How contract maintenance can affect your CMMS

David Berger says consider these 3 options when evaluating alternative CMMS support.

By David Berger, P.Eng., contributing editor

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As more companies consider outsourcing some or all of their maintenance operations, it has become increasingly important to evaluate alternative CMMS support options. Options range from giving the contractor complete freedom in selecting whatever CMMS they desire to building strict CMMS requirements into the contract. Consideration should be given to several potential issues such as technology platform compatibility, integration of applications, who owns which processes/assets/data, and data migration needs.

Option 1: Contractor adopts your CMMS

The first option to consider is for the outsourcer to adopt your CMMS. This works especially well when external staff simply replaces internal staff, but are now on the contractor’s payroll. This type of contractor tends to focus on the supply of maintenance personnel, including maintainers, specialists, supervisors, and even maintenance management if you so desire. In some cases, these contractors have no interest in providing anything but the people.

This option allows you to maintain control of the assets, processes, technology, and data. As well, by outsourcing the human resources, you have the following advantages:

  • access to a larger talent pool, which includes specialists that you may not be able to justify on your own
  • greater flexibility in meeting rising and falling demand, such as increasing staff levels for shutdowns, and decreasing staff during holiday season
  • performance and quality standards can be more tightly enforced through incentives and penalties built into the contract
  • ease of dealing with discipline issues, for example, replacing a non-performing maintainer the next day, assuming your contract allows it
  • potential pricing advantages because of the competitive process used to select a contractor — for example, lower labor rates and reduced overtime
  • depending on how the contract is worded, the contractor assumes all or some of the risk in the case of negligence or other liability issues.

On the other hand, the disadvantages of using an outsourced labor pool are:

  • it may be difficult to motivate contract staff to go the extra mile compared to employees on your payroll
  • knowledge gained by the contract staff stays with the contractor as opposed to transferred to your company, except for work order history in your CMMS
  • confidentiality of proprietary processes, equipment, product design, CMMS data, and configuration is difficult to enforce as contractors may work for your competitors, suppliers, or customers
  • depending on the wording of your contract, it may be difficult to pick and choose which staff will be assigned to your company and how long they will stay
  • there may be a cultural difference between contract staff and company employees
  • there may be fewer job advancement opportunities for company employees if fewer job positions remain after outsourcing much of the workforce
  • outsourcing may strain labor relations, especially if it is perceived as a way to circumvent employee contracts.

The CMMS can handle contract staff in different ways. The least sophisticated way is through a purchase order and invoice that provides only total dollars spent. Even if a detailed breakdown of contract labor hours is provided, if it does not appear on work orders, it is difficult to analyze equipment history. The more advanced CMMS packages allow contract staff to enter their time on work orders as if they were employees and then reconcile time entry with the contractor’s invoices.

Option 2: Contractor integrates its CMMS

Another option to consider is to partner with an outsourcer that provides more than just skilled resources. With this option, the contractor brings process knowledge and its own CMMS that supports it. Use of this option is common for specialty contractors, such as companies that manage your roof, HVAC, facilities, specialized equipment, or predictive maintenance. In some cases, the contractor’s CMMS is somewhat tailored to its specialty area. For example, a contractor might specialize in predictive technologies such as lubrication or vibration analysis. The data that is collected may be voluminous and may require sophisticated analysis tools to track and interpret readings and trend lines.

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