CMMS/EAM vendors have worked diligently over the decades to provide asset management software that maximizes value for every function within an organization, in any industry, and at any level from shop floor to executive suite. Of course, no one package can do it all, but significant improvements in technology have facilitated most vendors in delivering more features and functions each year. Recent mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures have fueled investment in research and development and stoked the flames of competition among those vendors still standing. So far, this increased activity is great news for all of us – it’s producing better solutions delivered at prices that are more competitive.
The CMMS/EAM industry as a whole is clearly listening to the market. However, some vendors are better at doing so than others. It’s up to customers to sort through vendor offerings and determine which solution will most cost-effectively meet their requirements – both current and future. This is not an easy task. To assist with the purchase of a new CMMS/EAM, the upgrade of an old one, or optimization of an existing package, following are some key considerations in each of 10 specific areas.
1. Improved user interface
As long as humans are involved in maintaining physical assets, it remains crucial for CMMS/EAM software to be intuitive to all users. The usability of the CMMS/EAM package is especially important for frequent users. The reward of having software with superior user-centered design elements is a much happier workforce and an enormous gain in productivity. Below are some examples:
- Reduction of errors in data entry – Avoid software with busy screens and no error-checking capability. The software should have intelligent warnings and should help the user correct errors – or better yet, prevent them from occurring in the first place.
- Fewer keystrokes needed to complete a procedure – How many keystrokes are required to access the information you need? Look for software that minimizes keystrokes for routine workflows. This can be accomplished using cleverly designed screen layouts complete with tabs, shortcuts, icons, and other navigation aids. Your CMMS/EAM should also accommodate the workflow of a given role such as a maintainer or maintenance planner, as through tailored data entry and reporting screens that show only the information necessary to do the job.
- Increased efficiency through easily accessible help – For highly repetitive tasks, users do not typically rely upon the “help” function. However, for new employees or for tasks that are infrequent, such as a year-end procedure, an easy-to-find and easy-to-use “help” feature is vital in reducing task completion time.
- An intuitive CMMS/EAM that lowers the cost of software implementation and maintenance – User-friendly software means lower training costs and a shorter implementation time.
2. More “best practices” infrastructure
Your CMMS/EAM package should assist in moving your operations closer to the goal of conforming to industry best practices. To this end, most CMMS/EAM packages have functionality designed in accordance with a known standard of excellence, such as ISO 55000, an international asset management standard based on the British standard PAS 55. There are many other standards, regulatory requirements, management frameworks, and known industry best practices that CMMS/EAM vendors have adopted to assist you in meeting your objectives.
Check to see whether a given CMMS/EAM vendor claims to assist in implementing best practices or a specific standard relevant to your business. If so, determine whether the design of the company’s master files, data-entry screens, workflows, and reports upholds the claim. Ensure that this functionality is as close to out-of-the-box as possible to maximize realization of benefits quickly following implementation.
For example, is there an out-of-the-box report, query, or dashboard element to report on critical PMs that are approaching a regulated time constraint? If the vendor says the system is configurable, how much time and money would it take to set up the functionality? In other words, look for a package that quickly and cost-effectively delivers access to the “best practices” functionality that’s most relevant to you.
3. Better controls
Our rising dependence on smarter, more-complex and costlier assets in a digital age means that these assets’ failure can bring catastrophic consequences. This is one reason why regulatory bodies have increased their pressure on companies across industries. Pressure comes in the form of mandated policies and procedures, compliance audits, mandatory certification, hefty penalties for noncompliance, and large fines and even jail time for the individuals deemed responsible.
Asset management software vendors have recognized this trend and have developed features and functions that can assist senior management in implementing more-effective controls and reducing risk. These features include electronic signature, risk-scoring, document management, alarms and notifications, and more. In addition, numerous health, safety, and environmental modules have been integrated into the CMMS/EAM: risk management, compliance management, safety management, change management, event management, incident management, environmental management, sustainability, energy management, and case management among them. These modules ensure that controls are in place to protect your workers, the environment, and the public.
4. More-sophisticated mobile solutions
One of the most promising trends continues to be the improvements made to CMMS/EAM mobile solutions. Given the rapid change in technology used in laptops, tablets and especially smartphones, it has been difficult for CMMS/EAM vendors to keep up with what’s available. This is exacerbated by the multitude of devices, operating systems, software, and telecommunications technology on the market. Most vendors have made numerous attempts at developing software for mobile, but there is opportunity to do much more. For example, the number of sensors, tools, and apps available on a typical smartphone is staggering. This will make it easier for CMMS/EAM vendors and others to develop context-sensitive functionality – in other words, to support better decision-making through greater knowledge of you and your environment.
One example of how context-sensitive functionality works involves GPS technology built into a mobile device. Your CMMS/EAM application should be able to incorporate maintainer location into way-finding and scheduling functionalities. Similarly, a built-in camera is useful for taking photos or videos or even live-streaming from a problematic asset in support of root-cause analysis. RFID tags affixed to critical assets on the move can be used to track assets’ whereabouts. Ultimately, look for mobile solutions that empower and reduce administrative work for the front line, as well as promote improved communications between the front line and management.
5. Greater industry focus
Every industry has its own terminology, procedures, asset hierarchy, key performance indicators, and so on. Ultimately, this translates into unique user requirements that CMMS/EAM software must satisfy to build market share in a given industry. Under the wider umbrella of asset classes, different industries and their respective industry-specific requirements can be grouped. Here are examples:
- General manufacturing – ability to distinguish between an asset hierarchy identifying unique serialized assets and a functional or positional hierarchy identifying where a serialized asset fits (e.g., tire #30789 fits on functional asset “right passenger wheel”)
- Pharmaceutical – electronic signature
- Municipalities – ability to enter results of a building condition assessment on a mobile device and report on key performance indicators, such as the facility condition index
- Property management – help desk and service management functionality for handling tenant complaints and service requests as well as dispatching maintainers
- Public transit – vehicle maintenance reporting standards (VMRS) codes built into the CMMS/EAM asset hierarchy
- Transportation – sustainability features relevant to the fleet, such as the ability to track fuel consumption rates, tire and brake wear, etc.