CMMS and EAM rise to the cloud

Are plant maintenance and asset management ready for software as a service (SaaS)?

By Tim Miller, CyberMetrics

A facility maintenance manager’s duties can include issuing asset preventive maintenance tickets, ensuring performance of work orders to OSHA standards, fielding emergency equipment breakdowns, minimizing downtime and measuring all associated costs. Because facility asset management can be complex, the heart of maintenance operations often is a computer with specialized maintenance management software such as computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software or enterprise asset management (EAM) software. These are proven, invaluable tools for managing a tight ship of daily maintenance activities.

Recent technology leaps within CMMS/EAM have allowed these programs exist in the cloud-computing space.

Figure 1. Cloud computing is an application that can be run over the Internet by using your computer keyboard.
Figure 1. Cloud computing is an application that can be run over the Internet by using your computer keyboard.

Think of cloud computing as an application being run over the Internet via a Web browser, Web book or smart pad (Figure 1). If you have a Hotmail email account, have used Facebook or do your banking online, you’re already using cloud computing. Does cloud computing eliminate the need for IT? Using CMMS/EAM from the cloud eliminates the costs associated with purchasing software and hardware. It also means no waiting for IT to schedule deployment or relying on IT to manage a large database. Cloud computing can provide maintenance-centric software functionality while eliminating the IT needs of legacy software solutions.

Cloud solutions are offered by some providers of asset management software. It often is called software as a service (SaaS), where you essentially rent the application and all of the associated hardware, software, IT support and database technologies. Typically, end users pay monthly and have no IT overhead or costs. Remember, the IT infrastructure and potential issues with deployment are being moved to the cloud, meaning that they are managed by the CMMS/EAM development company.

What’s in the cloud?

Both real-time activity and accumulation of data need to be secure. Cloud CMMS/EAM data transactions can be secured by encrypting them across the Internet by using secured sockets layer (SSL) protocol and other encryption technology. Security can be ensured by third-party audits according to Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) No. 70. Data maintenance, data recovery and disaster recovery need to be guaranteed processes. Maintenance management via a Web application requires many modes of security to ensure end-to-end integrity.

Figure 2. A Web-based calibration management module, part of EAM software, can exist in the cloud.
Figure 2. A Web-based calibration management module, part of EAM software, can exist in the cloud.

Choosing a cloud-based CMMS/EAM solution is an economic decision. The user needs only a Web browser and necessary bandwidth. The solution eliminates the costs associated with deployment, data management and hardware/software provisioning. Typical cloud offerings are billed month-to-month, which could lower the total cost of ownership. All technology, such as refreshing, configuration, updates and upgrades are part of the cloud service.

Google has cited increases in security, flexibility and collaboration associated with cloud computing. With a cloud solution, users can download, perform and sign off on work orders anywhere with an Internet connection. Mobile handheld devices, tablets and cell phones can be used. Multiple users at distant locations can collaborate in real time. In the cloud model, an extremely large volume of maintenance data is stored in a data center that can be designed to be agile, increasing storage on demand, enhancing configurations and allowing for upgrading or customizing sometimes within minutes.

Tim Miller is technical services director for the Asset Management Division of CyberMetrics. Contact him at (800) 776-3090 or tmiller@cybermetrics.com.

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