Work Order Innovation for Onsite Maintainers


What is a work order?

At its most basic, a work order takes an observation from the field, a time-based-trigger, an alert from SCADA, or a task and makes it actionable by an individual or team. Examples include a PV panel that is noted as cracked which needs to be repaired; an engine that needs oil changed more frequently given metals in fluid samples, and remote monitoring that reveals that communication to site was lost in the last 24 hours.


Are work orders a solved problem? Nope! 60Hertz knows there is room in the market to bring a solution that enriches the fidelity, color, time-to-resolution, punctuality, visibility and dare I say it, joy!, of creating or executing a Work Order.


One of our research field trips revealed that the maintenance director had to create a 15-slide explanatory deck complete with arrows, annotations and screenshots to teach his disparate (and to a degree elderly) work force “how simple it is to file a work order.”  ☹ We disagreed.


Another failure of status quo maintenance software: field staff must come to a desktop computer to create a work order to correct problems they first observed in the field. This misses the opportunity to add pictures, record a questionable sound, and even remember all of the relevant details. Worse, some Operational practices play telephone, where the field staff may note initial issues, but a separate employee is responsible for actually creating the Work Order.


Work Order Innovation is necessary, especially for remote sites.

We sympathize: before 60Hertz, technology wasn’t there to make this awkward system better. We also empathize, because the cost of blurry or partial information has both a human and economic cost. Closing out a work order in a site that is two-days travel and a $1000 flight from a larger city is obviously expensive. Having to do it twice because of a misunderstanding, missed part, or missed tool doubles the cost and means maintenance personnel must spend more time away from family and home. 60Hertz understands the cost of creating a low-fidelity Work Order with insufficient detail and understands the innovations to remedy it.


The foundation of faster mean-time-to-resolution of work orders and reducing a maintenance backlog is gathering better data from the field.


What if creating a Work Order began with equipping on-site technician to fortify the content of their corrective maintenance request with modern tools — from annotating the photo-documentation of an issue with colored lines, arrows and text; “stickers” for common issues; voice-memos, or even GIFs. The goal is to provide a 21st century toolbox for clear communication and camaraderie between colleagues. There is business value in bringing the world of Instagram & WhatsApp to Work Orders. We believe such tricks and tools will hasten the time to resolve a problem, avoid duplicate trips to field owing to incomplete supplies; and empowering the field tech with Smart troubleshooting routines to that sniff-out probable causes faster.


Work Orders are ready for innovation. But work orders in an off-line, mobile-first, human-first fleet are that much more cost-effective and important to disrupt. And 60Hertz can do it.

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Piper Foster Wilder

Piper Foster Wilder is a Humboldt Fellow and is former Vice President of Amatis Controls. She is committed to creating meaningful work for all people and enabling a transition to renewable energy while economizing the diesel that some must use. She holds multiple awards for her entrepreneurship and social impact initiatives.