OperationsPublished February 16, 2024

Create Custom Work Order Software for Your Maintenace Operations

Organize your maintenance without messy spreadsheets or expensive off-the-shelf work order software

Megan Johnson

Megan Johnson

Technical Educator

Create Custom Work Order Software for Your Maintenace Operations

Picture this: the HVAC system breaks down in apartment 367, and the tenant picks up the phone and screams “Hello, maintenance!”. Without skipping a beat, you promise the tenant it will be fixed immediately as you call the maintenance technician, but you’re told that there’s a leaky pipe in another apartment block that will take another two hours. You scuffle through your folders and glance at the whiteboard as you realize that all technicians are busy. 

You have to go back and tell the tenant that the response time to their HVAC breakdown is a little longer than anticipated. They’re not happy in the slightest. This is a common scenario in property management: tenants expecting automatic fixes to complex maintenance requests and operations managers not having a clear view of overall maintenance operations.

Whether you’re overseeing facility management for one apartment or one hundred, you need a system to create and streamline your maintenance workflows. That’s where work orders come in. You need to create, dispatch, and track work orders to maintain operational efficiency and avoid angry tenants or customers yelling at you on the phone. But work orders can be a lot of work. 

That’s why it’s essential to use work order management software. You’ll get a bird’s eye view of all your maintenance work orders, instantly know your work order status, and have accurate response times for your impatient tenants or customers. 

Work order management software can improve your already complicated maintenance operations, and there is a wide range of software solutions available, but building a custom solution can be the ideal approach for your maintenance team. It’s also a lot easier than you might think. 

How building custom work order software helps your business

Work order software handles the administration and logistics that underpin maintenance management. It gives maintenance technicians and operations managers the information they need to handle and prioritize service requests. Without a work order management system, decision-making becomes more challenging as you lack the visibility and insight to the required maintenance tasks. 

Work orders essentially act as a communication method between maintenance managers, end-users, and maintenance technicians. For instance, when an end-user puts in a maintenance request, the maintenance manager grants the request and assigns the work order to a maintenance technician. Your software facilitates all of these communications.

You need your work order software to provide the following:

Easy to use interface - Instead of rambling through multiple physical folders and jumping back and forth between emails to look for work request updates and track progress, work order software enables you to see everything from an intuitive app.

Mobile accessibility - You need your work order software to be accessible on mobile or tablet while in the field. Field technicians can see new work orders assigned to them as they’re out in the field or in transit between locations. With a work order app, they’ll get automatic notifications straight to their mobile device. 

Manage and reduce backlog -  Maintenance scheduling is easier when you can see the maintenance tasks assigned to technicians on a user-friendly interface instead of multiple spreadsheets. You can manage your maintenance tasks effectively and reduce your maintenance backlog by having a complete view. 

Single source of truth - Sync spreadsheets with real-time automatic updates so you don’t have to manually update your spreadsheet data. At any given time, you’ll be able to see which technician is working and what they’re working on. You’ll also have a live accurate view of your asset management and the functionality of each piece of equipment. 

Communication channels - A work order system acts as a smooth communication channel between facilities managers, maintenance technicians, and end-users. End-users submit their maintenance requests on the app, facility managers are made aware of maintenance issues, and they can assign a maintenance technician. There’s little room for confusion and communication issues.

Visibility for users - Instead of users relying on promises of “The maintenance technician is working on it” or “The AC was just serviced last week,” users will be able to see firsthand whether their requests are being fulfilled and whether the AC was truly serviced last week. Your users will have more trust and satisfaction. 

Visibility for technicians - Technicians can easily see work order information, maintenance checklists, and any other key information, such as maintenance history. This visibility will enable technicians to work effectively and also create greater transparency. You’ll easily be able to track the last time maintenance was carried out.

Visibility for managers -  Managers can see what their team is working on and how effectively the team resolves issues. You’ll be able to see how many open and complete work orders there are for a specific day and use this information to create maintenance metrics and KPIs to measure performance. 

Choosing the right work order software solution

There are different types of work order software you can use for your maintenance operations. Ultimately, choosing the best work order software comes down to how big and complex your maintenance operations are. 

Use spreadsheets (physical or cloud-based)

Many maintenance teams use spreadsheets to record breakdowns and manual request forms. Spreadsheets are a viable option if your maintenance operations are still quite small. But as your business operations and maintenance needs expand, things can get disorganized and confusing easily. 

When using physical sheets, it can be challenging to scour through multiple pieces of paper to find maintenance histories of your assets. It can also be hard to manage the maintenance schedules of multiple technicians, even if your team is still quite small. Plus, when you’re using physical sheets, it’s easy to misplace files and papers. 

“Before our Glide app, we were using pen and paper. You would go through and check this test sheet like you were sitting at the doctor's office. Then it got stowed away in a manila folder. And the only time it was ever looked at was when ultimately something went wrong.”-Rotha Ksa, Data Applications Engineer at Champion Industries.

