When you run a busy manufacturing workshop or any other small business, it’s key to prioritize your objectives. With many different work orders demanding your attention and resources, knowing how to prioritize those work orders will maximize your efficiency and improve productivity across the board.
In this breakdown, we’ll explore what work order prioritization is, how to approach it, and how to leverage digital tools for work order management and task prioritization.
Understanding the Work Order Prioritization Process
In a nutshell, work order prioritization is the art and science of determining which projects or requests need to be tackled first to meet overall business goals. Through proper work order prioritization:
- The most demanding tasks get dealt with first
- The most needful clients are satisfied as quickly as possible
- Work orders aren’t completed on a whim, so time and resources aren’t wasted
Of course, to strategically prioritize work orders at your shop or business, you need to identify key factors like:
- Your current staff resources
- Your other resources
- Your collective deadlines for all the work orders for your enterprise
- And more
Workshop managers and technicians must work in conjunction with each other to master work order prioritization. Managers must oversee the entire work order prioritization process, while technicians and line workers need to update managers about incoming work orders, requests, etc.
Developing a Prioritization System
Key to developing an effective, productive prioritization system is creating a structured, clear, and accessible system that everyone in your company can utilize. That’s best done with comprehensive, cloud-based workshop software that can support your team and help you device, maintain, and adjust a work order prioritization system that works for everyone.
As you develop your work order prioritization system, you’ll want to differentiate between different tasks, like routine tasks, high-priority tasks, and urgent tasks.
Routine tasks are those that you’ll complete every day or frequently and which can be dealt with after more pressing work. High-priority tasks are those that need to be taken care of first or before routine tasks, and urgent tasks need to be dealt with ASAP. Urgent tasks can include things like emergencies, incoming deadlines, and more.
Furthermore, your prioritization system must be flexible enough to incorporate incoming customer demands and new deadlines. For example, if a customer or client needs a work order completed now instead of tomorrow, your system must be agile to allow for resource shifting and fast messaging to get people and materials where they need to go. The last thing you want is for everything to grind to a halt because of a last-minute plan change.
Factors to Consider in Work Order Prioritization
As you develop your work order prioritization system and processes throughout your business, be sure to keep these key factors in mind:
- Safety and emergency protection. Keeping your workers and your clients safe is key, so your work order prioritization system should take into account the necessity for safety checks, product quality control, etc. It’s no good to cut corners to meet deadlines when safety is a concern
- Production schedules and deadlines. Determine how your prioritization system will impact your normal production schedules. If done properly, your work order prioritization system should consistently improve how well your workshop meets deadlines
- Resource and manpower availability. As you build up your workshop or small business and acquire more resources and staff members, you’ll be able to take on more work orders, and your prioritization system should expand to encompass those new resources
- Asset and equipment criticality. Don’t forget to account for the importance of different assets, equipment, tools, etc. If, for instance, you have one expensive tool needed for multiple projects, schedule the use of that tool strategically using your prioritization processes. That way, the tool is shared between different workers and apartments most efficiently
- Cost and budget constraints. Naturally, your money will impact which work orders you need to tackle in which order, plus how many work orders you can take in
Tools and Software for Efficient Prioritization
Digital tools for work order management are invaluable benefits to workshops like yours. They can provide many different features and tools, such as:
- Invoice tracking and management
- Proposal creation and management
- Contact management
- Cloud storage for files, photos, CAD drawings, paper, and more
- Project tracking for files, email activity, documents, and more
- Shipping document conversion for invoices, work orders, and proposals
- Job tracking
The right work order tracking and scheduling software can maximize the efficiency of your business in more ways than one. Even better, it can typically integrate with inventory and supply chain management systems and software that you may already use. Powder Coat 360 Workshop is the ideal solution for your work order prioritization needs.
Communication and Collaboration
Prioritizing different work orders and tasks will only work if your managers and technicians communicate clearly and frequently. To that end, you should host regular meetings and ensure that everyone on a team or project updates the others.
Projects evolve constantly, so consistent updates are vital if you want to be able to adjust your work order priorities. For instance, you may shift a high-priority project to “urgent” status if a new development or client demand requires you to complete it more quickly than originally anticipated.
In a broad sense, frequent communication and collaboration also help to encourage suggestions and constructive feedback from team members, facilitating an ever-better work environment.
Adapting to Changing Priorities
With your work order prioritization system, you’ll be much more agile and adaptive for last-minute project changes or unforeseen emergencies.
It may help to keep some resources – whether those are tools, physical products, time, or staff availability – in reserve or flexible to handle unexpected word orders. Furthermore, make sure that everyone has access to your work order prioritization system so they can immediately see when they need to drop everything and tackle an urgent task.
Balancing Preventative Maintenance and Reactive Tasks
With a properly run work order prioritization system, you can now start to incorporate preventative maintenance tasks and ensure they get done consistently. These can be routine tasks that your technicians take care of when they have nothing else to do.
In this way, you’ll have enough flexibility to take care of any reactive tasks or work orders while also ensuring long-term maintenance: a big benefit for the safety of your crew and your business.
Monitoring and Evaluating Prioritization Effectiveness
Don’t forget to track KPIs or key performance indicators to ensure your prioritization system is successful. You should track things like:
- Client satisfaction
- Work order completion rate
- Number of urgent jobs
- And more
In doing this, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of just how effective your work order prioritization is and be able to make adjustments if needed. Regularly review and assess the effectiveness of your prioritization system, as new workers, new clients, and other developments can throw a wrench into your carefully constructed process.
In the end, work order prioritization and work order management are key for any workshop, manufacturing plant, or small business. Use the above tips and strategies to develop and implement an efficient, highly successful prioritization system. In the long run, you can continuously improve your work order prioritization, finely-tuning your workplace machine until it is the best in its industry, bar none.