Are CMMS/EAM user needs being met? Survey says no

The first installment ofPlant Services magazine's CMMS/EAM user survey says many needs are not being met

By David Berger, P.Eng.

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Whether you are interested in getting more out of your current CMMS, upgrading it or looking for a replacement, you need to gather as much information as possible prior to making any decisions. Think of how much effort goes into far less critical decisions, such as selecting a good book to read. For this comparatively minor decision, you might read a critical review by an expert, examine what readers have said about the book, borrow the book to check it out yourself, and so on. Each of these inputs helps you make a more educated decision

When it comes to deciding what to do with your CMMS, Plant Services magazine can provide you with at least two valuable inputs. First, we brought you the expert view, “CMMS Stress Test” in the April 2004 issue (click here for details about the review).

Now we’re bringing you the users’ perspective based on a survey of our readership spread over five modules. The first of these modules, covering base functionality and work order management, is now complete and is the basis of this article. The next four modules will cover inventory control and purchasing, preventive and condition-based maintenance, equipment history, and general features and functions.

For this module, e-mail invitations were sent to 8,000 Plant Services subscribers who influence the purchase of maintenance-related software. The invitations included a link to a Web-based survey, which allows only those who received an invitation to fill out a survey. It also only allows one completed survey per qualified e-mail address. The results presented here are based on 117 completed surveys.

We are collecting detailed data by vendor and package so we can track reader viewpoints for a given software product. Like the expert survey, our goal is to raise the knowledge level of both readers and vendors so everyone wins.

 Although both reader and expert perspectives are valid and useful, there may at times be differing opinions. This may be caused by a number of reasons:

  • Each reader surveyed is concerned with his industry and the needs of his specific facility, whereas the expert has a more general outlook.
  • Readers generally have experience with only a very small number of CMMS packages, whereas the expert provides a broader perspective.
  • Readers may have older versions of a given package, a homegrown CMMS or no CMMS at all, whereas the expert always reviews the most recent version of commercially-available software.

Regardless of source, the more knowledge you can amass about your options, the better your decisions will be. This assumes you understand the circumstances and assumptions underlying each data source.

Thanks to all of you who participated in this first part of our reader survey. If you are invited by e-mail to participate in future modules, we encourage you to do so. This will help us build a reliable knowledgebase.

Any CMMS/EAM user who wants to receive future survey invitations should e-mail Editor in Chief Paul Studebaker at You’ll have to pass our screening to validate your user status: Vendors need not apply.

Base functionality
Of the five reader survey questions covering base functionality of the CMMS, results for three are shown graphically in Figures 1-3. [Editor's Note: All Figures can be viewed by clicking on the Download Now button at the bottom of this article.] Base functionality can be defined as those features that are available throughout the system in support of the maintenance-specific functions. These features can be found on many other software applications, such as ERP packages.

The five base functions referred to in the reader survey are error-handling capability, ability to define default values, online help, workflow and drill-down capability. It is interesting to see that all five questions point to the overwhelming importance placed on providing base functionality in a comprehensive manner. On average, an incredible 86% of users responded that these five features are “important,” “very important” or “extremely important” to provide comprehensively. An average of 40% of respondents felt it was either “very important” or “extremely important.”

This dramatic appeal for CMMS vendors to deliver base functionality in a comprehensive manner can be contrasted sharply with how poorly respondents feel their current CMMS fulfills their needs. More than half of respondents, on average, are clearly not satisfied with how well their CMMS meets their needs. A surprising 31% stated their needs are not being met at all.

Error-checking capability (Figure 1) was rated either “very important” or “extremely important” by about half of respondents, a rating exceeding that of any other feature in the entire survey. Unfortunately, about half of respondents also feel that their current CMMS does not adequately satisfy their needs.

At a time when Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma and other productivity and quality-improvement initiatives have gained momentum across North American industry, it is perhaps not surprising that users see error reduction as a key objective in designing data-entry processes. Error checking can be a means of catching honest mistakes or deliberate attempts at breaching security. Think of how much data is entered into a CMMS each day by everyone in a given facility, and you can see why it is so important for users to get it right the first time.

Comprehensive error-checking capability includes sophisticated features such as allowing users to apply Boolean logic or define an entire formula to determine the validity of data entered into a given field. There are three types of error-checking: format, range and logic. Checking for format ensures that, for example, all part numbers begin with two alpha characters followed by five numeric digits. A check on range could reveal, for example, an attempt at entering a vendor number that was not between 15,000 and 35,000. Error checking for logic verifies that a given value makes sense, for example, the right engine for a given vehicle, or too many pumps for a given parent piece of equipment.

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