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By David Berger
Pressures from the real world are driving computerized maintenance management/ enterprise asset management (CMMS/EAM) software vendors to rethink and revise not only their products, but how they can help users actually achieve a larger portion of the potential they shrink-wrap in every package. And they’re not doing it out of largesse – the maintenance and asset management business landscape has been through several rough years of low or negative profits, consolidations and increasing competition.
More than ever, CMMS/EAM vendors need you, their clients, to succeed. Many have identified room for improvement and are focusing their efforts on four key areas: industry specialization, implementation, integration and functionality. The changes they wrought have prompted us to revise and expand the Plant Services CMMS/EAM Software Review, our detailed hands-on comparison of current offerings.
Table 1: Characteristics quantified at www.plantservices.com/cmms_review
The 2006 Review is far too comprehensive to fit on the pages of the magazine – it resides on a redesigned Web site at www.plantservices.com/cmms_review. There, you can find detailed information in the form of verified answers to a questionnaire covering 30 areas of vendor profile and package capabilities (Table 1). At press time, data from eight vendors is available (Table 2). More will be added as they launch new versions and choose to participate.
Here’s my perspective after interviewing the participating vendors and personally testing their offerings.
There are at least five ways to differentiate CMMS/EAM vendors, their products and services, and the markets that they serve. First, there are “best-of-breed” vendors that specialize in CMMS/EAM versus “integrated solution” providers, for which CMMS/EAM is one of many modules. Other modules within the integrated solution can include enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), product lifecycle management (PLM), human-machine interface (HMI), and/or shop-floor data collection. Best-of-breed CMMS/EAM companies must build the appropriate interfaces with integrated-solution products to compete effectively, especially for large corporate accounts. The battle for market share between these two groups is quite fierce.
The second key differentiator is the size of client they typically pursue. Tier 1 vendors can accommodate the large, complex, global enterprise implementations with a price tag of more than $1 million. This is not to say that these providers cannot, and do not, handle smaller deals. However, if possible, they would prefer to focus on the large corporate clientele. At the other end of the scale, Tier 3 vendors typically handle smaller accounts in their local area, with minimal marketing. Tier 2 vendors are somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, with somewhat of a national or international presence, medium to large companies as typical customers, and fairly flexible pricing.
A third means of comparing providers is their areas of specialization. These, in turn, can be subdivided by industry (eg, nuclear versus municipality), product or service (eg, reliability-centered maintenance), type of maintenance (eg, fleet versus facilities) and specific features and functions offered (eg, calibration). The perception of the customer base is that no vendor can do it all equally well, although many have tried. It appears that specialization is on the rise as the market matures and competition increases.
The fourth means of differentiation relates to technology employed. This includes architecture (eg, Web-based versus client/server), database (eg, MS Access versus Oracle), operating system (eg, Windows versus UNIX), network (eg, standalone versus LAN/WAN based), and hosting (eg, internal versus externally hosted or ASP). In some cases, vendors have rewritten their software several times to take advantage of improvements in software tools and technology as they become available. Others have held on to legacy systems and built new user interfaces or back ends onto their packages to avoid expensive rewrites. Although customers can save money with the latter approach, the tradeoff might be reduced functionality, especially in the longer term.
The fifth and final area of differentiation is, of course, the myriad of features and functions offered. Some of these relate directly to the first four differentiators, such as functionality relevant to a given industry. However, many other features strongly distinguish one package from another, such as the ease of navigating around the system or the standard reporting and analysis tools offered with the package.
PlantServices.com is an MRO (maintain, repair, replace, retrofit, overhaul and operations) resource site that features problem-solving articles and editorials for plant maintenance professionals.