How to make the most of your CMMS/EAM

Determining requirements will drive CMMS software title selection.

By Ed Espinosa, CMRP, CAPM, Puget Sound Energy

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The decision to buy a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a milestone in the path toward maintenance excellence. So which title should you purchase? Whatever the decision is, do not make this decision in a vacuum. It will be a very expensive mistake if you choose the wrong program. A core group of internal stakeholders — sponsors, project team members, subject matter experts, and possibly super-users — helps to create a vested interest in the project’s success from the leadership in your organization. More specifically, stakeholders will consist of folks from operations, maintenance, engineering, information technology, purchasing, materials management, accounting and finance. Why? Because CMMS will affect how these groups will conduct their day-to-day business processes. They will have to live with the decision they make. Accounting and finance are the two groups, above all others, that must see the value a CMMS brings to an organization. And the senior members of those two organizations may be the most difficult to convince.

“Live with the decision they make” implies that the selection of a CMMS is extremely significant and influences corporate culture ad infinitum, so be ready to manage the onset of a mandatory paradigm shift for those who still live their maintenance lives documenting work with a writing tablet and mechanical pencil. What is CMMS? It is a computerized system that houses a database of information pertaining to asset management. It contains information about which maintenance to do, when to do it, how to do it, who’s to do it, how long it should take, what the plant condition should be, which parts to use, where the spare parts are and in what quantity. A CMMS archives maintenance history and provides every detail of work, even including costs both internal and external. It should also provide direction on whom to purchase the spare parts from in many cases. Ultimately, A CMMS is a tool used by the maintenance department to efficiently maintain a facility and do so cost-effectively and safely.

Read Ed Espinosa’s previous articles about PdM and CMMS implementation at Puget Sound Energy at and

Determining requirements will drive CMMS software title selection. The requirements are determined by the participating stakeholders. Examples of requirements are factors such as whether or not the company’s facility is a single entity or many facilities spread out over a geographic area. Is the software easy for the end user to use? In other words, will a technically skilled, highly paid journeyworker be spending most of the day navigating through the product trying to document his findings, rather than turning wrenches, or will this aspect of work-order closure be handled by a software-savvy maintenance planner? Will spare parts be shared across the enterprise? How will maintenance costs be tallied up and accounted for, and to what granularity? How much is budgeted for the procurement of this software product?

Besides requirements, what objective is expected to be achieved by using CMMS? And do the stated requirements complement or interfere with the objective? Will key performance indicators (KPIs) be heavily relied upon for meeting the objective? Understanding and agreeing upon the system requirements and corporate objective for the maintenance reliability organization will allow the best choice to be made from all the product offers on the market. No single CMMS software product does everything for everybody; understand this, and know that compromises between stakeholders will play into this decision. A weighted-average system should be devised, weighing each requirement; and the most heavily weighed requirement will help to decide which CMMS to purchase.

Drawing upon the knowledge and technical know-how of stakeholders will make it possible to plan the most intelligent and efficient way of organizing the system. Before designing the system, folks should have an idea of plant layout and equipment to be included in the functional location — equipment hierarchy, how they want to track costs, if outside labor is expected to be heavily utilized, and how important is it to have parts in the storeroom associated with operating equipment in the facility. You have many things to consider. One of the most important decisions to make prior to considering which CMMS to purchase is whether or not your organization will implement a work management process. This is a system of doing work separate from a CMMS, but it relies heavily on CMMS functionalities to provide information that promotes work identification, planning, scheduling, execution, completion, and continuous improvement. Some CMMS programs adapt to this process better than others, so make sure you ask the vendor plenty of questions in this area.


After the CMMS program is procured, implementing this software is the next order of business. Keep in mind that the cost and effort of implementation far exceeds the cost of procurement by threefold or fourfold. Make sure your accounting and finance organization understands this well ahead of time. And choose your project team members wisely. Your team must be thick-skinned, tolerant, and committed to work, and they must even befriend implementation consultants, whose project management acumen might not be palatable and agreeable with your corporate culture.

CMMS software implementation could be a painful and tedious process. But it doesn’t have to be. Allow one year for this phase to take place from start to finish. Discuss, plan, agree, and create an implementation schedule with the consultant project manager. Convey this schedule to your in-house team members and adjust their normal work schedules to accommodate this implementation. Be ready for conflicts, both personal and operational; they just happen and can’t be avoided, so make sure there’s plenty of project contingency built into the schedule before finalizing. Set aside time for periodic meetings without implementation consultants. Keep it informal and inclusive. Maintain an atmosphere of openness by encouraging folks to tell you what they think of this project. If problems are observed with the way things are going, ask for input to remedy these problems. Keep track of progress and the end goal.

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