Advanced Reporting Tools

From report and graphics generators to dashboards, scorecards and business intelligence, we have seen quite a progression in how CMMS vendors allow us to extract data in a meaningful way. Regardless of which advanced reporting tool is used, the key is analyzing and presenting accurate data relevant to each function or individual, so that effective decisions can be made quickly.

By David Berger

From report and graphics generators to dashboards, scorecards and business intelligence, we have seen quite a progression in how CMMS vendors allow us to extract data in a meaningful way. Regardless of which advanced reporting tool is used, the key is analyzing and presenting accurate data relevant to each function or individual, so that effective decisions can be made quickly.

The three latest buzzwords, business intelligence, dashboards and scorecards, together comprise a relatively new and powerful tool. In some cases, CMMS vendors have opted to build their own engine to provide the functionality. While this affords seamless integration with the rest of the package, the engine may not be very sophisticated. Others encourage users to buy specialized and sophisticated add-on software from vendors such as COGNOS, Hyperion and Crystal. However, this requires purchasing and learning another application. Finally, some vendors supply these add-ons through a third-party license, which may be the best of both worlds if the package is properly integrated.

What is the buzz about, you ask? Think of the dashboard of your car, then try to imagine what would be on the “dashboard” of your CMMS application. Imagine an online, real-time summary of the latest scorecard results, including ratios, forecasts, trend graphs and estimated-versus-actual cost comparisons.

Picture the use of color to denote trending. For example, a green indicator means everything is OK. Yellow indicates a measure is beginning to trend outside the acceptable range. Red shows it is out of range. Measures might be downtimes for equipment, the number of PMs past due, or the spare parts inventory. In terms of graphics, indicators may be in the form of speedometers, lights, dials, charts and graphs (see Figure 1).

Once a yellow or red “condition” is presented, some CMMS vendors will allow users to drill down on the indicator for more detailed reporting. Action is then required to bring the measure back in line.

Some vendors have business intelligence systems that encompass a hierarchy of scorecard measures and related dashboard graphics, which allows you to see your maintenance operations at a glance.
  
For example, suppose at 11:00 a.m. you notice your highest level, overall indicator is pushing 7.5 out of 10. This causes the indicator to turn yellow and start to flash (your goal was to maintain an overall score of 8.5 this year). You can then drill down to sub-indicators under the headings, such as asset performance, production, inventory, human resources and financial. They are green except for asset performance, which shows 4.3 out of 10. It’s clearly condition “red.”
  
Successive drill-downs indicate a problem with the reliability of the conveyor system. Your screen also shows that this is the fifth occurrence of the problem and it has affected several production lines. It also shows that a serious safety problem has resulted in a lost-time accident. These lower-level indicators were both condition “red,” thereby causing the higher-level variances. It is then possible to drill down still further and access base documents such as work orders and cost summaries.
  
This balanced scorecard approach to monitoring your maintenance operations is an effective management tool. However, in my view, it requires a relatively sophisticated management team and user base to determine the hierarchy, measures, control limits and graphics relevant for each user group. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, data must be collected accurately on a timely basis, and the results understood and followed up by everyone.
  
Although significantly advanced analysis and reporting tools have been developed, it is still clearly an area where tremendous opportunity for improvement exists. It is not fair to blame solely the vendors for the gap, as users are not yet demanding sophistication in this area. This stems from the users’ lack of readiness for computerization, as evidenced by the high failure rate of CMMS implementations. Moreover, only 15 to 30 percent of the features and functions of the typical CMMS package are being used. And that percentage seems to be getting smaller as CMMS packages become more sophisticated (complex?).
  
Therefore, to make business intelligence, dashboard and scorecard features more effective, vendors must help answer the key question, “What’s in it for me?” for each user. The following provides a sampling of features and functions that can provide the balance between sophistication and simplicity.
  
Work order control. This is the focal point of any CMMS. It is therefore critical for users to have access to as much information as possible when entering work order data. Several systems provide access to parts on-hand, on order, on reserve, in transit, in repair, and in quality assurance inspection. Also, the high-end CMMS packages provide analysis of tradesperson utilization, work order history, part status statistics, asset performance, and even a troubleshooting database at the point of data entry. Business intelligence can make it easier for maintenance planners to determine the appropriate action.
   
Preventive and predictive maintenance. This is the most important element for many maintenance shops. Some of the more sophisticated features are multiple PM triggers, schedule flexibility (e.g., seasonality, multiple formats, zoom and simulation) and condition monitoring for user-defined data (e.g., activating a PM work order when meter readings reach a certain value). Business intelligence can be an effective tool to monitor output from preventive and predictive maintenance programs. It can be used to determine if measures are trending within acceptable limits and identify what work has yet to be done and when.
   
Materials management. The sophistication of this function varies widely by vendor. Some of the more advanced features include multiple costing methods, inventory, multi-warehouse tracking, serialized component tracking, multiple part number cross-referencing,  ABC and XYZ analysis for classifying inventory and integrated e-procurement. Business intelligence can provide an analysis of inventory and supplier history, including what-if analysis on service levels. This allows users to fine-tune the balance between service and cost.

  
Asset management. Successful CMMS implementation produces savings and benefits that stem from proper asset management. Business intelligence can provide more advanced features, including tracking maintenance costs by user-defined statistics (e.g., cost per volume produced), equipment status tracking and analysis, and complaint, cause, action and delay code analysis. Other important analytical features are production versus machine downtime, mean-time-between-failure, drill-down capability to determine the causes of downtime, and analysis of total cost of repair or replace decisions.

David Berger is Managing Director of Grant Thorton Management Consulting in Toronto, Ontario. He is a certified Management Consultant and a registered Professional Engineer. He is Founding President of the Plant Engineering & Maintenance Association of Canada, past President of the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Society for Industrial Engineering, and a past Vice President of the Institute of Industrial Engineers. He can be reached at dberger@GrantThorton.ca.

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