MRO Magazine

Get It Done: How to properly plan a work order


March 7, 2011
By PEM Magazine

Continuing the planning and scheduling process from last month’s newsletter, once the work request has been reviewed by the planner (or another responsible individual), it is time to begin the planning process. Based on the work request approval, there should have been enough detail provided to decide if the work should be processed as a simple or complex work order plan.

The simple work order plan meets the minimum criteria for a work order. The planner (or approver) of the work should be provided guidelines such as:

  1. It is a single craft work order (requiring no coordination with other craft planners).
  2. The work meets a maximum hour requirement (less than two hours or some other predetermined limit).
  3. The spare parts are in stock.

If the criteria are met, the work is quickly planned and filed in the backlog with a ready to schedule status.

If the work is more complex, the planning process becomes more detailed. For example, one of the first decisions that need to be made is whether the work can be performed in a regular weekly maintenance schedule or should it be set aside and scheduled during a STO (shutdown, turnaround or outage). This decision is typically based on the amount of time and labor the job will take to perform. If the repair is extensive and will take a piece of equipment out of service for prolonged time period, it should likely be scheduled as part of a STO. This work order would then be filed in the outage backlog for the equipment, process or area.


If the decision is continue to plan the work, the backlog should be quickly reviewed for any similar work. This serves a twofold purpose. The first to insure that there is not a duplicate of the work order already in the backlog. The second is to attempt to find any related work (already in the backlog) that could be combined with the work being planned. This can improve the efficiency of the work execution process.

The planner should also review the equipment history for any occasions where this work or similar work has been performed in the past. If it has, then a model of the previous job can be electronically copied into a new work order. The planner can then make any necessary modifications to the previous work order plan and save it as the “new” planned work order. It can then be filed in the backlog.

If a previous work order cannot be found then the planner will begin to specify the following for the work order:

  • the craft skill and also the level of the skill required;
  • the spare parts required (including the part numbers, description and location);
  • any engineering support necessary (drawings, new specifications, etc.);
  • any specialized tools or equipment (man-lifts, hoists, etc.);
  • required downtime to perform the work (if necessary); and
  • detailed job steps with environmental, safety and health concerns.

Once all of these requirements have been detailed, the planner will review the information to see if all of the requirements are met. If not, the work order is placed on hold, waiting for materials, engineering, equipment, or anything else that prevents the work from being performed. The planner will then monitor the work order until the hold is cleared and the work will be placed in the work order backlog.

Once the work is in the backlog, it is ready to be placed on the schedule. How does a planner develop a weekly schedule? How does the correct amount of work get scheduled for each week? What is the decision making process that should be used to insure the correct work gets on the schedule each week? These questions and more will be addressed in next month’s newsletter.