Buy off-the-shelf software

There are many computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software solutions available, and they’re increasingly popular. According to the 2022 Plant Engineering Purchasing Considerations for Maintenance Management Software Study, 59% of respondents used CMMS software for their maintenance needs.

However, these software systems do come with downsides. The most noticeable downside is the implementation costs. The software is expensive to purchase, especially as the pricing is calculated per user. If you have a large and expanding team, you might find the costs to be expensive as you scale. It can also lack customizability, come with confusing and expensive bloatware bundled into it, and is often outdated regarding mobile functionality if it even offers a mobile app at all.

Custom-code an app

It’s possible to get a more tailor-fit solution by employing developers to custom-code work order software for your company. However, developing an app requires a sizeable upfront investment from your company in both time and developer costs. Adding mobile functionality requires additional time and money to complete.

Build your own with no code

No code platforms like Glide let you create customized apps without knowing programming or hiring outside help, saving you time and resources. You can quickly and easily assemble pre-built components and connect your data to create an app that suits your exact needs. 

Building an app with no code costs less per-user than off-the-shelf work order management software. You can also tailor your system to your exact workflows and the needs of your specific team. Unlike most of the available software on the market, which tends to be outdated and designed for desktops only, Glide apps are mobile adaptive by default, so your app can be accessed by mobile devices in the field or in transit. 

Features you need from your no code app builder

To build an effective work order management app, you need a platform that integrates with your team’s existing workflows, protects your data, and builds an app that is available wherever work is happening. Glide has these features to support your work order management process:

Mobile accessibility - Maintenance technicians use their mobile phone devices as their operating system, so your work order management system needs to be accessible on mobile. Additionally, end users might be more likely to use their phones to submit maintenance requests, especially if they want to attach pictures. 

Push notifications - Similar to mobile access, push notifications are essential, given the fact that maintenance technicians and end users use their mobile phones as their operating systems. Technicians won’t be able to miss important service updates and information if the notification is sent to their phone, whereas it’s easy to miss emails. 

Varying visibility levels - Each user needs varying visibility levels into the organization’s maintenance operations. For instance, customer or requestor visibility will be fairly limited to submitting service requests and checking the status of their specific service request. Whereas field technician visibility will be more advanced to seeing all of their assigned work orders plus maintenance history. Lastly, operations managers will have the greatest visibility. 

Permission levels - Similar to varying visibility levels, users need varying permission levels. For instance, technicians shouldn’t be able to edit and delete maintenance requests or maintenance history. However, managers need to have permission to edit and delete requests and history. 

What you need from a work order management system

Work order management is the process of organizing and managing your work orders simultaneously and effectively, whilst ensuring that you address issues quickly. You need your work order management system to help simplify your maintenance operations by giving you crucial abilities like submitting and prioritizing work orders or performing analytics on your work order process.

When you’re building your work order management system, make sure to build in features that allow you to: 

Receive service requests - You need to be able to receive service requests from your users. For instance, you need to know that the tenant in apartment 187 has reported that the water heater isn’t working. 

Submit work orders - Your work order management system needs a place for you to submit work orders. For example, once you’ve received the service request, you need to be able to submit a work order to your available maintenance technicians. 

Prioritize and approve work orders - After you receive a request on the back end, you need to be able to prioritize and approve the work order. For instance, a pipe bursting will have a higher priority than a light switch not working. Likewise, you need to be able to approve the work order.

Schedule & Assign - You’ve got 15 approved work orders and only 6 maintenance technicians available, you have to schedule and assign your maintenance requests to ensure that your team isn’t stretched thin and you’re also maintaining uptime for your users. 

Document & Close - Once the maintenance issue is fixed, you’ll need to document the issue for recordkeeping purposes in case another issue pops up with that specific asset and also close out that work order. 

Analyze - You need to track trends and monitor asset performance in real time. Your work order software needs to enable you to analyze and store maintenance history. 

“The Glide app really helps with making sure that the process is concrete. On the back end, we can do vendor analysis with the information that we store. We’re bridging the gap between engineering, production, and service”- Rotha Ksa, Data Applications Engineer at Champion Industries.

Create workflows to manage different kinds of work orders

Work order management is the backbone of your overall maintenance management. Your software will help prioritize, schedule, and track all kinds of maintenance tasks effectively.  With an app completed that streamlines the process of work order management, add workflows for more than just reactive maintenance.

You need the ability to overview and plan preventative and predictive maintenance as well. Use the built-in calendar or connect to an external integration such as Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar to plan and schedule maintenance.

Build systems for these three types of work orders:

Reactive maintenance work order - A breakdown or failure triggers a work order. This typically happens after the end user (the requestor) puts in the request and the maintenance manager grants it.

