Optimize your CMMS with value-added features

David Berger reveals potential for decision-support functionality in your CMMS.

By David Berger, P.Eng., contributing editor

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With complexity on the shop floor, within facilities and in the field growing, there comes a need for more comprehensive support systems that help management and front-line staffs make better decisions. Well aware of this trend, the more progressive CMMS vendors worked hard to incorporate superb decision-support functionality into their product offerings. This includes advanced condition monitoring features; workflow capability; superior analysis and reporting tools; mobile solutions; and the ability to more easily integrate with other key operational applications. The CMMS features that support operations optimization are described below.

Condition monitoring

If the objective is optimization, one of the most critical functions is to monitor and control the condition of four aspects of operations:

  • Products
  • Processes
  • Environment
  • Assets

If optimization is the goal, management must change the corporate culture to take advantage of the powerful systems at their disposal.

Certainly, low-level operations management systems such as human-machine interfaces (HMIs), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and proprietary data collection systems built into operational equipment are capable of tracking the four aspects. However, operations personnel seem to be more concerned with the first three aspects than the assets themselves. They seem to rely heavily on maintenance personnel to deal with monitoring or at least the control of key assets.

Competition, tension and role ambiguity between operations and maintenance is nothing new. But with far more sophisticated and better integrated monitoring and control systems, it’s getting harder to separate the duties of maintenance and operations management. Unfortunately, human behavior takes much more time and effort to change than technology. For example, why is there so much resistance by union leaders to implement programs such as total productive maintenance (TPM), where operators are trained to take on greater responsibility for minor maintenance of their assets, such as inspections, adjustments and lubrication? The opposition stems from a power struggle at the management level and a fear that jobs will be lost or dramatically changed at the technician and operator levels.

If optimization is the goal, management must change the corporate culture to take advantage of the powerful systems at its disposal. Long gone are the days when maintenance technicians sit around reading the paper, waiting for a call from the field or shop floor to deal with a downtime problem. Condition monitoring capability allows operators, technicians and engineers to react more quickly to abnormal or potentially suboptimal situations, regardless of source. There must be better cooperation between operations, maintenance and engineering at every level in the organization, and a new definition of roles and responsibilities that match the new reality.


A sophisticated workflow engine some CMMS vendors offer enhances the condition monitoring capability, in that data can be routed and actions taken in a manner predefined by users. For example, if a pressure reading strays outside user-defined control limits, the CMMS can initiate a work order automatically or send an email to the appropriate maintenance supervisor with the current pressure reading. Workflows can be triggered on the basis of condition or trend in any variables, such as when both temperature rises more than 10% above normal and the pressure exceeds 100 psi. In this way the CMMS keeps constant vigilance to optimize operations through quick response.

Workflow isn’t only useful for monitoring shop-floor measures, but it also can be useful as a management tool. For example, if PM compliance dips below say 90%, an email can be sent to the maintenance manager. If it drops below say 80%, an email can be sent to the plant manager. If PM compliance goes below, say, 70%, an email can be sent to the COO and so on. Thus, a workflow engine can be used to set up any user-defined transfer of data and actions, based on virtually any user-defined event, condition, measure or combination thereof.

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