I interviewed a mine operations manager in Newcastle, Australia, who said, "I have no idea what work orders or reliability improvements have been finished in the past week or which ones will be done in the near future." Being the "detective consultant" I went to the maintenance manager looking for answers. She said, "Operations puts ‘priority 1' on EVERY work order, so which one do you think I should do first? The one marked priority 1 or the one marked priority 1? Since all of them are equally important, it must not matter WHICH &@#"% work order we take care of first!"

Your work order [back] log is part of these standards [priority rules] that lay the foundation for smooth collaboration between operations and maintenance. A well-functioning work order [back] log is a condition for communication and cooperation since it contains critical information enabling a well-functioning flow. Examples of information that should be found in the work order [back] log include:

  • What WOs will be completed this week?
  • What WOs are scheduled for next week?
  • What WOs where finished last week?
  • What machines is operations preparing, and scheduling production stops for? (decided jointly)
  • If we don't have time for all WOs, which ones will we skip?
  • Who carries out what WO?
  • How many man-hours do we have in the work order [back] log?


How can we improve the situation?
A good start would be for operations and maintenance to create a set of standards for WOs and work order [back] logs - together.

  1. Create a system for prioritizing (need help? Click here)
  2. Set a time for a weekly work order [back] log meeting in which it's decided which WOs should be scheduled, which should be carried out next week, and the overall status of all WOs scheduled for this week as well as a list of which ones were finished last week.
  3. Do an inventory of the work order [back] log once a month until the new work process is flowing smoothly.


When the set of standards is established, the work order log has to be cleared. First, a good way of doing this is to spend a few hours every Friday afternoon:

  1. Removing all work orders that are already finished, along with those you think will not be done.
  2. Prioritizing each work order according to the priority rules (standards?)
  3. Estimating the number of hours needed for each work order.


After an initial "cleaning" of the work order [back] log, effective communication can begin between operations and maintenance during weekly meetings. Lastly, current, and future work is looked over collectively. Coordinate production stops and when maintenance has machines available. Priorities are decided on all new WOs- this should be done collectively during the meeting.

Do you have any tips for, or questions about how to implement a good work order [back] log system? Join our discussion on this topic at our www.LinkedIn.com forum. Search for IDCON's discussion page.

Tip Provided By: Torbjörn Idhammar, President of IDCON, INC.

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