A Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS) is an essential operational and management tool for managing asset preservation, ensuring that production systems operate as required, and minimising downtime. An effective CMMS should be able to support these functions by automating administrative tasks, as well as by gathering relevant information in order to perform this processes. A CMMS also needs to be able to develop and manage a strategic plan for proper maintenance, replacement, and upgrade of major assets.
If you do not have a CMMS, should you be considering one?
If your organisation has a CMMS, are you optimising its benefits and its return on your investment?
Why use a CMMS?
The primary purpose of a CMMS is to manage, capture, and track inspection, maintenance and repair activities of an organisation. In real terms, several CMMS solutions perform the basic function of providing work orders to cover repairs and maintenance of buildings, plant and equipment. CMMS solutions provide a scheduling facility for maintenance for planned preventive work on maintainable assets. And CMMS solutions also generally collect costing details for the labour and materials related to the work performed.
However, advanced CMMS solutions can also improve many other aspects of daily activities, as well as provide with the tools to understand and analyse maintenance and repair processes, and trends. CMMS solutions can eliminate manual data entry, incorporate alerts, triggers, and escalation procedures, and shift focus from unnecessary administrative tasks to performing maintenance activities. CMMS solutions can also assist in planning and predicting future needs, prolonging the life expectancy of assets, and managing processes.
Combining CMMS software with proven technologies such as handheld devices and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant such as a Palm) can substantially increase realised benefits from CMMS solution:
Incorporate barcodes to increase accuracy and efficiencies;
Update information electronically, eliminating unnecessary paperwork and data entry;
Capture timestamps and signatures;
Provide maintenance personnel, engineers, and inspectors with electronic intelligent work orders;
Automatically track and manage inventories and timesheets;
Equip staff with easy-to-use tools that enable them to focus on their expertise and work activities, rather than on administrative tasks and paperwork.
General considerations in justifying the need for a CMMS solution
The first consideration in choosing a CMMS is whether to keep maintenance information in a database on a computer? Some people will say that it depends on the size of the organisation and its assets. Others will say that it depends on the number and quality of staff available to resource the CMMS. Also there are those who would argue that it can all be done on paper.
I am sure that in the past, many of who were required to prepare reports for manager, spent hours sorting through maintenance requests and maintenance filing systems to try to find the answer(s)… or worse, just gave an educated guess.
Only a well-designed and easy-to-use CMMS solution can improve daily activities as well as index, and sort through years of information related to the maintenance, cleaning and strategic planning of buildings, plant and equipment. In reality, regardless of the size of an organisation, one needs to maintain a database of the work performed. Automation includes improvement of daily activities, automatic tracking of inventories, better work assignments, and shift of focus towards exceptions, not routine matters.
It could be that the entire maintenance plan is one of breakdown maintenance, where people call someone as and when needed. Breakdown maintenance defers repairs and allows damage to accumulate, compounding an organisation’s problems. On the other hand, regularly scheduled equipment inspection and maintenance not only prevent sudden and unexpected equipment failure, but also reduces the overall cost of the building and equipment.
The management of these programs, in particular reporting their current status and future needs, requires a CMMS. Managing the operation of on-site maintenance staff and contractors is a daunting and difficult task, however, if there is a corresponding record within the CMMS, then this tracking and management is much easier.
Even if one is duplicating data to what is in contractor’s CMMS (the contractor’s CMMS may not be on premises), it is important to own copy of data. Contractor may cease to exist and for the sake of future reference and reporting, it is essential one has have own CMMS, populated with own data.
What information should be captured?
Further consideration should be given to what information do we want to keep, and more importantly, what has to be kept?
In addition to manufacturer’s specifications and management requirements, there are many statutory requirements and regulations that impact on this question such as fire, health and safety, and environmental legislation.
Statutory requirements (programs) could be entered into a CMMS as a scheduled maintenance plan with labour, materials and costs for projecting estimated future costs. By keeping a corresponding record in the CMMS and using the job number as a cross reference to the paper record, the organisation is able to quickly report on the status of the statutory work in preparation to annual signoffs and/or audits.
Those of you who have had work place safety audits are aware that the first question asked is, where are the maintenance records? A maintenance plan that includes estimated costs can be compared with the actual costs to ensure the effectiveness in the cost of asset preservation.
Using PDAs to dramatically improve activities and efficiencies
Additional considerations include the use of handheld devices that in recent years have become popular, as they keep millions of people organised. By extending the use of standard PDAs to business applications (or using handheld devices with standard PDA operating system such as Palm OS), users can quickly improve their daily activities.
Including handheld devices in CMMS solution will migrate organisation from using paper-based CMMS software to a more comprehensive automation solution.
Handheld devices can verify data input, suggest possible outcomes to a task, suggest a course of action, or print a report. Handheld devices can also automate specific processes, include information about assets and equipment, automate inventory cycle count process, and provide easy-to-navigate functionalities, minimising key-strokes and maximising productivity.
So where to start looking for the right CMMS package for organisation?
Look within own organisation and determine what is happening with the maintenance and inspection functions. Check if there is an existing maintenance program in place; check its functions and who manages the information gathering process.
Determine what maintenance is required to be performed on the building, plant and equipment that make up the facility.
Prepare some sort of brief as to the facility’s minimum and optimum requirements for a CMMS, the resources to manage the database and time frame for implementation.
Research between 3 and 5 providers; Have them present their product to assess the package in terms of ease of use, functionality and ability to meet requirements.
Evaluate each proposal for specific CMMS functionalities:
Does it address specific requirements?
Does it minimise unnecessary or duplicate data entry?
Can administrative tasks, reminders and notifications of upcoming events be automated?
Is there built-in dynamic escalation procedures?
Can inspections and other activities be incorporated in CMMS?
Can inventories be managed and tracked?
Is there an ability to collect requests for work to be done directly into the CMMS via electronic means (such as PDAs or web portals)?
Is there the ability to transfer work assignments to technicians via electronic means?
What is its ROI?
This is a simplistic approach to the selection process; however, it will give several managers a good starting guide to the selection of a CMMS.
Benefits of using enhanced CMMS solutions:
Guarantee that all required tasks and activities are completed on time.
Incorporate various mechanisms to ensure execution of tasks, including automatic listing of activities, reminders, alerts, escalation procedures, and easy access to information.
Improve reporting and analysis capabilities.
Comply with health and safety regulations.
Improve business planning and make informed decisions.
Improve operational efficiencies.
Increase productivity and profitability.
Perform activities effectively; simplify repeatable tasks; provide staff with easy to use tools that focus on performing tasks.
Let staff spend more time performing service activities, and less time on paperwork and data entry.
Improve strategic and business planning; analyse records, needs and patterns.
Identify trends and highlight potential problem areas.
Improve controls and accountability; lead to better quality of work.
Ensure that service is performed according to warranties, guidelines and regulations.
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