MRO Magazine

Work Order Worship (September 01, 2004)

Welcome to part 2 of managing your CMMS work orders. If you want to get the most out of this article, you should read the previous issue of Machinery & Equipment MRO (June 2004, pg. 36). If you haven't got it, then go online and read it on the mag...

September 1, 2004 | By Peter Phillips

Welcome to part 2 of managing your CMMS work orders. If you want to get the most out of this article, you should read the previous issue of Machinery & Equipment MRO (June 2004, pg. 36). If you haven’t got it, then go online and read it on the magazines website at, under Magazine Archives.

In the previous column, we talked about issues that lead to the continual growth of open work orders in our CMMS system and we looked at what some companies are doing to keep that number under control.

In this article, we’re going to continue our critical look at work order management and as we promised in the previous issue, we’re going to guide you through a workshop used to train people to effectively use their CMMS to help them manage the work order process. Your CMMS will have the functions and ability to do this, however a proper program setup and knowledge of how to take advantage of program fields and drop-down menus are essential.

First, you should take a hard look at your CMMS system to assess where you are. Second, look at where you want it to be. Third, examine how you’re going to get there.


A. Assessing your system. What does your system look like now? From the previous you may remember that work orders can come from several sources, which include: follow-up work orders from preventive maintenance, reported problems, scheduled shutdowns, projects, contractors and regulator or audit inspections.

As you assess your CMMS, you should ask these questions:

How many open work orders do you have in your CMMS?

How old are they, i.e. what was their scheduled start and finish date?

Who was assigned to the work order? Do you know?

If it was issued to someone, do you know where is it now?

Is it possible for you to do a work order backlog report? Would it be accurate?

Does the work order have the estimated hours and craft entered?

Are priorities set for the work orders?

Is the type of work order identified?

Does every work order have a good description of the work to be preformed?

If parts are needed, are they clearly identified on the work order?

Answering these questions will help explain why you may be having problems managing the number of work orders. When I visit jobsites, I often see several hundred work orders open that are long overdue. Why? Because we tend to allow the system to get out of hand and then we don’t know what to do to get it back under control.

So now that you know where you stand, let’s look at:

B. What do you want your system to look like. This is like creating a vision statement for your CMMS. For example, how many work orders would you like to see open in the system at any given time? Is it 10, 40, 75, more or less? Should all work orders be planned, assigned and scheduled?

A vision for your CMMS work order system might state something like this. ‘All work orders will be handled in a timely manner with accountability at each stage of the work order process. Work orders that become overdue will be immediately rescheduled for the next available date.’

Now that you have completed the first two steps, you’re ready to tackle the final stage.

C. How are you going to get there? In order to make your CMMS look and work like you want it to, you need to look at four key areas that will have to be addressed in order to keep the work order system manageable.

1. Determine who can create work request or work orders in the CMMS and ensure that these people understand exactly what information needs to be entered.

2. Create a work order flow diagram so that people know how work orders are handled.

3. How will we manage work orders once they are ready to be done?

4. How to recognize when the system has gone off track and what to do.

Lets’ look at each key area.

Determining who can create a work request or work order in the CMMS. You need to know the names of the people who will have access to the CMMS. For example, a production supervisor will have access in order to request work on equipment. In this case, the supervisors will need to be given a CMMS password to access the system and must be given the appropriate training to enter the data into the software. They will need to know how to follow-up on the progress of their request.

Create a work order flow diagram. A work order flow diagram shows how each type of work order will flow through the process from start to finish. The diagram is an important tool and must be followed to ensure work order planning, completion, follow-up and closure.

Managing work orders once they are ready to be done. CMMS work orders have several fields that must be populated to effectively manage the work. These fields include:

Work order type — This field determines whether the work order is Routine, Preventive Maintenance, Safety, etc. Specifying the type will allow you to determine which work order should be done first or when it will need to be done.

Labour — In this field, you can designate the maintenance person responsible to see that the work gets completed. It gives you a name to use so you can follow-up on the work order and its status.

Estimated labour hours — Estimating the time required to do a work order allows better utilization of your labour and time available.

Scheduled start date/scheduled finish date — It is important to give work orders these two dates. One of the work order management functions of the CMMS is the creation of a report that will list work orders that have gone past their expected finish date. It is commonly known as the work order backlog report.

Create filters in the CMMS in order to break down the number of work orders. Filters will make the system more manageable by categorizing work based on the individual it is assigned to, the estimated labour, the type of work order, and the scheduled start or finish date.

Recognizing when the system has gone off track and what to do. Your CMMS is a great tool for keeping track of work. It creates accurate historical records for the equipment. However, you will struggle with the number of work orders you have in the system unless you monitor the system and look for indicators that show you if you’re going off track.

Some indicators are:

The numbers of work orders continue to grow.

PMs are not going down.

Maintenance personnel are not returning work orders.

Completed work orders are not being filled out properly by maintenance personnel.

Work orders have gone well past their expected finish date.

Work orders are not being closed.

So what should you be doing to keep your work orders on track?

Create a work order backlog report to see what work orders have gone past their finish date. Follow-up on the affected work orders to establish their status. Correct any problems with the work order and reschedule the start date.

Check the work order flow chart to see if it is being followed. If not, investigate why and correct and/or modify the diagram to iron out the bottlenecks.

Ensure that the maintenance personnel understand the importance of completing work orders on time and handing them back in for closing of the order. In some systems, PM work orders may not print out again unless the previous work order is closed. Maintenance personnel must record the required information on the work order so you don’t have to chase them down to get the information.

Work orders need to be closed once the work is done. Complete the work orders with the required information, then make sure they are closed to the history file in the CMMS. Check the flow chart to see who is supposed to close the work orders. Find out why work orders are not being closed; refresher training may be needed.

If problems persist, check the above points again, being proactive. Investigate as soon as you see the number of work orders on the increase. Establish an acceptable number of open work orders. When the number gets close to or exceeds your limit, find out what going on.

Where does this put you in the grand scheme of t
hings? Gauging from work order management courses I’ve presented, all operations will have different work order flows and people responsible for each step of the process.

Keep the flow going and make adjustments when necessary. What it boils down to is what I call ‘discipline to the process.’ This simply means following what you’ve decided to do and sticking to it.

Doing so will ensure that you’ll have a properly managed system with a reasonable number of open work orders. PMs should be on track and other maintenance activities should be getting done. As a result, you should have a happy group of maintenance and production people because work will be done on time and equipment uptime and reliability will be on the increase.

In the next column, we’re going to look at some add-ons to the CMMS that can make your system more functional and easier to use.

Peter Phillips of Trailwalk Holdings, a CMMS consulting and training company based in Nova Scotia, can be reached at 902-798-3601 or by e-mail at Your questions on specific CMMS issues or problems are welcome.


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