Since Plant Service’s last Maintenance Management Software Review published in April 2000, we have seen a number of changes to both computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) vendors and their product offerings. They involve:
- Industry consolidation.
- System architecture and integration.
- Vertical specialization.
- User-centered design.
- Workflow and notification.
- Condition monitoring.
- Supply-chain management.
- Asset management.
- Business intelligence.
Besides the expected consolidation among CMMS vendors themselves, many large enterprise resource planing (ERP) vendors have either significantly improved their CMMS software modules or acquired a CMMS vendor. In my opinion, this is because ERP vendors view improved asset management as one of the last big opportunities to deliver significant ROI across the enterprise.
Large plant automation companies also have been acquiring, investing or forming strong alliances with CMMS vendors. This appears to be driven by the realization that improved interface with shop-floor data collection provides maintenance departments with better information, allowing them to react more quickly to asset failure or sub-optimal performance.
CMMS improvements are partly attributable to the advances made in software and hardware architecture. Some notable examples include the introduction of Windows and related products, LAN, WAN and client server technologies.
The Web continues to be a significant market driver. Users want access to their CMMS application and data from any type of computer or handheld device, running any operating system, using only a browser, from any location in the world. Users expect the same performance, functionality, look and feel whether that application is running as a standalone on a desktop or as a client on a server. This represents a cost-effective, enterprise-wide solution for them.
In some cases, companies are opting to have the application hosted by the CMMS vendor or a third-party application service provider. Some large companies are outsourcing the management of the CMMS application in this manner. Smaller companies have found that hosting provides access to top-ranked software without a large initial investment.
For many years, CMMS vendors have worked closely with providers of related hardware and software. This collaboration is being further stimulated by the use of open architecture. Some of the most popular software applications integrated with the CMMS include programmable controllers, condition monitoring, e-procurement and wireless- and handheld-based applications.
As software functionality and user needs have become more sophisticated, CMMS vendors are developing niche features, modules or product lines that cater to a specific industry. For some industries, such as nuclear and pharmaceutical, the driver is compliance with regulatory requirements. For others, such as transportation, municipalities or contract maintenance providers, it’s the unique requirements of the business.
Often referred to as usability, user-centered design has always been and continues to be a critical differentiator among CMMS packages. Users are tired of plowing through screen after screen to locate information. The expectation is that the package be designed around user needs rather than having the user conform to the package’s design. Thus, the better packages are easy to learn, simple to navigate and flexible enough to accommodate each user’s specific requirements for data entry, analysis and reporting.
Workflow and notification
We often forget that the CMMS is a tool to support maintenance operations. It should therefore facilitate world class workflow at each step of the process. Workflow engines capture the process flow using customizable business rules that allow users to see graphically what the flow looks like and to determine the status of items moving through it. Workflow engines also enable automation of approvals and notification. The latter refers to the routing of critical data to a person’s e-mail, pager, telephone or handheld device.