The 8 Stages of the Work Order Management Process

By: Ben Baldwin

April 14, 2022

Work Order Management Process

Establishing a proper work order management process can be difficult. Work orders consist of more than just simple execution. There is a significant amount of scheduling, prioritization, and workforce planning that contribute toward a successful work order management process.

When establishing your work orders it is helpful to ask yourself 2 key questions:

  1. What am I getting out of my work orders?
  2. How do we standardize the implementation of standardized processes?

The first question is about the results. Your work orders need to produce repeatable results while also enabling you to gain valuable data. This turns the mere execution of a work order into a tool that can be used for continuous improvement and operations advancement.

The second question may seem like it's folding in on itself but it is important to think about. If standardization is important for individual processes and procedures on the shop floor, it is surely important when applied on a corporate management level.

That’s why we’ve created the 8 Stages of the Work Order Management Process. Though every operation is different, we’ll go into detail about what a successful work order management process looks like.

What is a Work Order Management Process?

A work order management process is a systematic method of planning and executing work orders within a specific time frame. With this approach, every work order hinges on WHEN, WHO, HOW, and WHAT.

  • WHEN the work order is done.
  • WHO is executing the work order.
  • HOW the work order is performed.
  • WHAT is the result (products and quality data)

To wrap our minds around this concept, let’s go through a fun example.

Lemonade Empire

Bring yourself back to the simpler time of childhood. Remember selling lemonade? Remember starting a neighborhood-wide franchised empire called “Girls Just Wanna Sell Lemonade”?

Well maybe that’s not all of our experiences but let’s go with it.

empower employees

If you did have to supply lemonade to multiple lemonade stand franchises, you would need to set up a quick production method that enabled you to make lemonade as fast as those neighborhood kids are selling it. And with multiple flavors and drink concoctions, each process has peculiar differences that need to be standardized and repeatable.

In your efforts to create this process, you decide to implement a standardized work order management system so that your production team can make and supply the right drinks when each stand needs them. And how you implement, assign, and track these work orders is your work order management process.

Because selling lemonade is no joke, you’ve invested in an advanced work instruction platform that guides your workers through each step of their food service process.

Hold onto this example as we'll use it a few times to explore the 8 stages of the work order management process.

The 8 Stages of the Work Order Management Process

The 8 stages of the work order management process follow a linear progression. This means that each step needs to follow what the last step has established.

For instance, you can’t schedule your work orders if there is a lack of prioritization among the work orders. Similarly, analyzing data will be hard without an intelligent method that lets you gather data during production.

Each step is vital to successful work order implementation.

1. Prioritize What’s Important

Prioritizing which work orders need to be done first takes a certain level of insight and knowledge.

Which lemonade drink has performed the best, which will be in the highest demand, and which stands should get first pick?

Each one of these factors will contribute to which work orders need to be prioritized.

You could also have a safety-related work order that does not specifically pertain to production. Even though this work order may not directly contribute to your operation’s value-added work, it may take the highest priority.

Using our lemonade factory as an example, imagine that you have several tasks that need to be completed. You need to supply your existing lemonade franchises while also maintaining your equipment and machines. Although production is normally the top priority, machine maintenance and cleaning will take priority over production.

But you can help these priorities fit more easily by creating a well-laid-out schedule.

2. Make a Schedule

make a schedule

Once you’ve determined the priority of your work orders, you can begin to schedule when the work orders should be performed and when they will be completed. This is a fundamental factor in work order management processes. Proper scheduling can mean the difference between completing projects on time and missing deadlines entirely.

Many different factors will determine when to schedule your work orders. This includes the availability of resources, the delivery dates, and the schedules of your workers and machines.

If you schedule the final quality test of your lemonade at 8:15am and the production crews only start at 8:00am, then those quality inspectors will be waiting for an unnecessarily period of downtime.

Instead, observe how long each process takes. Use VKS Pro and Enterprise to automatically gather data like completion times, defect rates, and productivity reports to properly schedule your operation.

Additionally, scheduling is especially important when looking at maintenance work orders. If your lemon juice extractor requires maintenance, you’ll need to schedule these specific work orders for a low volume period, particularly when the machine is not expected to be in use.

3. Intelligently Assign Tasks

Now that you’ve scheduled your lemonade work orders, the next step in your work order management process is to assign the work orders to your teams. Who is going to mix the “Pinkalicious” lemonade and who is going to mix the “Green Lagoon” limeade?

For this, you’ll need to assign the right work orders to the right people. Certain tasks may require different levels of qualifications and training. Use VKS to accurately track who is qualified for specific tasks to strategically assign work orders to your workforce.

Doing so enables your supervisors and managers to streamline the work order assignment process. They track who is trained as well as see who needs training. They can assign work orders to experienced employees in rushed periods and schedule additional training in slower periods. This creates a flexible and constantly evolving workforce.

pro tip

Pro Tip: Don’t rely on only 1 or 2 people within your operation to do certain tasks. With VKS digital work instructions, every worker is given precise step-by-step instructions so that they can perform new tasks as well as the most experienced employees. This makes training easier than ever before.

