The case for Standing Work Orders

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Two kinds of work orders that do not cover a specific job on a specific asset are commonly used. They are called “Standing” and/or “Blanket” work orders, sometimes interchangeably, although there is a difference.

“Blanket” work orders are work orders that remain open for extended periods, are charged to a department level (or perhaps higher) and are used to capture costs for miscellaneous work that is done. Details of this work are lost, but I have encountered operations where up to 60% of all maintenance work is charged to blanket work orders, and this work usually includes some major projects. Blanket work orders should be avoided.

“Standing” work orders are work orders that also remain open for an extended length of time, often indefinitely, and have the useful purpose of capturing costs and history for specific types of work or other activities.

Standing work orders have the advantage of reducing work order administration efforts and do capture valuable history. Your maintenance computer system will record many details of each transaction charged to standing work orders, such as the date, time, name, stock issued and purchases. Because the date of each transaction is recorded, it should not be necessary to enter a new standing work each year, which is a common practice, although this does depend to some extent on the reporting features in your maintenance system.

Appropriate uses of standing work orders include:

– routine activities, such as shop clean-up, safety meetings, weekly tool checks, etc.

– specific repetitive tasks, such as connecting and disconnecting chemical cars, where the standing work order is charged to the appropriate asset.

– specific preventive maintenance routines and inspections that have a frequency of one week or less. Weekly PM standing work orders should be automatically included on weekly schedules before other work is scheduled. This can significantly reduce the number of work orders that need to be processed.

– where the maintenance system will not allow transactions to be charged directly to asset numbers (some don’t), then setting up a standing work for each asset provides a similar record. This is often appropriate for mobile equipment, and for recording small maintenance jobs on some infrastructure and some manufacturing equipment. This is something of a “work-around” to compensate for a lack of maintenance software functionality, but it works.

For mobile equipment there is a distinct advantage to using a standing work order instead of using a unique work order for each service or repair job. If a standing work order is used, all parts used on a vehicle can be viewed by looking at the work order history. If unique work orders are used, parts will be recorded against each work order, and in most maintenance computer systems it is difficult to see all the parts used on an item of equipment. In fact, in most systems this requires looking at each and every work order, or getting your IT people to run a special report.

Standing work orders do save administration time, however they can be abused and need to be managed. But of course that applies to all work orders.


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Don Armstrong, P.Eng, President
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