Choose the CMMS that works best for you, not just the one with all the bells and whistles

Select a CMMS that best fits your needs, not the one with the most features and functions.

By David Berger, P.Eng., contributing editor

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This year’s software review has revealed many new and exciting trends in the world of computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). If you are replacing or upgrading your current CMMS, you will not be disappointed with the quantity and quality of options available. However, it has never been hard to find a good, feature-rich CMMS package. Furthermore, from my conferences and seminars, I have discovered that the majority of users admit to using only 15 to 30 percent of their current CMMS features.

Many companies seeking a new CMMS use the software review to select the "best" package by adding up the number of ticks and "yes" responses. This is not a good idea. You must find a package that best fits your needs, not the one with the most features and functions. This is a grueling, time-consuming and costly exercise, but one that increases dramatically the likelihood of a successful implementation.

To ensure success and get the most out of your CMMS, you must first determine an overall maintenance strategy and the specific performance measures and targets that will define your "success" quantitatively. You must then optimize the end-to-end processes performed by maintenance, operations and other stakeholders in light of strategic goals and objectives.

In parallel with the redesigning processes, you must define key CMMS specifications that support the new processes and help meet performance targets. These specifications are then used to select the best-fit CMMS package and vendor. Finally, system requirements are used to determine the technology architecture required for the CMMS and other integrated systems.

Yet, there is an argument that you cannot define efficient, effective processes without understanding how CMMS and related technology can be used as an enabler. It is for this reason that we provide the following software review and summary of features and functions. A more detailed description of key trends will be covered in future columns.

Vendor strategy

Each vendor must make strategic choices regardless of whether or not a formal planning process exists. In selecting a CMMS, you must not only evaluate a software package, but determine which vendor’s strategy best satisfies your needs. Key differences to consider include:

Service versus software. Some vendors derive most of their income from selling "shrink-wrap" software and little else, whereas others generate it from value-added services such as training, support, software customization and implementation services. In the former case, the software is usually more functionally rich and/or appeals to a broader customer base, but the vendor relies more heavily on partners and/or re-sellers to provide the value-added services. Neither approach is necessarily good nor bad, but you need to be aware of the implications.

R&D spending. Look for a vendor that will stay on top of new developments in the industry such as enabling software for e-commerce.

Target market. Be wary of vendors that claim to be all things to all companies. Instead, the better vendors will differentiate in terms of:

  • Company size. Some vendors are better suited to handle large multi-national customers, while others deal more effectively with small maintenance shops.
  • Industry specialization. Some packages are designed for specific industries such as pulp and paper, mining and municipalities.
  • Functional specialization. This includes infrastructure (e.g., roads, bridges, sewers), facilities, plant and vehicle maintenance.
  • Regional specialization. Some focus on a local market or servicing companies globally.

Product architecture. Choose a vendor whose architecture can handle your requirements, such as Internet capability and hardware compatibility.

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