Modern CMMS/EAM software packages are fairly flexible and adaptable. Regardless of a company’s size, industry, location and technical requirements, there should be at least one CMMS solution out there that meets your needs, in whole or in part. That’s the theory, but, of course, it assumes users know what to do with the software once in their possession.
Simply purchasing and installing software doesn’t automatically translate into realizing its benefits. For example, a long-term partnership with a CMMS vendor is critical to ensure the software is configured to best meet your needs. As well, your choice of technology should fit well with your current architecture and your long-term strategic plan. Finally, the features and functions of your selected CMMS should be sufficient to meet your requirements today and long into the future. As your business grows, and as you continue to demand more advanced functionality, your CMMS vendor partner and its software solution must continue to flex with your ever-changing needs.
Many CMMS users, when planning to purchase a new CMMS package, upgrade an existing CMMS or get more out of the existing package, demand seamless connectivity, realize that businesses are unique, need tools that are easy to use and want a price tag that fits their budget.
Seamless connectivity: A key trend in the CMMS industry is the increasing degree to which integration takes place along multiple dimensions. Seamless connectivity is required at the facility level both horizontally across departments and vertically from shop floor to plant management. It’s also required at the enterprise level, where information is shared across multiple plants. Another dimension is integration along the supply chain, which brings in suppliers, third-party contractors, partners and customers. Technology integration is yet another dimension, especially for the best-of-breed CMMS applications that must integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and factory automation software. For all CMMS packages, there are numerous points of integration from a technology perspective. Examples are e-business applications, GIS, spreadsheets, project management software, human-machine interfaces (HMIs), programmable logic controllers (PLCs), wireless and handheld-based applications, workflow and many other applications that might be running externally to the CMMS.
Probably the most important, but by far the most difficult dimension for the customer, is using the CMMS as a tool to better integrate process, people and technology. Implementing a CMMS package brings minimal return on investment, unless it’s used to support substantial improvements to processes and a real change in personnel behavior.
Unique businesses: As software functionality and user needs become more sophisticated, CMMS vendors have developed niche features, modules or whole product lines that cater to a given industry. For some industries such as nuclear and pharmaceutical, the driver is compliance with more stringent regulatory requirements. For others such as transportation, municipalities or contract maintenance providers, it’s the unique requirements of the business.
Most CMMS vendors began by servicing a given industry or asset classification such as plant, facility, fleet, IT assets or infrastructure such as roads, pipelines or bridges. Growth was achieved by broadening into related industries and classifications until most CMMS vendors claimed their packages were relevant to all five maintenance classifications and most industries. Today, increased competition and regulatory pressures are driving the vendors to return to industry specialization as a means of differentiating their products.
This is sometimes more of a marketing tool for the vendors than true uniqueness in a given industry. For example, to sell to the pharmaceutical industry, CMMS vendors must be compliant with FDA requirements by offering such features as enhanced audit trail and electronic signatures. However, these features can be used by many other industries. Similarly, GIS functionality that described the location of linear assets in the utility industry can be valuable to many other industries.
Furthermore, adding or deleting some fields or changing field labels and templates to incorporate the lingo of a specific industry, are fairly superficial ways of achieving industry specialization. If you’re looking for a CMMS vendor with true industry specialization, look more for industry experts within the company and a track record of successful installations in your industry.
Easy-to-use tools: Users are tired of plowing through screen after screen to enter data or extract the information they need. The expectation is that the package is designed around the user needs, not that users must conform to the package’s design. Thus, the better packages are easy to learn, simple to navigate and flexible enough to accommodate the specific requirements of each user for data entry, analysis or reporting. Often referred to as “user friendliness” or “usability,” user-centered design always has been and continues to be a critical differentiator among the CMMS packages.
One of the most exciting developments across the CMMS world has been improved analysis and reporting tools. After all, management and workers can’t be expected to meet performance targets without timely and accurate feedback on results. Business intelligence brings an effective means of presenting and probing results, fully configurable by each user.
A user’s personalized home page can display, on a real-time basis, such things as key performance indicators, balanced scorecard results, trends in conditions being monitored, alerts or alarms, a summary of costs and status statistics such as number of missed PMs. The data dashboard can be displayed as dials, stoplights, graphs, charts, meters, tables or ticker tape. By double-clicking on any object, users can drill down continuously to greater detail. With the more sophisticated packages, users can even define the refresh rate, from seconds to days.