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There are tons of articles, blog posts and advertisements touting computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) products as well as their benefits for a variety of industries ranging from manufacturing to power plants. This is all good information if you already know what a CMMS is. But what if you are unclear as to why or even if you need a CMMS solution?

This article looks at a CMMS from a different perspective. It will explain what a CMMS is from an applied example view. In doing so the article will answer the Why, Who, When, How, and finally What a CMMS is.

Why have CMMS?

Most business operations (including governments) are dependent on physical assets to produce a product or service. For example: a bakery is dependent on ovens and a transportation company on vehicles. The organization’s equipment (assets) needs people, electricity, water and/or natural gas in order to function.

Whatever the mix of equipment, people and energy use, a business’s success depends on:

  1. Keeping assets working as much as possible (minimal or no downtime) with exceptional maintenance.
  2. Minimizing energy use by making sure assets function as efficiently as possible.
  3. Making assets last as long as possible to avoid replacement expenses.
  4. Accomplishing 1, 2 and 3 at the lowest possible cost.

Businesses that fail to minimize operational costs are in a weakened position to capitalize on market opportunities, cannot be cost competitive and rarely stay in business over the long-term. Businesses use a CMMS to manage their operations assets so that they do not become liabilities to producing goods and services.

Who Needs CMMS

The more asset intensive an organization is the more proactive maintenance management should be. Proactive maintenance requires maintenance planning such as making a choice of:

  • Which assets will be maintained. Usually based upon asset work history, knowledge, manufacturer recommendations and experience.
  • How maintenance will be performed. For example, will the maintenance activity be an inspection, a repair or a preventive maintenance task.
  • When the work will be scheduled. Proactive organizations schedule the majority of work to be performed. A good rule of thumb is 80% of work should be proactive.
  • Who will perform the work. Once work is scheduled, it must be assigned to someone.
  • How work management will be tracked. Once work is completed, information should be collected and stored for analysis including details of time spent, result, parts used, costs, description of activity and so on.

The need for accurate data collection also helps businesses understand their carbon footprint as well as monitor energy usage. A CMMS is a good fit for many organizations with sustainability initiatives.

When is CMMS Needed

Roof Leak needing repair

For some organizations, managing daily, weekly, quarterly and annual maintenance is a labor intensive challenge. The challenge becomes an obstacle to success if maintenance management is allowed to get out of control.

The issues facing each organization are unique due to variances in size, skill sets, training, standard operating procedures, culture as well as the age of assets just to name a few. However there are a few signs that an organization is struggling with maintenance such as:

  • Unplanned or excessive overtime due to unscheduled maintenance and repair problems.
  • Rising energy costs as poorly maintained assets start requiring more energy to produce the same outputs. The easiest examples are a clogged air filter on an HVAC unit or vehicle.
  • An increase in backlog to the point where maintenance is mostly pure fire-fighting. This leads to critical maintenance being deferred which ultimately cost more money to fix or replace than it would have had preventive maintenance been done.
  • Organizations still using a paper-based or spreadsheet work management system. These types of systems are inherently inefficient and often result in lost documentation and poor work history tracking.
  • High turnover of skilled maintenance staff.

Some organizations implement CMMS early on and others wait until a turnaround is needed. Although the early adoption of CMMS reduces the effort needed to catch-up, it is never too late to implement a CMMS solution.

How does CMMS Work

Understanding how CMMS works is not complicated. A CMMS system works by collecting and organizing asset detail, automating work management processes, giving maintenance managers the tools they need to schedule work and the organizations the reports it will need to make better asset and maintenance decisions.

CMMS solution can be either web-based (the programs reside on servers maintained by the vendor) or can be purchased to run on an organization’s computer system. Quality CMMS is always customizable and be scalable because no two companies have the same needs.

In addition, good CMMS programs integrate the use of mobile devices to further reduce the dependency on paper as well expedite work management process such completing work orders and work requests, conducting inspections, maintenance tracking and reporting.

The keys to a successful CMMS implementation include a commitment from senior management, buy-in from all parts of the organization, a maintenance plan and training. All are equally important.

What is CMMS

This brings us to the original question of What is CMMS. Based upon the information above, CMMS is a collection of programs designed to make maintenance operations be better organized, help maintain assets to maximize their useful life, help staff be more effective and reduce operating expenses.

“One of the greatest benefits of the CMMS is the elimination of paperwork and manual tracking activities, thus enabling the building staff to become more productive. It should be noted that the functionality of a CMMS lies in its ability to collect and store information in an easily retrievable format. A CMMS does not make decisions, rather it provides the O&M manager with the best information to affect the operational efficiency of a facility”

Source: U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Just as important is What CMMS is NOT. A CMMS solution is not the answer to all operational problems as Johnny can still have an attitude problem, equipment will still break down unexpectedly (but not as often) and the morning coffee does not improve. A CMMS system will not make decision for you. It can only provide quality information based upon the quality of information fed to it.