A Simple Guide to Optimizing Your Service Request Process
Managing a facility of any size requires an understanding of the business, its industry, your workforce, and what tools are required to run at peak performance. According to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, a high performance building "integrates and optimizes all major high-performance building attributes, including energy efficiency, durability, life-cycle performance, and occupant productivity." The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 further added to this definition: environment, safety, security, accessibility, cost-benefit, sustainability, functionality, and operational considerations. As business owners and facility managers strive to retain top talent, reduce costs, and increase productivity, a thorough understanding of our buildings, its assets, and where and how each item is valued has become a critical component to a successful business plan.
For many of us, a modern building with all the “green” options is not an option; we must make the most of the resources available to us. This can be achieved by establishing a comprehensive and efficient service request process and automating as many steps as possible. By doing so, you create an environmentally responsible workplace that is fruitful, competitive, and attractive to both customers and your workforce.
Understand Your Business
Unfortunately, there is no “one size fits all” business model- there are many factors that influence the health of the company. For your organization to reach optimal levels, your facilities team must build a solid foundation, which requires a strong knowledge as to how maintenance is currently handled, the service request process or work order process as many call it, how varying needs are communicated, and accountability standards.
Examining the multitude of variables and gaining a clear picture as to where improvements are required means asking the right questions and investing in tools that will help put all disparate information together. The proof is in the details.
A few items to consider in understanding how your company handles service requests are (but not limited to):
- How are service requests currently communicated? Do you utilize a software solution or are they sent via email or phone call?
- Which members of your workforce are authorized to submit a request? Is management approval required?
- Once a work order is generated, does the requestor receive updates on progress and completion? If so, how is this information processed? What details are logged?
- Do you have a system in place to discern when equipment should be serviced again? How do you plan for this?
- How often are service tickets generated? Monthly, daily, weekly, or on an as-needed basis?
- Does your organization have a preventative maintenance plan in place? If so, how is this handled?
- What system, if any, have you implemented to measure successes and weaknesses?
An optimized planning and scheduling system does not evolve overnight. It stems from a deep understanding of the factors that affect your business, including the organization’s size, the relationships between service technicians and workforce and the core nature of your business.
Streamline Your Processes
One of the most effective ways to improve operations is to streamline your organization’s planning and scheduling work order processes. The extent of your discoveries and the tools you currently have implemented during the examination stage will determine how complex this step will be. Half the battle of improving the overall efficiency of your work order process is utilizing an Integrated Workplace Management System. The other half? Using that IWMS to streamline and optimize your processes.
Use the knowledge you have gained from collected data to work with your software vendor to customize your tools for your needs. Have your system set up where it generates pre-filled details and assigns requested tasks, based on the nature of the work order. If prior approval is required for service tickets, have a built-in feature set up that assigns a work order immediately when an emergency or safety request is submitted. Keep in mind to limit options to no more than 15 categories/groups with no more than 4 to 6 items/request types to choose from per group. By working the details ahead of time, you reduce downtime and save your employees the trouble of having to scroll through hundreds of options.
A Proactive Approach Leads to Minimized Downtime
If you do not already have a preventive maintenance plan in place, now is the time to do so. Regularly scheduled and planned maintenance helps alleviate reactive situations, which can cost your company anywhere from two to five times more than planned work. First-hand experience and studies have revealed that “reactive/repair-based maintenance costs the business ten to one hundred times more than preventive maintenance.” Your IWMS should offer you the ability to set up an initial preventative maintenance plan, as well as analyze past and present servicing data to predict which assets would benefit from this process.
You must use a system that will allow you to compile, communicate, and analyze all maintenance activities by asset. This will streamline your process of prioritizing PM tasks and frequencies of inspections as well as determining the effectiveness and validity of each task over time. Careful data analysis sometimes reveals that it is more cost effective to operate equipment until it breaks down, preparing for corrective action or replacement, once breakdown occurs. The one variable that remains the same for businesses spanning every size and scope, is that those who ignore the advantages and profitability of a solid preventive maintenance plan will miss out on finding their true profit potential.
Utilize Metrics and Reporting for Optimal Performance
One of the most powerful tools built into your FM software is metrics and reporting. This is your opportunity to learn from past and present triumphs and downfalls, to take predictive measures, and to communicate this data across the organization. You have control over what reports are generated, how often they are generated, and who gains access this data.
Before ironing out the details, there are a few general questions you will want to answer:
- Who will be running reports and who will be able to view them?
- How often do you want these reports run?
- What types of reporting add the most value to your team? (lists, tables with quantities, or charts)
- What level of detail do you want to see when reporting on Service Request activity?
- What Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will you use to measure the performance and health of your submission, execution, and completion processes?
Our clients have found success by including these common reports:
- Number of requests submitted by location, category, and priority. Allow for reports to be generated within a specified date range for optimal information.
- Number of requests submitted by priority and affected unit.
- How many requests were completed on time?
- If requests were re-assigned to a new technician, how many fall into this category and why?
- Summary list of completed requests. Include details such as: request type, requestor, operator, resolution, time open, cost, etc.
- If requests are closed without completion, why?
- Current number of open requests and average age.
- Number of requests with errors in categorization, assignment, and prioritization
- What fields and measures do you want included in data analysis?
- What information do you want viewed in the dashboards?
- What input does your workforce have?
Long-term success is measured by our ability to learn from both triumphs and failures. Access to accurate, reliable and timely information is critical for the management of your organization, and the work order process is no different.
With a systematic coordination of your company’s tools, resources, and information, your facilities team has the ability to expand on its processes for improved workflow and, in turn, maximum productivity. For a more in-depth guide on how to improve on your service request process, download our ebook Work Order Workout: 30 days to a Healthier Work Order Process.