How to Effectively Manage Work Orders in the Example of Electric Motor Maintenance?
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How to Effectively Manage Work Orders in the Example of Electric Motor Maintenance?

  • Katarina Knafelj Jakovac

    February 23, 2024

Maintenance of industrial electric motors is a complex and demanding task.

Electric motors are the driving force behind every production facility.

Quality management of work orders for electric motor maintenance increases productivity and enhances equipment reliability.

After understanding incorrect assumptions about electric motor condition monitoring and proper maintenance methods, we will see how advanced management of work orders improves the condition of electric motors and extends their lifespan.

An efficient work order is an important technical and economic tool for operations in all industrial sectors, aiming for the digitalization and automation of the work process of creating, monitoring, and managing maintenance tasks.

Computer systems and maintenance management applications (CMMS) represent a central point where work orders (WO) are created, tracked in real-time, executed, and archived.

At the same time, they allow for status updates, notifications and alerts, analysis generation, and integration with other business systems.

Work order management is closely linked to the execution of mechanical and electrical maintenance work.

The analysis of the efficiency of industrial plant maintenance is based on data obtained from work orders.

It follows that a quality work order enables real-time monitoring of key performance indicators such as budget status, fault resolution time, number of faults, and resource utilization.

Applications and computer software for managing preventive, corrective, and incident-based electric motor fault resolution work orders are digital tools that will provide real-time efficiency indicators for every production-oriented company.

5 Common Misconceptions About Electric Motor Condition Monitoring

Monitoring the condition of electric motors is a fundamental tool in reliability-focused maintenance of rotating equipment, where various sensors are installed independently of power to collect real-time operational data.

Temperature sensors and accelerometers for vibration measurement collect data that can be analyzed after a certain period to determine if there is an increase in operating temperature, if the motor is experiencing increased workload, if the machine is properly aligned, and so on.

Ultrasonic testing similarly indicates if there is an increased need for bearing lubrication.

Machine condition monitoring is an excellent tool for predictive maintenance as it helps determine how much time is left before a machine failure and downtime, enabling more concrete planning of shutdowns, maintenance costs, and production volume.

Digitalization of data collection with continuous 24/7 presence activates alarms that alert plant personnel in advance when the electric motor ceases optimal operation and enters a state of reduced reliability.

While technology is great, blindly relying solely on technology without planning, analyzing, and verifying can lead to misconceptions. The most common misconceptions regarding electric motor condition monitoring as the primary drive machines in process plants are:

1. Misconception: Monitoring the operation of electric motors is intended solely for plant personnel and equipment users.

This statement is accurate for 80% of process plants.

The remaining 20% pertains to manufacturers and suppliers of electric motors for whom machine operation data can be a valuable source of information for improving future designs and manufacturing new machines.

Recorded vibrations on bearings during the first startup of an electric motor can reveal improper alignment, which can lead to premature bearing failure or imbalance-related breakdowns.

Data collection and trend monitoring over several years for, for example, 10 identical electric motors in a process plant help us understand potential weak components and the issues they have caused, such as production interruptions, unexpected capacity reductions, or unexplained failures.

This data is useful for the manufacturer when designing the next generation of electric motors to eliminate identified weak points or to use stronger materials for component manufacturing.

Analysis of the failure causes resulting from frequent vibration increases can also uncover errors in the motor assembly during machine production.

2. Misconception: Installing sensors on all electric motors installed in the observed plant will solve the condition monitoring problem.

Before embarking on such an endeavor, consider some facts: are all electric motors in that plant critical for the production process?

Have all electric motors experienced the same number of failures from the same causes at the same time intervals?

Which electric motors have the highest failure rates over the past few years?

Without which electric motor do we have multi-day plant shutdowns and significant production losses?

What maintenance techniques do we apply, and how successful are they? Which spare parts have been replaced and how often?

After answering these questions, reconsider installing sensors on every single electric motor.

