Is your CMMS too complex?

David Berger says focus on the basics when your CMMS is so advanced.

By David Berger, P.Eng., contributing editor

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Not everyone celebrates the tremendous sophistication available in many of today’s CMMS packages. Some users are frustrated by the enormity of options, the sheer volume of screens and fields, and the numerous ways to slice and dice the data. Maintainers that are looking for simplicity sometimes find themselves faced with a level of complexity that makes the CMMS appear more of a burden than a helpful tool. This column outlines how to make the best of the situation, or avoid the problem in the first place.

How can it happen?

In part, purchasing a CMMS that is excessively complex may stem from ignoring the simple needs of your maintenance operations. Perhaps the rest of the company required a more advanced ERP package, and adding the maintenance module was an easy sell to management because it was a relatively inexpensive, fully-integrated add-on. Maybe the Request for Proposal (RFP) sent to possible CMMS vendors did not adequately reflect all of the many maintenance stakeholders, so incorrect assumptions were made regarding user needs. Finally, it could be there was no RFP process at all, or the vendor choices were so limited that Maintenance felt pushed into adopting the corporate solution.

Another possible reason for the disconnect is poor communications and change management. It is critical to get early buy-in of all key stakeholder groups, and to manage expectations throughout design, selection and implementation phases.

When basics are sufficient

Despite potential problems, the following are legitimate cases where implementing an advanced CMMS makes sense, even when a basic package appears sufficient.

  1. Growth potential: Your company may be small today, but expected to grow over the next few years. The more sophisticated features of the CMMS may be necessary to support and sustain the growth. It may also be necessary to ensure compatibility with a merged or acquiring company.
  2. Small fish, big pond: In any large, multi-plant company, there may be a number of smaller facilities. When a system is purchased, it must not only accommodate the largest, most complex facilities, but also the smaller, less sophisticated ones.
  3. The learning curve: Even if your company is an asset-intensive company with sophisticated needs, it may be years before maintainers are ready to implement any advanced features. Therefore, it might be more prudent to start with the basics and roll out the more esoteric functionality over time, once users have gone down the learning curve.
  4. The cost: Even if your facility can justify a more sophisticated CMMS, the cost of implementation may be prohibitive. Management may rightly choose to buy more advanced software, but implement it over a longer timeline in order to spread the cost over multiple years. Although this may mean benefits realization is delayed, if implementation is properly planned, it will allow extra time for get-ready activities and properly staging the many changes.
  5. Technical requirements: No matter what the size of your company, user needs may be so advanced that a basic CMMS package is insufficient in satisfying technical requirements. For example, suppose a small group of technicians are responsible for maintaining a small number of third-party linear assets spread over a large geographic area, using mobile devices. The specifications for linear assets, third-party service management, field-based maintainers, and mobile solutions can be very sophisticated, even though the company is quite small.
  6. Size matters: Even if your company operates out of a single facility and you have simple needs, at a certain threshold, size will most likely drive you to more advanced CMMS requirements. For example, bigger companies will typically need more sophisticated planning and scheduling, more diverse data collection options, greater accounting and regulatory controls, and better analysis and reporting tools.

The magic of configurability

If you do not fall into one of the six categories above, then selecting a basic CMMS package is probably right for you. Otherwise, you may find that a more advanced CMMS solution will be better in the long run, even if the functionality is best phased in over time. Make sure that your CMMS package allows you to configure the software in this manner.

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