What is a work order?

A work order is a formal document (digital or paper) that describes maintenance work that is approved for execution (i.e. an approved work request). Work requests can be submitted to maintenance by any one of their many types of customers, which depend on the type of business, industry, and/or facility being managed.

Work order facts
of facilities use a CMMS to monitor their maintenance

use spreadsheets and schedules, and 44% still use paper

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Where work orders fit into modern organizations

Work orders

aim to provide clear details of work to be performed and data recorded on work orders allow maintenance to monitor performance

Use of CMMS

to automate the work order process allow for ease of job tracking, accessibility, recurrent scheduling, reporting and closing

Detailed reporting

through automated work orders helps management create dashboards that can be used for performance monitoring and continuous improvement

Work Order Workflow


A maintenance work order is an authorization to perform requested activities on a work request. Depending on the type of business, work requests can be submitted to maintenance by any one of their many types of customers. Once work requests are reviewed and approved by maintenance, an official work order to complete the job is issued.

In addition to the details provided on the work request, the work order also contains key information on how the job will be completed.

Information that appears on a work order includes:

  • Description of the task or need
  • Name of requesting department or individual
  • Estimated completion date
  • Name of person or team to complete the task (may be in-house resource or third party)
  • Location of activities (name of facility, or name of area within a facility)
  • Prerequisites to completing the end goal (e.g. parts, tools, documentation)

The information on a work order is provided with the purpose of explaining the need, scheduling resources, detailing instructions, and estimating costs of parts and labor. Use of a CMMS like UpKeep also enables maintenance to schedule and document recurring work, like monthly routine preventive maintenance activities, and automatically generate and monitor work order data.

Types of work orders

Similar to work requests, work orders can also be classified into different types.

Here are some examples of work order categories that are available for use in UpKeep:


A test or series of testing to verify functionality or performance of assets, components, and systems

More on inspection

    Preventive maintenance (PMs)

    Can include everything from routine cleaning to lubrication as prescribed by manufacturers, required by policies, or dictated by performance

    More on Preventive Maintenance


      Includes work to protect life or loss of expensive assets (sometimes a work order may not be generated prior to addressing an emergency depending on the criticality and urgency)

      More on Emergency Maintenance


        Can range from repair of current apparatus to new installations of wiring, lighting, and power supplies


          Activities that protect personnel from risk of harm or injury like repair of facilities to prevent trips and falls or chemical cleanups to avoid hazardous materials exposure

            Special Project

            Includes installation of new assets that may aim to achieve things like increased productivity/efficiency, to modernize operations, or just to replace outdated assets

              Example of a work order

              In our article about work requests, we stated that a proper workflow is needed in order to effectively manage maintenance tasks. The first step in the workflow is submission and review of work requests by maintenance management. Once work requests are approved, they are converted into work orders.

              The illustration below is a simplified maintenance work order flow and the following details show a specific example of how a work order would be used in a fictional food packaging facility, Foodpacker ABC.

              Through UpKeep’s CMMS software, Food Packer ABC’s production manager submitted a work request to their maintenance team and the maintenance team has now issued a work order to complete the job.

              Here is an example of the details on the work order via UpKeep’s CMMS:

              • Title: Install New Food Packing Line
              • Description: New packing line has been delivered with 12 pallets. They are to be installed in the same processing room as 8 other lines. Some old equipment in the allotted space needs to be moved. Use remaining budget of $3,000 to hire third party movers. Compare physical deliveries to items ordered on purchase order. Put up temporary barrier to protect other packaging lines during installation of new equipment. Approval from quality department is required prior to putting line into service.
              • Due Date: Eight business days from submission of work request
              • Recurring Schedule: Not applicable
              • Estimated Duration: Eight full business days
              • Priority: High
              • Category: Special Project
              • Assigned To: Packaging Engineer
              • Additional Workers: Electricians, maintenance technicians, warehouse personnel, third party movers
              • Team: Install Team
              • Location: Processing Room A
              • Asset: Food Packing System Line 9
              • Add Images:

              Via UpKeep’s CMMS, maintenance is also able to add additional form fields, attach additional files, and require technician signatures.

              In this example, the production manager is under pressure to get the company’s new packing line up and running within one week. The work however, states that it will take longer than that. Also note that in the Description section, several steps are required to be completed prior to actual assembly of equipment. Once tasks are completed, the work order is reviewed and closed out.

              How work orders improve maintenance

              Work orders are used to track completion of work and document usage of resources whether in the form of labor or parts. The collection of this data enables maintenance to generate clear metrics that can be used for performance monitoring, trend analysis, and continuous improvement.

              You can read more about maintenance metrics here.

              Via the default features of an automated work order management system, an example of a KPI that can be quickly generated is schedule compliance. A maintenance manager would simply view all scheduled work on the Upkeep log and calculate the percentage of scheduled work that was completed over a certain time period.

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