The best approach to motor maintenance through condition monitoring is strategic, considering the criticality of each individual electric motor to the production process and the plant as a whole.

A risk matrix serves as a tool for determining the risk level of motor failure occurrence and the consequences of failure for each electric motor.

Procuring and installing a large number of sensors at once is a costly endeavor and increases plant complexity, leading to collecting an excessive amount of data simultaneously.

Data needs to be analyzed and interpreted, which again requires time and the involvement of a skilled professional.

Do we really need that much data?

Instead of installing sensors on less critical motor bearings, start by analyzing previously recorded and rectified failures over the past several years, check the daily routine maintenance performed by plant personnel, and see if there are any irregularities.

Identify which parts/machines have had more frequent failures, e.g., define electric motors that have been more frequently rewound, and direct increased efforts toward preventive maintenance before considering them for sensor installation.

3. Misconception: Continuous real-time condition monitoring is necessary for all electric motors.

The frequency of data collection using sensors varies from machine to machine over time.

While electric motors that have shown problematic behavior in the past or are strategic for the plant should have continuous recording of operational parameters in electronic form, there is a quite decent number of electric motors for which it is sufficient to record operational parameters such as temperature and vibrations once daily/weekly/monthly.

Sensors for condition monitoring can be set up so that changes in the input signal values activate alarms if there is a sudden disturbance or instantly shut down the machine if a defined value is exceeded.

This effectively protects the electric motor, driven machinery, and part of the production process where the electric motor is located.

For example, when vibration values on the front and rear bearings of the electric motor driving a gas compressor in a refinery plant exceed, the protection system will activate and automatically initiate a shutdown sequence to protect the motor, the compressor it drives, and other equipment in the plant.

In many plants, the frequency of reading operational parameters using sensors decreases after the completion of the initial commissioning period.

Initially, data is closely and frequently monitored to detect abnormalities and compare how the electric motor behaves when the workload and process conditions change.

Our perception of what a trend in data change for a proper electric motor looks like changes over time.

Once you create a database for each electric motor in the plant, the frequency of data collection can be reduced based on empirical observations.

4. Misconception: Installing sensors on all electric motors in one plant will reduce annual repair costs.

Is it really possible to achieve savings on repairs after installing sensors on all electric motors?

In the first year when you install sensors, you are actually at a loss because, in addition to regular maintenance and repair costs, you also have to cover the cost of purchasing and installing sensors, connecting cables, integrating them into the plant's control system, commissioning sensors, calibration, adjustment, and other necessary work to make everything work properly.

In the second year, you will intensively collect data, analyze trends, and create a database while determining the "behavior pattern" of each electric motor.

Some failures will be predicted by trend analysis, while others will not, and at the end of the year, you will still incur repair and spare parts replacement costs, as well as costs for personnel engaged in analysis, adjustment, and repairs of electric motors, as well as the beginning of the amortization repayment for new equipment.

Only after 3 to 5 years of investing in sensors, diligently collecting and analyzing data, establishing a continuous regime of quality [preventive](https://www.metrikon.io/en/blog/meet-the-levels-of-preventive-maintenance-and-key-steps-for-improvement and predictive maintenance through rigorous condition monitoring and engaging all necessary personnel, can you start counting on the savings you have achieved thanks to the initial investment.

By combining several types of data, you will develop a better understanding of the operation of electric motors and how it changes due to changing process conditions in the plant.

For example, if you install a sensor to measure rotational speed, a sensor to measure vibrations, and a sensor to measure temperature, observing trends on curves will give you a detailed picture of why there was an increase in temperature when vibration speed increased on the bearings and how the rotational speed changed simultaneously when the workload changed.

All collected data is the property of your company, and you are not obligated to show it to the electric motor manufacturer.

Automated analysis using IoT reduces the need for equipment manufacturer engagement and activates alarms only when a serious problem is present.

