What is a Work Order? Discover How to Create Yours in 3 Steps

What is a Work Order? Discover How to Create Yours in 3 Steps

By Henri Gisclard-Biondi
Published: 11/05/2021

The usefulness of work orders has been proven time and time again when it comes to managing the work of field technicians. Does your business provide installation services? Does it need to conduct repairs, maintenance or after-sales operations? In all of these cases, learning how to manage work orders is essential.

At the time when most competitive businesses are going through a digital transformation, you should also consider using work order management systems to streamline the process and focus on the efficiency of your interventions. Ready to learn more about the ins and outs of work orders? Let’s get to work!

What is a work order?


Work orders or WO are among the most common documents in the field services world. They are used by maintenance managers to assign field technicians to a specific task, usually at the request of a customer or relevant authorities. They may be issued after service requests or maintenance requests made by customers or employees. In some cases, they could be needed after the result of an internal or external audit, if maintenance works are deemed necessary for compliance.

Work order vs purchase order

Purchase orders are issued when the need to buy a new item, stocks or machine is discovered. They are then passed down to a buyer, who is in charge of sourcing the required material. On the other hand, work orders are related to tasks to be performed, namely repairs, installations and general maintenance jobs.

While both are essential to running the daily operations of any company, they don’t result in the same actions and don’t involve the same people. Oftentimes, the maintenance team and purchasing team are separate.

Why use work orders?

Work orders help make the maintenance process more efficient and smoother for everyone involved, from the maintenance team and facility managers, all the way down to the client.

The maintenance team:

  • Has easy access to the details needed to complete the task (contact information, place, time & date…) as well as the intervention history,
  • Can keep track of their hours worked,
  • Can rely on the support provided by their employer, who is responsible for dealing with the client before the intervention.

The facility or maintenance managers can:

  • Keep track of all maintenance tasks to manage teams and analyse KPIs,
  • Define a standard process for interventions, thereby limiting errors and streamlining the flow of information,
  • Fall back on a reliable document in case of a conflict with the client,
  • Create other key documents easily (invoices, quotes, follow-ups…),
  • Calculate worked hours and check timesheets,
  • Anticipate maintenance issues and make recommendations,
  • Build a trusting relationship with the client,
  • Encourage their teams to pay attention to details, be transparent and autonomous.

The client or customer:

  • Has access to the complete history of their communications with your business,
  • Can find your contact information easily if necessary,
  • Is reassured of your professionalism,
  • May add comments or give their feedback on your work,
  • Is better able to understand the final invoice.

How to create a work order in 3 steps

Before the maintenance task

The maintenance manager (or facility managers, depending on who is the person in charge of planning interventions) should write down all the information relevant to the work order request.

The work order should include:

  • The place, meaning where the intervention should be,
  • The contact information of the client,
  • Access details, such as the passcode if there is one,
  • The time and date of the appointment,
  • The description of the task, listing the mission and associated constraints,
  • The material to bring: tools, spare parts…,
  • The type of asset (equipment, device, appliance…) to repair,
  • Relevant documentation (map, blueprints, manuals…),
  • The history related to the client, including previous interventions and their result.

During the intervention

The work order is used by field technicians or their manager to fill out details such as:

  • The type of work done,
  • Work hours,
  • The problems or unusual situations encountered during the work,
  • The tools and pieces used,
  • Their recommendations.

The document is then signed by the client with eventual remarks to validate the intervention.

The typical process unfolds as follows:

  • Fill in the effective starting time and end time to calculate work hours,
  • Indicate the status of the intervention (ongoing, suspended, aborted),
  • Take pictures to illustrate the work done and include them in the report,
  • Make the inventory of the equipment used or missing,
  • Collect the signature of the client.

💡  Our tips

  • Use an electronic signature to get your work orders signed more quickly,
  • Communicate the price that will be charged to the client in advance: this is one of the best practices to build a transparent and trusting relationship with your customers.

After the task is completed

Once the team completes the work, the accounting department will edit the bill and paychecks for technicians.

The feedback and remarks from the client may be saved to your CRM software to improve customer service, and the work order could either be stored digitally or printed out for your archives.

4 solutions to streamline the process

Paper-based work orders

Work orders can be bought from specialised shops. Some are able to edit personalised work orders which include your logo. They are completed by hand.


  • Easy to use for people who aren’t familiar with computers,
  • More easily accessible to new and smaller organisations.


  • Handwriting may be difficult to read,
  • Invoices have to be edited by hand,
  • The form must be handed out to all stakeholders and may be lost in the process,
  • Limited space to write,
  • Archiving takes more space and older work orders are hard to find,
  • Costs are relatively high.

PDF work orders

An example of work order in the PDF format© Smartsheet

You can download work orders in PDF format online for free. This is an alternative to buying them in a store.


  • It’s free (save for printing costs).


  • Same as paper-based work orders

Excel work orders

It’s possible to use Excel to create work orders or maintenance schedules.


  • Free if your organisation already uses Excel,
  • Easy to input new information and duplicate existing forms,
  • Formulas can be used to autocomplete cells and generate invoices.


  • The learning curve can be steep if you or technicians are not familiar with the software,
  • Exporting to PDF for archiving purposes can cause problems,
  • Collecting the client’s signature requires using another support.

Go digital with CMMS software

Most CMMS solutions include work order management software. These make it possible to access and edit work orders from a tablet, smartphone or laptop. Maintenance managers, technicians, accountants and clients can all access the form before, during and after the intervention.


  • These tools are collaborative, meaning communication is smoother and more effective,
  • It avoids losses of information and negligences,
  • The information is legible, accurate, accessible through a mobile app and updated in real-time,
  • Some fields can be filled out automatically,
  • These solutions improve customer loyalty: you offer more transparency and project a modern image,
  • You can streamline your workflow and gain time by avoiding the need to export the data needed to edit invoices and paychecks.


  • These tools often don’t come for free. However, this is an investment, as productivity gains outweigh the associated costs.

The digital revolution impacts field services

Using cloud-based software to manage work orders can help you optimise resources, gain time and streamline your processes, from the initial request to the invoice.

Field technicians benefit from these gains and can focus on delivering better service more quickly. Customers will be amazed by your display of professionalism and the expertise of your teams.

Ready to work on your digital transformation, starting with work orders?

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