results. When all the components align harmoniously, your organisation can master the fundamental principles of maintenance and explore avenues for growth and success.

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