CMMS/EAM Software Review: 9 trends spurring CMMS/EAM evolution

Aging workforce, thirst for data, and mobility among the CMMS/EAM evolution drivers.

By David Berger, P.Eng., contributing editor

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After years of mergers, acquisitions, and industry consolidation, the asset management software industry is stronger than ever. That is great news for companies interested in upgrading or replacing their software, as the choices are excellent at all price points. Many CMMS/EAM software companies have invested heavily in further development of their packages, not only to maintain their existing customer base, but also to lure customers away from competitors that have not kept pace. Without significant R&D investment, CMMS/EAM companies will find it difficult to attract new customers, and will watch their installed bases disappear over the next decade or so, as competition continues to increase.

Market trends facing CMMS vendors

The asset management software industry is also heavily influenced by emerging trends in the customer base, especially those emanating from the asset-intensive, highly regulated market segment.

Aging workforce: There is a lot of knowledge that will be disappearing from the workforce over the next few years, as Baby Boomers move to retirement status. Companies will need to formalize and digitize as much of that knowledge as possible, using the CMMS for creating work plans, business rules, and workflows, and documenting technical knowledge.

Smarter, more complex, and more costly assets: Over the years, the off-line world of physical assets has become more connected to the online digital world, through a variety of wired and wireless technologies. The cars we drive, the buildings we enter, and the tools we use are getting smarter and moving online. With smarter assets and automated controls come higher complexity, risk, and ultimately cost.

Enterprise thinking and global reach: The digital age has facilitated the emergence of a global economy and enterprise thinking. CMMS vendors have come a long way since the stand-alone work management systems of yesteryear. Enterprise thinking is embedded in the design of modern CMMS packages, including handling multiple languages and currencies, as well as multiple companies, sites, and warehouses. Furthermore, advanced CMMS packages have functionality relevant to stakeholders across the enterprise, along the entire supply chain in a given vertical market, for the complete asset lifecycle, and covering assets of all classes — plant equipment, facilities, fleet assets, technology assets such as laptops and servers, and infrastructure such as roads and pipelines.

Blurring of historical silos: More integrated systems have enabled organizations to fully share information across the many historical silos in a given organization, and along the entire supply chain. Especially important, albeit a much slower trend, is the blurring of lines between operations and maintenance. With more automated processes, higher risk associated with asset failure, and shifting focus away from manual operations, some companies will benefit by combining operator and maintainer roles into a single technician position.

Greater focus on risk: Our rising dependence on smarter, more complex, and more costly assets in a digital age means that their failure can bring catastrophic consequences. This is one reason why regulatory bodies have increased their pressure on companies from all industries. Pressure comes in the form of mandated policies and procedures, compliance audits, mandatory certification, hefty penalties to the company for non-compliance, and large fines and even jail term for the individuals responsible.

Asset management software vendors have recognized this trend and have developed features and functions that can assist senior management in better managing risk. These include electronic signature, risk scoring, and document management. As well, numerous health, safety, and environment modules have been integrated into the CMMS, such as risk management, compliance management, safety management, management of change, event management, incident management, environmental management, sustainability, energy management, and case management.

All things green: Some companies have begun to see the huge savings potential of focusing on sustainability. CMMS vendors have responded by building sustainability functionality into their software, including the tracking and analysis of usage data for utilities such as electricity, gas, and water. This data, when integrated with equipment history, is useful for a better understanding of the triggers for condition-based maintenance, as well as determining ways to reduce usage, carbon emissions, and safety/environmental impact.

Defining “asset ownership”: Another point of integration undergoing slow but significant change is the concept of asset ownership. Who owns the assets in your company? Is it operations, engineering, or maintenance? Perhaps no one does, implying roles and responsibilities may not be clear. Depending on the industry, the trend line appears to be moving to engineering as owner of the assets, operations managing them day-to-day, and maintenance maintaining the assets. Modern CMMS packages facilitate direct communication among maintainers, operators, and asset owners, across the enterprise and around the world. This includes the ability for maintainers/operators to redline drawings, make notations on the work order, and use a case management tool to ensure changes are made to the work program or equipment design, in order to prevent problems from recurring.

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