Preventive maintenance work order - A work order is triggered once a pre-determined time or meter threshold is met. Typically, maintenance managers will set a time for the asset to be reviewed, and once that time has passed, the work order is triggered.

Predictive maintenance work order -  An asset’s performance falls below a pre-defined standard, triggering a work order. For instance, if the vibration levels for a specific machine fall below a predefined standard, this triggers a work order. 

How to build custom work order software with no code

Glide makes it easy to build custom work order software for your maintenance operations without having to code any of it. To save some time, you can start this work order template. This gives you the essential features you need, such as a calendar to schedule maintenance, which you can then customize to suit your specific workflows.

First, sign up for a Glide account and make a copy of the template. You can preview it from your browser or on your mobile device by scanning the QR code in the bottom right corner of the image above. This template has three screens to start with - products, documents, and users.

Connect your data

Click over to View Data to see the information currently powering the template. Replace that data with your own in the built-in Glide Tables or connect your new app to your existing company data source. You can upload your business data from whatever spreadsheet or database you use, including Google Sheets, Excel, or SQL databases. With your app, technicians and customers can view and edit your data from a visual interface without messing with spreadsheets.

Use AI to make your system more efficient

AI is a powerful addition to your maintenance management process. Add AI-powered features and functionality to your app to help improve your team’s productivity. For instance, when a work order has been created, you can automatically send the customer an email. You can also prioritize and assign requests based on work order creation time. 

Voice-to-text can convert voice memos into written records like CarboNet did for their field maintenance teams. This can be especially useful for field teams who are often in a hurry or working in harsh conditions. Instead of typing up notes, the maintenance technician can record a voice note to the operations manager which will convert to written text. AI can also be used to analyze notes more effectively, track and search your database, and return summaries of disparate information or specific documents so users spend less time searching for the information they need.

Send notifications & alerts

For your work order management app, you can add the ability to send notifications and alerts to your team. You can also receive notifications. For instance, if a new request comes in, a real-time alert needs to be sent to the nearest available technician with the work order information. Once the technician marks the request as completed, you’ll get a notification on your end that the work has been completed, so you have complete insight into your maintenance operations.

Set up alerts to be reminded when equipment maintenance is due, so you can create an effective maintenance schedule and reduce the chance of service downtime. Setting alerts is a good preventive maintenance measure that will reduce the likelihood of unhappy customers screaming down the phone.

Link to the rest of your tools

When you build your custom work order management app, you can easily link the rest of your maintenance software tools to your app, giving you a centralized view of your operations. You can link your inventory management app, so you’re able to see what parts of your inventory need repairing and assign technicians.

Also, link your knowledge management app so your technicians can go into jobs and easily find all the information they need. The last thing a repair technician needs is to be going back and forth on the phone with the head office in the middle of a job about the specifics of a machine part when that information could easily be accessible on a mobile app.

Set users & permissions 

Your Glide app is private by default so you can control access to your app and keep your company information secure. Within the app, you can also set users and permissions, showing different data to different users. For instance, your maintenance KPIs and checklists should only be visible to maintenance technicians and managers and not to users who are submitting requests. 

Share your app

When you’re done, share your app easily by sending an email or a Slack message with a link, publishing a QR code, or linking to your app. Add your work order management app to your IT system and make sure it’s part of your onboarding flow so your team is aware of the tools available.

Build additional apps to support your work order management process

There are still more ways to use custom software to optimize your work order management process. With Glide, you can create multiple apps on top of your business data and then connect those apps, creating smooth workflows across your business. Consider creating the following apps to support your work order management system:

Facility management - Create an app to manage facilities throughout your business, including warehouses, offices, and customer sites if you're maintaining equipment in the field. This app can help organize maintenance work across multiple locations.

Asset management - By properly managing work orders and prioritizing repairs for specific/high-priority assets, you ensure that your assets are well maintained, reducing downtime periods and the risk of breakdowns. Repurpose this asset management template by customizing it for your business.

Inventory management - Work orders include inventory information. Build an app to see and manage your inventory levels based on what needs replacing and track your spare parts inventory. For instance, by creating work orders, you might realize that a specific piece of machinery is missing a spare part. Follow this tutorial to create a custom Inventory Management App, or create a Delivery app to track shipments of essential materials.

Streamline your maintenance operations

An effective work order management system helps streamline maintenance operations. The last thing you want to do is to be scuffling through folders and binders as the ventilation system breaks down. You also don’t want your service requests getting lost in your sea of emails. 

Give yourself, your users, and your maintenance team the right tool to tackle maintenance requests quickly and effectively. Create an environment of transparency between end users and the status of their maintenance requests, because they can see on their phones in real-time. Communicate with your field technicians on their mobile phones. 

Build an app that is tailored to your organization’s maintenance needs, and enjoy the benefits of streamlined maintenance operations.

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