Work orders are a persistent mystery to many Duke students. While some work orders may be fulfilled within a few hours, others seem to be forgotten and never fulfilled.

Despite the apparent arbitrariness surrounding work orders, certain systems determine how and when work orders are carried out, said Andy Beville, director of facilities planning and operations for Housing and Residence Life.

When a student sends or calls in a work order request, a staff member places the request in an online database, which categorizes the work order by location. The requests make up enterprise asset managements, or EAMs, which are essentially groups of work orders categorized by building and campus.

“EAM is our database that houses all of the requests for each building, for each asset. It’s an asset management system,” Beville said. “The work order request will always end up in EAM.”

Mechanics who are assigned to different buildings and locations on campus can access the EAMs. The mechanic who has jurisdiction over the location of the EAM is responsible for fulfilling the work order.   

Six mechanics on West Campus are each assigned to a specific quad. On East Campus, there are four mechanics. Frank Horner, the general maintenance supervisor for West Campus, said mechanics use laptops to access the EAMs each morning to prepare for their day’s work.

“When we start our morning, the staff assistants enter all those calls in the EAM, and we send them to the owners,” Horner said. “So [the general mechanics] open their laptops and go onto EAM. They can open it up and see all the calls in their area.”

Horner said that his mechanics average six to seven calls a day during this time of year, but sometimes carry out over ten requests per day throughout the beginning of the school year. He added that the mechanics attempt to fulfill all the work orders either the same day or the day after they are requested.

“We try to get everything done in a day,” he said. “[These are] the student’s homes. We want them to be comfortable, so we try to get it done pretty quickly.”

Beville said that just under 90 percent of work order requests are fulfilled within 24 hours, and that the others require parts that take time to acquire.

“The 10 percent is entirely up to when we can get the replacement part, or the piece needed,” he said. “We work with several providers that can typically have stuff within a couple of days.”

Beville added that some work orders are not fulfilled due to the unusual nature of some requests. Such orders ask for help hanging televisions or request soundproof dorms or new equipment.

There are also times when mechanics simply cannot fix the problems cited in the work orders. In such cases, the mechanics contact specialized experts in the Facilities and Maintenance Department.  

“FMD have shop specialists, so they have the plumbing shop, the electrical shop, high voltage electrical, Duke utilities, the steam shop,” he said. “These are experts in a small area of focus.”

Sophomore Vinit Parekh, a resident assistant on East Campus, has mixed opinions about the work order process. 

He said the work order requests are easy to access and fill out. However, he has experienced instances when it's taken more than a day for his work orders to be fulfilled. 

“Because I’m an RA in Brown, I had to get the dorm ready before residents came here,” Parekh said. “There were many issues, and I turned in work orders three weeks beforehand. They fixed it a week later, which is totally fine because they get a lot of backup.”

Beville acknowledged that work orders occasionally slip through the cracks.

“It’s easy for stuff to fall through the cracks with this system,” he said. “If we’re given the wrong information, it makes it difficult for us to provide the level of service that we always want to provide.”

Parekh said he understands the difficulty in fulfilling so many orders.

“Often they get clogged up with so many work orders, or they get a work order and don’t come and fix it, which is understandable,” he said.

Still, Beville said his goal is to continue making the process better.

“It’d be cool if we didn’t have anything to do one day,” Beville said.