Optimize CMMS with organizational structure

David Berger says get more out of your asset management software by defining management roles and team responsibilities.

By David Berger

Getting more out of your CMMS starts with developing an asset management strategy, then developing processes in light of that strategy, and finally configuring your CMMS to support the processes. But there is one additional step that is often overlooked, as a company strives to meet its goals and objectives — an organizational design that best promotes efficient and effective processes.

Organizational design changes can be made at any level in your company, from the front line to the senior management team. The three key stakeholder functions are maintenance, operations, and engineering; however, other areas, such as materials management, purchasing, and administrative functions, may be involved. The impetus for change can come from mapping the future state process flows and defining CMMS requirements, when determining which generic roles will be doing the work and what skills will be required.

Additionally, changes may originate from the introduction of new guiding principles and organizational models. What drives organizational design change and provides insight into some options?

Generic roles

When mapping future state workflows that define how best to use your CMMS, all manual activities must be assigned to a generic role. Multiple generic roles might be assumed by a given job position. For example, in a small plant or during an off-shift, a front-line technician might adopt various roles. A maintenance manager might have both front-line supervise and schedule roles. The following is a short description of common generic roles:

  • Operate role — Ensure the equipment is working as expected, including duties such as equipment startup and shutdown, changeovers, equipment monitoring and adjusting, and operating the equipment.
  • Maintain role — Maximize wrench time, as well as ensure quality diagnostic, repair, and replacement work.
  • Estimate role — In the absence of a pre-defined job plan on the CMMS, determine time, skills, special tools and equipment, materials, and procedures required to complete work.
  • Inventory role — Order, issue, receive and monitor spare parts, in order to maximize service levels while minimizing inventory stock levels.
  • Front-line supervise role — Coach staff and manage the daily work to ensure schedules and performance targets are met.
  • Schedule role — Determine the availability of skills, parts, tools, workspace, and the assets to be operated or maintained, in order to reduce the work backlog.
  • Plan role — Assist asset ownership role to develop, maintain, and optimize a work program over time for the lifecycle of all assets, including use of various analysis tools for optimizing maintenance policies (use-based maintenance, fail-based maintenance, and condition-based maintenance), job plans, asset master, key performance indicators (KPIs), asset history, and capacity plans.
  • Asset ownership role — Provide leadership role for a given asset or asset group in terms of liaising with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and internal roles, providing specialized technical knowledge during the complete asset lifecycle, using analysis tools to improve asset performance and ensuring the work program is optimized over time.
  • Other roles — Examples of other roles that might be defined, depending on your industry, and size of company, are training, project management, CMMS specialization, purchasing, and industrial engineering roles.

Guiding principles for organizational design

Standardize? When optimizing your organizational design, it’s best to establish and pay strict adherence to a simple and manageable set of guiding principles. The guiding principles govern how best to use the generic roles and can provide some direction on how to structure the organization from the top down.

Be forewarned: Ignoring the guiding principles and doing nothing to change your organizational structure to complement future state processes and CMMS requirements will result in simply swapping old for new (processes and CMMS), with no real sustainable benefit. People need to see skin in the game from senior management and visible signs of change from the top down. One of the most obvious signs is providing sufficient support for the organization to implement change, such as ensuring adequate resources are focused on the project.

The following are some examples of simple but powerful guiding principles related to the generic roles.

  • All generic roles must be assigned to permanent positions.
  • Roles must be scalable to any business unit, size, location, asset class, asset type, shift, or craft. For example, a big plant may have a full-time schedule role on day shifts, but, on nights and in small plants, the front-line supervise role and the schedule role could be assumed by the same position— say, a shift manager.
  • Anyone can assume a given generic role, whether temporarily or permanently, if and only if they have the skills and training to do the work; follow the standard workflow and business rules (avoid missing steps such as accurate data entry; and are held accountable for the role as if it was a full-time position.

The following are guiding principles related to higher-level, organizational models.

David Berger, a Certified Management Consultant (C.M.C.) registered in Ontario, Canada, is a Principal of Western Management Consultants, based in the Toronto officeDavid Berger, a Certified Management Consultant (C.M.C.) registered in Ontario, Canada, is a Principal of Western Management Consultants, based in the Toronto office. David has written more than 200 articles on a variety of topics such as maintenance management, operations management, information technology, e-commerce, organizational design, and strategy. In Plant Services magazine, he has written a monthly column on maintenance management in the United States, as well as three very extensive reviews of maintenance management systems available in North America. David has done extensive work in the areas of strategy, information technology and business process re-engineering. He can be reached at
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Relationship management: Ensure that all levels within the lines of business know “who ya’ gonna’ call” when there’s a problem with an asset. Do you call engineering? Maintenance? IT because it is a computer-related issue? A given resource within operations? The supply chain group because maybe it is a materials issue? As much as possible, strive for one number and one person who assumes the role of relationship management for each business line on behalf of multiple stakeholders. Typically, it’s the asset ownership role that takes the call and rounds up the appropriate resources from maintenance, engineering, the OEM, and others as required.

Asset-centric accountability: Although it’s clear that the asset ownership role has the highest level of accountability for a given asset or group of assets throughout the asset’s lifecycle, there may be asset-centric alignment with other roles throughout the organization. For example, operators, maintainers, supervisors, and purchasing agents can also be assigned a given asset or group of assets. Each position is then held responsible for a number of duties related to the assigned assets and roles.

Balance of power: Establish a partnership culture and organizational structure such that no internal group holds excessive power over another at a given level in the organization, even if the scale is different. For example, operations, engineering, and maintenance should have resources at the same level that share performance objectives and metrics. The bigger your company, the more important it is that maintenance should not report to engineering, which reports to operations. Instead these groups might all report to a COO as equal partners sharing common KPIs.

Advanced organizational design models

There are many possible organizational structures to consider, but below are two that are less common and worth investigating.

System health teams: If everyone is assigned to both a functional group, such as maintenance, operations, or purchasing, and a system or group of assets, then system health teams provide a formal structure by which people across multiple functions meet regularly because they share the same asset group accountability. This works well for developing, monitoring, achieving, and reporting on shared KPIs, including diagnosing major problems and ensuring adequate capacity to execute on the work program.

Self-managed work teams: Dating back to the early 1990s, self-directed autonomous work teams followed by self-managed work teams were another way of empowering maintenance, engineering, and operations resources to manage a given function or group of assets. Teams were given extensive training in leadership, problem solving, and other skills, so that teams were less dependent on management to oversee their work and achieve ever-increasing performance improvement targets.

Read David Berger's monthly column, Asset Manager.