The system needs to be programmed to activate alarms early enough to allow sufficient time for planning and performing preventive parts replacement or maintenance.

From time to time, it is good to consult with the electric motor manufacturer and provide them with certain data and request them to add value to your equipment by providing a free analysis of the data obtained and proposing preventive activities that you have not previously considered.

5. Misconception: By installing sensors on all electric motors, the number of required personnel for monitoring and maintenance of electric motors will be drastically reduced.

Human senses cannot compete with sensors in terms of speed, duration, and intensity of monitoring of electric motor operational parameters, but humans are essential for decision-making.

Digital data collection and processing combined with AI will speed up work processes and show quantitative results of electric motor operation.

Maintenance personnel and company managers will still be needed for qualitative interpretation of results and making business decisions.

Data collection using sensors will enable more efficient distribution of maintenance personnel in terms of planning preventive maintenance work and general services.

The number of trained personnel needed to monitor and maintain electric motors will still depend on the complexity of the production plant, the level of digitalization and automation of work processes, market demands for required product quantities, and company plans for future production in response to market demands.

7 Methods of Electric Motor Maintenance

Maintaining electrical equipment in manufacturing plants requires regular planning and inspections.

Operational staff during daily rounds and inspections of electric motors check for initial signs of failure such as bearing issues when a different sound is heard from the machine or a smell of burnt insulation is detected, overheating of the machine due to load, increased vibrations (motor shaking heavily during operation), or the presence of smoke and sparks.

Planned periodic inspections will reveal potential failures and prevent major breakdowns that would leave the electric motor out of operation for a longer period.

Over the years, devices for monitoring the operation of electric motors have evolved from simple cabinets with basic electromechanical switches, circuit breakers, and relays to complex computer-controlled panels that receive real-time operational data from numerous sensors.

Devices for monitoring the operation of electric motors start and stop it, change its direction of rotation depending on the needs, regulate the rotational speed depending on the workload, control the torque, and protect the electric motor from electrical overload.

Now we will consider the methods of electric motor maintenance that contribute to extending its operational life and trouble-free operation, as well as timely detection of faults and prevention of breakdowns.

  1. Visual Inspection reveals the causes of initial irregularities in operation. Record all irregularities in the motor's operation log.

If the electric motor operates in harsh conditions, when disassembled, it will have dust deposits or corrosion traces on its parts.

Signs of overheating can be noticed on the windings. Relays and connectors must be clean and free of rust traces. Component wear may lead to issues with the commutator.

Then, inspect the commutator for scratches, indentations, or grooves, and replace the brushes to preserve mechanical integrity, while also inspecting the rotor, stator, windings, and shaft.

  1. Vibration Measurement indicates impending mechanical failures such as shaft imbalance or damaged bearing cages, over-tightened belts, or equipment misalignment.

The electric motor can be tested by running it unloaded after removing belts or couplings, allowing it to operate without load. Sometimes, electrical issues can cause increased vibrations, such as loose or damaged internal parts or connection problems.

  1. Infrared Thermography is a technique for inspecting machinery under full load using an infrared camera and analyzing the captured condition. All machines in operation produce thermal energy and have a normal thermographic image and maximum allowable operating temperatures.

Image: Example of a thermographic image of an electric motor (Source)

Changes in heat quantity are evident in the thermographic image, revealing loose connections, poor connections, imbalance, overload, overheating, inadequate cooling, insulation problems, and material degradation of the stator.

  1. Motor Inspection when not energized requires disconnecting it from the power supply, isolating it, and preparing it for inspection. If damage is discovered during inspection, it must be rectified before restarting the motor.

  2. Post-Failure Maintenance involves disconnecting the electric motor and checking for the presence of voltage using a multimeter before starting repair work.

During comprehensive motor repair, the control panel, connections, and junctions in the transformer station, as well as overload protection, must be inspected.

