Work order management is an essential part of any equipment maintenance operation. The best way to manage work orders is with a work order software system, or CMMS software program. The benefits of work order software are directly proportional to its level of use. This means getting all company personnel involved with the system at some level. This assumes that the CMMS has role-based permissions so that users at different levels can access the system while protecting the integrity of the data.
Obviously, maintenance personnel should all be using the CMMS. Additionally, non-maintenance personnel (requesters) should use the work order system for submitting repair tickets (work requests). This gives non-maintenance personnel a direct link to maintenance and empowers them to communicate equipment repair needs to maintenance in a formal way.
Reluctance to use new software is a common problem. Below are some tips that may alleviate issues with getting maintenance and non-maintenance employees to use work order software.
Setting up and configuring the software is critically important. Below are a few items to consider when setting up your work order management system.
Who are the Users?
Who are the software users and how will these users interact with the software? Below is a list of potential users and their roles.
- Maintenance managers: configuration of the system, work issuance and verification, reliability analysis and reporting.
- Maintenance technicians: viewing and closing work orders, preventive maintenance tasks, requisitioning spares and checking out parts.
- Plant managers: Repair tickets, analysis and reporting.
- Purchasing and receiving purchasing configuration, purchase orders, receiving and invoice matching.
- Manufacturing supervisors: repair tickets, downtime entry, analysis, purchase requisitions and event notification (recipients).
- Manufacturing employees: repair tickets, event notification (recipients).
- Outside contractors: work orders, purchase requisitions.
- Database administrators and IT personnel: configuration and repair tickets.
- Administration and office personnel: repair tickets, analysis and reporting.
Identifying who needs to use the software and why is an important first step that affects roles, permissions, naming conventions, terminal access locations, licensing and support. This step may have the biggest effect on the initial investment in the software.
In some cases, it makes sense to group potential users. For example, all manufacturing employees in a particular department on a particular shift could be one group that shares the same login. The benefit is fewer logins to maintain. The downside is that the maintenance manager may not know who submitted the repair ticket.
Typically, it is best to give each maintenance person his own login thereby displaying only the work list for that particular maintenance technician. This reduces screen clutter and focuses the technician on their duties alone. This also prevents accidental or intentional closing or editing of other technicians work orders.
Plan Your Initial Equipment and Task Database
Since equipment and tasks are primary elements of the work order system, the naming of these items requires planning before adding them to the CMMS.
- Determine how to group equipment. Should you group by equipment class, location, process or department? Careful consideration during this step makes filtering a large equipment database much easier later.
- Similarly, group tasks by the type of task.
- Use common and accepted naming conventions for equipment. Unless you have already labeled equipment with asset numbers or another identifier, it is best to name the equipment with a name that is recognizable to the largest population of users. For example, will the new maintenance technician understand “Table-Top Conveyor #3” or “CONV3-998625TT”?
- Consider how the software offers the equipment for selection to the user. Grouping equipment alphabetically leads to a more intuitive equipment list. For instance, perhaps all conveyors should start with the word “Conveyor”. Here is an example: “Table Top Conveyor #1” vs. “Conveyor – Table Top #1” or another example, “Incline Conveyor #A” vs. “Conveyor – Incline #A”. Which case makes it easier to locate a conveyor item in the list?
Lastly, determine which users will have permission to add low-level or global data items such as equipment, tasks, work order status, work order priority, work order types and other reusable work order specific information. It is important to limit access to these low-level and global data items in order to maintain consistency in naming, avoid duplicates or near duplicates and correctly describe the data item.
Decide on the Best Software Platform(s)
What platform is best for your organization? Windows-based, web based or smart-phone? Perhaps a combination of all three is appropriate. If so, how does this affect licensing and support costs? More importantly, how does this affect user accessibility and encourage use of the software by as many people as possible?
Here are a few benefits of each.
- Desktop applications are generally more responsive, powerful and reliable.
- Web-based software is accessible from anywhere a connection is available.
- Smart-phone applications are good for quick data entry on the plant floor.
Here are a few negatives of each.
- Desktop applications may require a license on each computer (unless using an application server or cloud).
- Lost connectivity is a showstopper for web-based software. Web-based software is typically slower than a desktop version.
- Smart-phone applications are generally not capable of supporting the entire CMMS.
Consult with your IT department; then address system requirements, database back-up strategy and potential connectivity issues. System access points for the software are another important factor and should be determined up front. Potential access points are:
- Maintenance shop
- Maintenance manager’s office
- Plant floor
- Front office
- Shipping department
- Anywhere that repair tickets are submitted
Consider Default User Settings to Speed Data Input
Default user settings provide consistency in data input and speed up the data input process. These settings should populate information based upon the logged in user. For example, in the case where non-maintenance personnel are submitting a repair ticket it might be beneficial to populate the Equipment and Task fields with a pseudo task and equipment such as “See Comments”. Although this group of users may not know the name of the equipment item, they are still able to populate these basic required fields with something then type into the Comments section a description of the problem. Additionally the requester’s user ID should link automatically to the repair ticket so that the maintenance manager can respond appropriately to this request.
Determine How You Will Manage External Files
External files are files or file attachment links that are associated with the work order system. In the most basic work order software, these files are pictures. Similarly, more advanced CMMS software offers the ability to link any document type file to a work order. Examples of document files are pictures, text documents, videos, web pages, worksheets, OEM manuals and AutoCAD drawings.
Generally, the best way to manage these files is to place them in a designated folder on the server. Alternatively, classifying multiple folders by type or use of the document often makes more sense than placing all documents into one folder. The important takeaway here is accessibility and protection of these documents on a server so that they are available when needed.