There is more to CMMS (Computerised Maintenance Management System) than just choosing a maintenance package. Alan Johnson writes.
WHILE CMMS has been around for a number of years now, there are still manufacturers who do not fully appreciate the considerable benefits CMMS offers in streamlining a company's maintenance operations.
Basically, CMMS helps organisations track the upkeep of their assets and associated costs of the work, with the ultimate goal of prolonging an asset's lifespan at minimal expense.
This can include maintaining assets in a single facility or a range of facilities, or maintaining a group of equipment like a fleet of vehicles or other types of machinery.
David Powell, Director with Ampro Software, says that when setup correctly, a CMMS is a powerful tool that will assist in scheduling and monitoring jobs, budgeting, and preparing life cycle analysis for plant and equipment.
"And it is no desk anchor. A CMMS correctly structured will only require a little attention by the manager," he said.
"Plus having maintenance jobs created in CMMS allows for ease of scheduling, making it effortless to move jobs around or to assign to workers, with simple reports showing what's due when."
Powell explained that a CMMS records the work that is being done.
"And if a job is extended over a period of days/weeks this is recorded, including who did it, when it was done, how long it took, and what inventory was used.
"A CMMS can also record how much the labour component cost and the total cost for the asset by a number of different methods including by job, cost centre, date range and budget versus actual. It can also record a company's current stock on hand and value, reorder points, plus suppliers' details."
Powell says that by investing in a CMMS, companies ensure that their assets, plant and equipment are kept in the best possible condition for the role that they play.
"It means companies are able to retrieve data without having to flick through folders and files. CMMS users have access to all jobs that have been completed, and still outstanding, as well as all the details that go with these jobs."
More than maintenance
Powell points to OH&S legislation, where records must be kept and easily accessible when required.
"Keeping them electronically is a quick way of presenting data quickly and efficiently. Because if jobs that need to be done are not documented and logged they only have lip service in the eyes of the law.
"You must have documented proof that work was carried out on time and by a qualified person," he said.
Powell says it is important companies understand the responsibilities of Engineering/Maintenance Managers.
"For example, if something was to happen, an equipment failure, or an accident, who is the first person questioned; why and how could have it been prevented, and what steps are in place to prevent this?
"Having the ability to keep the asset in safe working condition, while ensuring the correct qualified person is doing the job is the answer."
According to Powell, maintenance managers need to have more input in CMMS purchasing.
"The finance department often governs the purchase, which in most cases is based on price, unless the argument is put forward in a well presented submission."
Powell warns that whenever an accident happens in Australia, where there is an injury or death, Work Place Health and Safety will investigate.
"And if the victim sues, it all comes back to how good the company's records are," Powell said.
He points out that a CMMS can also be used to assist in the preparation of the next budget.
"Tracking the jobs, the costs etc. by asset and the workers who carried out the work, CMMS users have the ability to quickly put together a structure for the budget.
"This helps in asset purchase requirements and resource requirements (both in-house and contract labour), and the amount of inventory to stock.
"Keeping stock levels to a minimum and ordering just in time will see a savings in the cost of materials on hand," Powell explained.
Choosing a CMMS
According to Powell selecting a CMMS is just as important as using any other tool that is required to do a job.
"If all users are going to do is record history on assets then they do not need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying a CMMS that links into the mainframe finance system, or any other of the features that these systems can have.
"It is important to select a CMMS that will do what is required, but also will allow for growth as company requirements grow."
Powell says reporting is an important part of a CMMS, and is critical the information is available as quickly and accurately as possible, with the capability of filtering the reports so not to have too much information.
"Plus a CMMS must have the ability to suppress the lower frequency jobs for the same asset if two or more Preventative Maintenance (PM) procedures are due around the same time."
Powell says it's also important not to have too many people involved in the selection process, which can over complicate things.
"Just stick to the key players, the maintenance manager working with IT to ensure an adequate system is selected, and sits well on the company's system.
"Companies sometimes get tied up trying to find a system that will do everything. Remember, if your company eventually goes to an enterprise system, then it is a simple process to transfer CMMS information into an enterprise system.
"But in the meantime sending reports and exporting figures from within the CMMS is just as efficient because the system is normally easier to use and that means it will be used," Powell said.
Getting a CMMS approved
As with most asset approvals, getting the package together for submission to management is a potential stumbling block.
Powell says one of the biggest problems he encounters is not enough investigation and preparation being done when going into bat for a CMMS.
"Management wants facts and figures, including how many jobs need to be done to ensure a site complies with state and federal legislation.
"This can be done by preparing all the PMs and inspections and assigning approximate durations and skill levels required to each, then prioritising them.
"Then you go through them all again and confirm that these are absolutely required for OHS and safe working of the equipment."
Powell says it is vital to use accurate figures. "If you fudge them and get caught out, then the whole exercise will be for nothing.
"We all know that when it comes time to carry out maintenance work, things go wrong or people get called away. This is an ongoing problem and we should not budget for this but have an understanding that it does happen from time to time.
"It is important, management understands what is expected and what is achievable with the tools you have.
As Powell explains, a CMMS will ensure that the scheduling and resourcing of maintenance jobs is done quickly and efficiently.
"However, if management tells you not to do certain items, have that in writing.
"You have stressed the importance of the maintenance, now it is management's call to do it or not. Doing this yourself is a much bigger decision than just saying 'not this week I'll try and get it done next week'."
Powell's way of looking at this is asking finance for $100 and seeing the amount of hoops employees need to jump through to get it.
"Assigning work to trades should be no different. It is your authorisation to work on plant or equipment. It needs to have the procedures for them to follow marked clearly on the order prior to them picking up any tools as well as any safety concerns risk assessment on each job."
When it comes to the architecture of the system, Powell says database choices range from Microsoft Access through to Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, all of which add additional dollars onto the cost of the system.
"Microsoft Access database is OK if the number of concurrent users is low (less than 5), while Microsoft SQL Express is a good option for larger system requirements without the need for Microsoft SQL Server licensing."
Powell says it is important the maintenance department works closely with IT for they know the company's network better than anyone.
"Even if you plan to only run the CMMS on a stand-alone PC, ensure back up procedures are in place," he said.
Powell says when CMMS systems are implemented correctly, with procedures for staff to follow, they have an excellent ROI.
However, he points out that it is not about just buying the software where the costs are.
"The budget needs to include the data collecting, data entry, maintenance procedure development and then triggering so the system will automatically activate jobs when due.
"This can be accomplished by in-house staff or the use of consultants that specialise in this area.
"Then you have a management system that will not only assist in everyday scheduling but save money in the control of the work force and the management of inventory," Powell concluded.