  1. Wiring Testing is carried out after inspection and replacement of damaged parts to identify abnormalities or faults.

Signs of burning or cracks in the wiring, along with the smell of burning, indicate overload during operation. Wiring testing involves disassembling the motor. Rewinding and insulation testing reveal the level of resistance.

  1. Bearing Inspection by examining vibration levels and noise intensity during operation indicates improper lubrication, dirt buildup, and wear.

If the housing around the bearings is too hot to touch during motor operation, it may indicate insufficient lubrication or overheating. Bearing maintenance varies depending on the type of bearings and motor.

Good practice includes having a prepared checklist for regular motor inspections.

Follow the manufacturer's maintenance instructions and recommendations, lubricate the bearings, and ensure uninterrupted operation, with the motor having proper ventilation, voltage, and current strength.

Keep all conducted inspections and results in reports and archive them for future needs. Record repair data, replaced spare parts, test results, and identified faults.

All mentioned motor maintenance activities are specified in work orders in asset management applications or software.

What is a Work Order Used For?

A work order is one of the functionalities of computer software or applications for managing maintenance of machinery and equipment in everyday operations. A well-crafted work order improves business process efficiencies and increases productivity.

Applications for creating work orders have intuitive interfaces where users can easily create detailed work orders with all necessary information: a list of required tasks with detailed descriptions,a list of necessary spare parts and materials, priority, required personnel for task execution, deadlines for completion, and equipment and working condition data.

Standardizing this data allows for easy tracking of progress in resolving faults, avoids any machine being down for extended periods, and ensures that all planned work is completed on time and within budget.

Standardizing work orders based on written procedures for creation, resource allocation, and completion enables time savings and faster job completion.

Furthermore, applications for tracking work orders provide all involved personnel with real-time insight into the status of work orders. Users receive notifications via email or push notifications about all changes in the work order until the work is completed and the order is closed.

Continuous updates improve communication among all involved personnel and enable quick adaptation to changing circumstances. It allows management to make timely decisions based on concrete data.

Applications for managing work orders can be integrated and connected with other company business systems such as inventory tracking applications, procurement, equipment databases, and more. This achieves faster data synchronization, reduces waiting time for data, and simplifies business processes.

The advantage of using work orders is faster task allocation, automated resource allocation, and notification. This reduces the possibility of human error, and employees can focus more on tasks of higher priority and strategic importance. Applications for managing work orders have the capability to generate analyses and reports. This provides companies with a comprehensive insight into business process flow, resource utilization, and performance.

Analysis results are displayed on dashboards tailored to the company's needs for visual inspection of KPIs, identifying bottlenecks, and facilitating easier identification of steps requiring optimization.

How Work Order Management Enhances Electric Motor Maintenance?

In computer software or applications (CMMS) for managing work orders, the entire administrative part of planning and scheduling maintenance work for electric motors takes place.

Standardizing the work order for electric motor maintenance ensures consistency, reduces errors, and facilitates easier reporting and tracking.

Defining the flow of information in the work order facilitates communication between technicians, supervising engineers, warehouse staff, administrators, and other personnel involved in the process.

Direct access to the application and data entry speeds up collaboration and access to information, timely alerting where problems arise, and providing timely information on the status of the work order to all involved.

Work orders consolidate a detailed list of tasks and required personnel, materials, services, and tools needed to perform the tasks.

The computer application allows for the creation of 3 types of orders:

  • Preventive work order for planning work that is known in advance, such as general services and revisions

Image: Example of a preventive work order

  • Corrective work order for resolving non-urgent faults that need to be rectified in the foreseeable future

Image: Example of a corrective work order

  • Incident work order for resolving urgent situations that seriously threaten the production process

Image: Example of an incident work order

The maintenance works listed in the previous section are best planned in the work order management application by creating a planned order.

The table lists examples of work orders depending on the type of maintenance works described in the section on electric motor maintenance methods.

