3 steps to give your CMMS the data it needs

Stanton McGroarty says capture critical knowledge at W/O close.

By J. Stanton McGroarty, CMRP, senior technical editor

Whether your CMMS or EAM is a world-class software installation or a stack of file cards in a shoebox, the time to capture the takeaway from maintenance work comes at the end of each job. When it’s time to close a maintenance work order, the right people are there with the right information fresh in their minds. The challenge for any system owner is to make it automatic for them to share and capture the information.

The promises that prompt us to make CMMS or EAM installations are wonderful: We’ll have full knowledge of maintenance cost and availability of our equipment. We’ll know which spares to stock to keep equipment healthy. We’ll have clear instructions and up-to-date labor estimates for all routine repairs and condition monitoring activities. All of these promises and more are within the reach of a CMMS, but the systems, as installed, are only media. The content must be added at installation and, more important, constantly updated for the systems to be useful.

After the basic data tables are loaded in a CMMS, the three most important update opportunities occur at work order entry, scheduling, and closure. The first two, order entry and scheduling, usually happen on the CMMS. The order must be started with a reasonable amount of detail, or PdM and repair work will not happen. Similarly, parts and services must be ordered or repairs cannot be done. If the systems are used properly to automate the order entry and scheduling, they will make information capture automatic, as well. Work orders and material orders will flow from the system and the information on them will be retained by the system and associated with the appropriate work orders. If the work orders are written properly, they will also associate the work and material costs with the asset number in the system.

The greatest of the three data capture opportunities, job closure, does not share this advantage. No information is needed to close the job and turn the equipment back over to production. The team can simply notify the foreman and leave the scene. Moreover, job completion and closure usually occur when everyone is anxious to pack up and leave the job site. This is the moment when all the information learned from the repair is fresh in the team’s minds, and the team is all together at the job site. Even the contractors are often present. But unless management insists on data capture at the moment of closure, the equipment will simply be returned to production and the maintenance crew will disperse.

J. Stanton McGroarty, CMfgE, CMRP, is senior technical editor of Plant Services. He was formerly consulting manager for Strategic Asset Management International (SAMI), where he focused on project management and training for manufacturing, maintenance and reliability engineering. He has more than 30 years of manufacturing and maintenance experience in the automotive, defense, consumer products and process manufacturing industries. He holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Detroit Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in management from Central Michigan University. He can be reached at smcgroarty@putman.net or check out his .

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The nomenclature varies a little, but job completion is defined in most systems as the point where the physical work is done and the equipment can return to production. Job closure is the point where the work order is declared complete and closed in the system. Before job closure occurs, a great deal of new information should be captured. At a minimum it includes:

  • actual in-house labor hours spent, by job classification
  • actual contractor labor hours spent, by job classification and vendor
  • actual parts used
  • specific equipment failure mode
  • specific repair strategy
  • condition of equipment when returned to service
  • total time elapsed while equipment was unavailable
  • time when equipment was returned to available status
  • additional work or monitoring required in the future
  • other work orders initiated as a result of the service
  • changes needed to work instructions and time estimates for repairs.

With this information the organization can ascribe costs to the equipment correctly, making lifecycle costing and data-driven replacement decisions possible. The data also provide needed information on equipment condition and future repair needs. Most important of all, maintenance job instructions and standards can be updated with actual information that can improve future planning and scheduling of PdM and repair work.

With adequate information capture at work order completion and closure, the organization can begin to achieve the benefits of a fully functioning CMMS or EAM system. Unfortunately, the work of recording job closure data happens in the classic situation that trips up most systems. The work must be done today by the people at the job site for the future benefit of other people. It is additional work without immediate benefit to the people who must do the work. It would be nice if we could count on the nobility of spirit and the altruism of workers to deliver these future benefits to their coworkers. However, experience suggests that some other forms of encouragement might be needed to improve our chances of success.

Here are three steps that help coordinate many kinds of work with system requirements:

  1. educating workers as to the importance of documenting their work
  2. providing media or other tools to remind workers and make reporting easier
  3. offering incentives to workers for completing this last part of every job.

Depending on the level of systems, and other factors like logistics and working conditions, a variety of tools will fill these needs. Here are some suggestions for the various types of system that are used to perform the CMMS/EAM functions.

Worker education is similar, regardless of the technical sophistication of maintenance management systems in place. A short workshop containing information similar to the first half of this column can be delivered to help maintenance staff and others understand the value of capturing job completion and closure information. Clear instructions as to which data capture steps are required should be delivered at the same time. Content will depend on the capture system that is being put in place.

Data capture media will vary with the maintenance management system. In a fully functional computer-based system, data screens or worksheets can be made available to workers, along with training in their use. These results should be electronically routed to supervisors or planners depending on who has the responsibility for closure data in the organization.

In a paper-based system, data capture cards can be paper clipped to the work order copy where jobs are closed out. One maintenance manager made red pens available to remind his staff to mark up copies of work instructions and parts lists so that the data in their manual system could be improved.

Incentives for data capture can vary widely. On fully automated systems it may be possible to prevent the use of work order data for KPI or payroll purposes before data capture is complete and signed off by supervision. Similarly, supervisory approval can be required to release contractor invoices for payment. In this case a 24-hour window can be provided for supervisors to obtain any missing data and add it to the closure package. The paper job ticket can be used similarly to close work orders and pay people in a paper-based system. In other words, when the trigger for payment is the completion of job reporting and supervisors maintain quality control of the reporting good data usually comes much more easily.

If good ideas that come from the job closure packages are celebrated and rewarded, there is a further incentive for high-quality data capture. This kind of recognition can be combined with suggestion programs or bonus celebrations to identify and reward team effort and progress.

Whichever approach promises the most success for your organization, feed your CMMS when you close maintenance work orders. The results will equip your staff to work smarter and to deliver on the promise of your maintenance management systems.

Read Stanton McGroarty's monthly column, Strategic Maintenance.