Keep your big CMMS wheel turning: Key trends in the CMMS world that may impact your business

Take your pick of apps and modules that integrate with your core asset management system to mitigate risk, extend asset performance, and manage the unexpected.

By David Berger, P.Eng., Contributing Editor

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The importance of computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software, also known as enterprise asset management (EAM) software, continues to rise for companies big and small. So does our dependence on these applications: Regardless of your industry, location, and type of assets you maintain, CMMS software has become a critical tool. Historically, asset-intensive companies benefited the most from CMMS packages, but each year, more and more companies have seen the value of implementing even the most basic asset management systems.

CMMS software’s growth in importance can be explained in part as riding the waves of a perfect storm of many parallel trends. These trends include our increased fascination with technology, a worldwide effort to become more sustainable, the need for regulatory compliance, the ever-present pressure to cut costs, the rising threat of knowledge lost due to an aging and retiring workforce, and the need to better manage mounting risks.

Some of these trends are positive, while others carry significant risks or trade-offs that need to be properly managed. For example, the age-old drive to automate our plants and facilities might be motivated by a significant return on investment; however, it also increases our dependence on the people, processes, and systems such as a CMMS for maintaining the more complex automated equipment. This article examines this and other key trends in the CMMS world that may impact your business.

CMMS: Hub of a growing wheel

Companies are faced with big challenges, including how to integrate the myriad software applications scattered throughout operations in North America and around the world. Huge opportunities exist for any company that can seamlessly assemble the many pieces of the integration puzzle. Properly integrating these islands of automation can produce significant benefits, such as increased productivity, improved asset reliability, and better decision-making capability.

Over the years, CMMS vendors have expanded their core offerings beyond planning and scheduling, work management, and spare parts inventory management. Some vendors have added more sophisticated maintenance modules that cater to the more complex needs of today’s companies. Additional modules include project management, reliability-centered maintenance, condition-based maintenance, service management, procurement, mobile, safety and compliance, calibration, and many other specialized functions.

In addition, core CMMS functionality has been added that caters to a growing list of asset classes and asset types that satisfy the specific needs of your industry. For example, this past decade has seen the emergence of an array of features that deal with linear assets, such as roads, railways, pipelines, transmission lines, and parks. Similarly, the core feature list has grown for managing asset types under all asset classes – e.g., plant equipment, facilities, fleet, infrastructure, and IT assets.

But one of the most impressive developments over the years is the emergence of CMMS software as the hub of a wheel of applications. As the core grows, so too does the ability of the CMMS to integrate with a massive list of external applications, from data collection systems gathering data from the shop floor and the field, to higher-level systems such as sophisticated report generators and business intelligence and decision-support tools. In addition, there’s everything in between, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) systems, Long-Term Capital Planning systems, and a host of industry-specific applications.

The internet of things (IoT)

The concept of the CMMS as hub of a wheel of integrated applications has been advanced greatly most recently by the commercial application of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT refers to connecting stand-alone equipment and other “things” to the internet for gathering and receiving data. For example, a hand-held measurement device such as a multimeter or vibration monitor might be given connectivity to your CMMS through device-based software and the internet to collect condition data during an inspection.

Even vehicles, facilities, and other physical assets have become “smart assets” connected through sensors, vendor software, and the internet. The CMMS industry has jumped on this massive opportunity to either collect data from source, or through some sort of data concentrator such as a programmable logic controller (PLC) or human-machine interface (HMI). Once data is analyzed by the CMMS, such as whether an upper or lower control limit is exceeded for a given condition reading, an action then can be initiated via IoT connectivity (e.g., providing on-screen follow-on instructions to the equipment operator).

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