Work Orders – 101

Devil is in the Detail.

Work orders are the number 1 item for “move it over there, follow up tomorrow, it 4:45pm, it can wait, …blah blah blah” you know and we know it also the greatest catalyst for a poor corrective maintenance result, misunderstandings between management and sub-contractors, invoice disputes and delays, and a cranky tenant or Executive Committee.
So what can we do to improve the maintenance result, and reduce the input from the management team without compromising the corrective maintenance result. We need to set the foundation to the work order in terms of details and clarity, to explain further:

What part of this don’t you understand?

How many times we have said to a contractor “what does the quote say” “what does the purchase order say” and “what does the work order say”. These documents are literally control documents, they are the reference both parties can turn to for clarification. They are the basis of the invoices, they are the basis of the warranty and they are the basis of actually getting the work done and resolving an on-site issue. But what if the information in the work order is vague or there simply not enough information?
When there is clarity and detail in your work order documentation, it gives the writer power and control over the situation, that is, the power in making sure the corrective maintenance requested is completed and in a timely manner. There will always be grey areas, there will always be grammatical errors and misunderstandings, but these are far fewer and less consequential when the documentation is thorough. This will save you time and your client money, it also improves your reputation as a proactive “results driven” management team.

Work Order example 1:
“Please fix it” – fail
Work Order Example 2:
“The air conditioning doesn’t work in unit ABC” – fail, but better
Work Order Example 3:
“The Air conditioning in Unit ABC on the north side on level 2 is not cooling. The fan still works on the indoor unit, there red LED is flashing on the front, the tenant will be home after 5;00pm today and tomorrow. Please call us for contact details after hours.
Work Order Example 4:
“The Air conditioning, brand 123, model 456, installed 5 years ago, in Unit ABC on the north side on level 2 is not cooling. The fan still works on the indoor unit, there red LED is flashing on the front, we had a power cut yesterday about 2;00pm. the tenant will be home after 5;00pm today and tomorrow. Please call us for contact details after hours.

In Work Order Example 4 there is a lot of information, this information can cut costs by ensuring the correct trade is called and/or the correct trade from the correct organisation is called. Understanding this is a money saver as there is nothing more difficult than paying an invoice to a trade for turning up, which you called, and was the wrong trade…expensive and embarrassing.
The top three responses we would expect would be

  • 1 “We don’t have the time to gather all this information”.
  • 2 “Our people don’t have the expertise to gather this information.”
  • 3 “Our tenants would never have this information.”

Our response would be;

  • Number 1, is not an excuse, if it is, perhaps you should reconsider your career options.
  • Number 2, build a system with a check sheet of questions to ask the tenant.
  • Number 3, see our response number 2 above, some information, such as the time of the event, or other “symptoms” is better than none.

A couple of Hints:

If the work order is based upon a quote, refer to the quote number and the date it was written. If you have discussed issues, and exclusions, make sure your understanding of these issues is repeated in the order. Put the cost in the order if it’s not going to cause a confidentiality issue.

Date It.

If you are going to write a “question check list” include dates, such as date of call, date of fault(s), date first noticed the fault, date you called sub-contractor, promised site attendance date and time by sub-contractor, agreed completion date with the sub-contractor, dates they can access the tenancy, date of follow up correspondence, etc. Many times we have had the call, “this has been a problem for a week!” but it’s the first call to us and the issue is inside the tenancy. Time gets away, and most strata agencies and facility managers I know are typically very busy, don’t let the time slip away!

WIFM (What’s in it for me).

Improved professionalism, better results in corrective maintenance, better record keeping and data base information for your asset register (you do have an Asset Register for your sites, right!) and more control over the situation in regards to both the tenants and the sub-contractor.

The Sell

We hope this work order article has been useful. We know strata agencies have a specialised task with huge amounts legislation to deal with, so why not outsource the maintenance task to a Facility Management Company like ourselves. Ask yourself, is it a false economy to keep doing the maintenance management “in house” when those resources could be better implemented elsewhere? Whom is a specialist in the building maintenance environment, the Facility Manager, or the Strata Manager?
Thank you for your time

What are your thoughts?
Nigel Wraight
Principle
Wraight Property

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