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Five Steps to Efficient Work Order Management

A group of excited co-workers looking at a tablet together

While you can’t escape work orders in property management, you can manage them more efficiently. We at AppWork know first-hand the trials and tribulations that accompany managing, organizing, and distributing work orders to technicians.

We have five steps to improve your maintenance team’s workflow and to streamline your work order management.

Step One: Ensure Engagement

Unit 203 needs her shower fixed, while unit 309 has a leaky sink. They both keep calling you repeatedly, frantic about their service requests (living under the common misconception that more calls equate to faster service). Plus, one of your property managers wants to push off a move-in date because the unit needs new toilet tanks.

Meanwhile, your on-site plumber, Bill, is sitting in the property's shop and watching Squid Games on his tablet.

Usually, these types of situations arise when communication is poor between managers, technicians, and residents. Also, the property manager or leasing office might have a favorite technician who they use by default, not realizing that their workload is already maxed out.

Avoid such scenarios by staying on top of your technicians daily. Make sure work orders are distributed evenly so that every technician has work to do every day.

If you're struggling to maintain balanced workloads, then you might want to research a digital solution for managing work orders. When the managers, technicians, and residents all have access to the same digital work order and receive real-time updates whenever the task is updated, then communication improves.

Plus, with the right software platform, you'll be able to see with one glance how many work orders each technician already has assigned to them while assigning a new work order.

Better scheduling enables you to ensure that every member of your team keeps busy. Staying on top of work order assignments increases resident satisfaction and resident retention.

Step Two: Plan Ahead

Imagine Bill (from above) suddenly getting the previously waiting tasks in the middle of the day. He gets up eagerly to do the work, but when he goes to fix unit 203’s shower, she isn’t home and her chihuahua is growling at the door. Then he goes to fix 309’s sink, just to realize he’s run out of coupling nuts.

After running to the hardware store and finishing the sink, he goes to the vacant unit and realizes that no one ordered the toilet tanks. Now he can’t finish that task, and he has to circle back to unit 203, on the opposite side of the property.

If all these tasks has been assigned at the beginning of the day or the end of the previous day, Bill would have had a chance to clarify details and schedule his visits beforehand. Did someone order the toilet tanks? Does he have all the tools and parts he needs? When will the resident in unit 203 be at home?

By planning before he starts his rounds, he can make sure to prepare the correct tools and purchase any missing parts beforehand. He can plan the most efficient route, and make sure the chihuahua is locked up before he arrives.

Step Three: Play to Your Strengths

When a plumbing problem arises, you’ll want to send Bill; but when a resident is complaining about broken air conditioning, then you should send Jimmy, your resident HVAC expert. Even if a technician doesn’t have a specific specialty, chances are they will have strengths and weaknesses. A technician who enjoys fixing cabinets will do a better job than one who doesn’t.

By sending the appropriate technician to each job, you’ll save time and increase resident satisfaction. The right person will complete the job faster and do better work, leading to fewer callbacks. Fewer callbacks boost the confidence that residents have in your maintenance teams.

Additionally, you can save a lot of money by sending the technician with the right skillset. Replacement costs make up a significant percentage or your operating budget. Imagine the difference in costs between a technician who knows how to fix broken AC units, versus one who automatically defaults to replacing them.

While this step is obvious in principle, it can be difficult to implement. It’s hard for property managers always to know which technician excels at which tasks, or which technician will be better for a particular task versus others. You can keep an eye out for differentiators over time, and discover strong points through trial and error.

Take skillset management to the next level by harnessing cutting-edge technology that increases the scope and depth of your skill assessments.

How much time does tech A take to complete tasks within different categories? For which tasks does he receive higher ratings versus tech B? How many callbacks does he get within each category compared to others?

You can get the answers with a software platform that determines, tracks, and organizes skill levels using hundreds of data points and evolving algorithms (powered by machine learning).

Step Four: Work Efficiently

Now that you’re assigning work orders the night before, or first thing in the morning, you can further streamline your technicians’ days by checking for work orders within the same building, unit, or property. This keeps your technicians from running in circles and wasting time on traveling.

Besides alleviating the maintenance teams’ frustration levels, this will also make you residents happier. Most people can’t understand why the handyman can fix their neighbors problem and not theirs.

Step Five: Do It Right the First Time

Callbacks are the bane of every maintenance team and resident. Jimmy thinks the AC for Dr. Nelson is fixed, but Dr. Nelson calls the office back a day later, complaining about the sweltering heat. Technicians don’t like having to go back and residents don’t like needing a return visit. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Also, sometimes, you might hire an unscrupulous technician who’d rather lie about work instead of doing it. A technician like this will mark tasks as done when he has really done nothing.

To increase maintenance team efficiency, It is vital to track and reduce callbacks properly. As with skill assessment, technology can help manage and reduce callbacks. Imagine being able to see how many callbacks each technician gets within a specific time period, broken down by categories. If Tech A gets more callbacks when fixing fridges, then it might be better to send Tech A instead. Most important, if Tech C gets a callback with almost every single task he’s assigned, then it might be better to find a new technician altogether.

Reducing callbacks means a reduction in redundancies. This makes technicians happy, residents happy, and property managers happy (a win-win-win situation).

Work Orders and Technology

Greater efficiency in work order management and cutting-edge technology go hand-in-hand. The ideal software platform will allow you to ensure that each maintenance team member keeps busy, knows about their tasks beforehand, gets the tasks best suited to their individual skillset, and can group tasks according to location. The same platform should provide supervisors and managers with comprehensive data and analytics to improve skill assessments and reduce callbacks.