Type of WorkType of Work Order
Visual InspectionPreventive
Vibration MeasurementPreventive
IC ThermographyPreventive
Bearing Replacement, Rewinding, Wiring InspectionCorrective
General Service (1)Corrective
Connection Box Joint Inspection, Motor Cannot Be Turned OnCorrective
Repair After Sudden ShutdownIncident
Repair After Fire BreakoutIncident

(1) General service can also be a planned preventive order if it arises from reports of increased vibrations indicating poor bearing condition or if overheating is observed during operation.

Quality content, clearly defined guidelines, and all necessary information will contribute to the quality of work execution.

Every company should have a procedure with minimally defined requirements for the content of the work order.

In the example of a work order for general service of an electric motor, the list of required works looks like this:

Work Order.png
Image: Work order

How to Choose the Right Work Order Management Application or Software?

A company deciding between computer software or applications for work order management must be aware of the complexity level of its operations, size, number of employees, industry-specific requirements, and characteristics of the production process, as well as prospects for future growth.

Now, let's delve into the criteria and questions that should be carefully considered when choosing a work order management application or software.

Understanding the business needs for work order management, such as the volume of work orders in a year, estimating increases or decreases in work orders in the future, task complexity, the number of maintenance personnel who will use the application, and specific business requirements, is crucial.

Which application is used in a specific industry? There is a plethora of software and applications on the market with different functionalities and features. Not every application will be suitable for everyone, and that's entirely acceptable, so it's essential to study the characteristics of applications on the market depending on the industry type.

The quantity and complexity of work orders for a pharmaceutical company differ from the needs of an automotive parts factory for work order management.

The annual number of work orders will increase for a chemical plant expanding its capacity compared to reducing the number of work orders in a livestock feed factory that has just automated two production lines and reduced the number of equipment pieces due to the installation of modern machinery.

Who will use the application and to what extent? Ease of use of the application and the appearance of the user interface are essential criteria due to daily use.

The workflow must proceed smoothly, and application features should be easily accessible and user-friendly. Employee education and training should be provided or continuously and readily available.

Priority should be given to functionalities that are important to the company and that follow the work order management business process.

What is the cost for the company? Applications are charged through subscription models or flat fees, based on the number of users or features, complexity, or the amount of required customization.

Additional costs will include the implementation of the application into the company's computer systems, ongoing user support, employee training, and upgrades depending on future business expansion.

The work order management application must reflect the company's workflow as much as possible and add value to the business.

The work order management process must be documented and thoroughly defined.

The digital version of this process should closely resemble the existing process and methods for creating work orders, linking them with resources, scheduling work and resources, defining completion deadlines, tracking statuses, calculating certain activities and materials used, and closing the order.

The application should seamlessly integrate with other company computer systems.

The efficiency of the application is measured based on key performance indicators aligned with business goals such as the annual number of work orders, completion times, priorities, and overall contribution to business improvement.


Quality work orders save time and resources, enhance the quality of maintenance work, ultimately reflecting on the performance of electric motors.

Efficient work order management builds awareness of improving the condition of electric motors and other production equipment.

Using data from the application or software to generate analyses and reports provides a more detailed insight into the performance of electric motor maintenance and identifies areas for improvement.

Digitalizing work order management will reduce the amount of paperwork and enable all maintenance personnel to have easy and quick access to view work orders, update statuses, enter important details and data, and add files such as images, user manuals, and P&I diagrams.

Katarina Knafelj Jakovac
Katarina Knafelj Jakovac social media icon
February 22, 2024

Katarina Knafelj Jakovac holds Master degree in Mechanical engineering with long term work experience in Oil industry. She is Certified Reliability Leader specialized for mechanical equipment and operational excellence. Author of blog Strojarska Radionica (Mechanical Workshop) where she shares professional knowledge and personal experience in maintaining various rotating machines, machine systems and process equipment. Adores mechanics, thermal engineering and internal combustion engines. She is dedicated to the continuous improvement of machine maintenance and quality management of physical assets.