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4. Strategically Distribute Work

Now that you’ve planned who will perform the work, you’ll need to find a way for the work orders to reach the employees on the shop floor. In the past, work orders were printed on paper or given out verbally. But with Industy 4.0 technology, there are now better ways to distribute your work orders.

With VKS established in your lemonade facility, employees access their work orders digitally and easily select the work orders that need to be completed. This removes any guesswork or confusion that can be experienced by solely verbal or paper distribution.

distribute tasks

Depending on your operation, segment your work orders by the various departments within your facility. This makes it easy for employees to find the work orders that pertain to their department.

If we go back to your lemonade facility, we can see this in action. During the day, several tasks need to be completed. This includes:

  • Deep clean Vat 12.
  • Mix 5 batches of classic lemon “pucker up”.
  • Research new flavor “berry good lemonade”.
  • Quality inspections.
  • Preventative maintenance on mixers 2 & 3.

Each of these pertains to a different department. Employees in each of these departments access their work orders by looking within their department segment.

5. Execute the Orders

Here’s where the rubber meets the road and the work orders are performed. Arguably, this step could be seen as the most important phase in the work order management process. But if not for the other previous steps, this phase could not succeed. Proper execution means proper planning.

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin.

Likewise, execution is an area that benefits immensely from planning and intelligent standardization. Make sure that your workers understand exactly what needs to be done and in what order. If workers are unsure of how to execute the work order or if each operator has a different way of performing the same job, then inconsistencies and defects are likely to occur.

Work Instruction software removes this risk and enables every worker to perform their tasks with your company’s established best practices.

For your lemonade production, mixing all the ingredients at once will yield different results than following the proper cooking process.

George Englis, Manager of Operational Training at Chesterton relayed this about the execution of a work order for industrial mechanical seals.

“Seal assembly is a relatively complex process and some of our seals require around 65 steps. Each step needs to be done in a particular way and in a particular sequence. VKS has been a huge asset and will continue to be a huge asset as we move forward.”

George Englis, Chesterton Manager of Operational Training

6. Capture In-Process Data

Your workers are performing the work that adds value to your business and customers. Now is the time to capture valuable data from your operation.

distribute tasks

Some companies will ask workers to write down their notes on paper or fill out time cards. This does capture some information but it's unreliable at best. Above all, it's not simple for the operator. That is why you’ve chosen a more intelligent method.

Within your lemonade factory, no matter the job or the work being done, your work instruction software is enabling you to gather valuable data directly from the same system used to manage your work orders. This is done through two key methods:

  1. Data is gathered autonomously in the background.
  2. Information is gathered through direct employee engagement.

As soon as an employee has selected a work order, VKS begins gathering data. Your workers don’t need to fill out time cards, physically write down ingredient usage, or track the batch quantity of “Zesty Euphoria” lemonade. This is all done autonomously by VKS.

pro tip

Pro Tip: Collect even more data from your operation by connecting VKS with your other business intelligence platforms through our API.

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In the case where workers need to add their own valuable insight, they can quickly open a smart form to make notes, send emails, or track statistical process control values. There is no need to open other systems. Everything is caught within one intelligent system.

7. Finalize the Work Order

Work orders are considered finalized when all procedures are completed. What this means will depend on each work order. Is a work order completed before or after delivery? Are multiple people performing different stages of the same work order? This is up to how you run your operation.

If we go back to your lemonade factory, one of your workers has just completed mixing a batch of the fermented limeade flavor called “Life Limes”. But the work order is not yet finished. The employee needs to set the optimal fermentation temperature - between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit overnight.

If this procedure is not performed, then the work order cannot be seen as completed.

pro tip

Pro Tip: Using digital work instructions ensures that no step is overlooked or forgotten, no matter the process.

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8. Analyze the Data

And the final stage of the work order management process is analysis. Everything you’ve learned from planning work orders, tracking worker qualifications, capturing valuable data, and completing the final batches of your award-winning “Be My Zest” lemonade can now be used to continuously improve your process.

When gathering and analyzing data, ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. What information needs to be gathered?
  2. Where will the data be coming from?
  3. When will the data be read?
  4. Who will analyze the data?
  5. How will decisions be made after the data has been processed?

It can be easy to become overwhelmed with the immense amount of data at your fingertips. But more is not always better. Instead, hone in on the data that is most important to you and establish a strong source for this information. Select the right people to analyze the data and then create a plan that enables you to move forward with what you’ve learned.

VKS: The Ultimate Work Order Management Process Tool

the future is bright

When creating any process, it is paramount that you select your goals and create a plan that reflects these goals. Your work order management process may not look exactly like our lemonade empire example but it is important to see how much a well-defined plan has to offer.

This is especially true when coupled with advanced technology that enables you to produce repeatable results while also gathering valuable knowledge and insight.

Adopt the best practices that suit your operation and build from there. With VKS, manufacturers gain a firm foundation of intelligent Industry 4.0 practices and are empowered to make the most out of every work order.

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