CMMS / Software / Asset Management System

How a new CMMS can set the structure for success

In this edition of What Works, a new CMMS (and patience) proves a lifeline for a casting company drowning in data.

When Joe Monson, a facilities manager at Clackamas, OR-based casting company PCC Structurals, arrived on the job 3.5 years ago, the CMMS in place wasn’t exactly being used to best effect. 

“It was basically a giant electronic filing cabinet,” Monson says. The system hadn’t been updated in several years, he says, and there wasn’t an efficient way to run meaningful reports on work orders. “You had to just collect all the work orders you thought you might be interested in and read them, and then you had to sort of manually categorize them,” Monson says. “It was a lot.”

The CMMS, as a result, wasn’t helping the maintenance team evaluate the effectiveness of its existing PMs or take a critical look at unplanned work. “About 80% of our labor was spent on corrective action work orders,” says Monson. “It was basically impossible to schedule or to tell what was going to happen on any given day, because we were firefighting.”

Worse, the approximately 30-person maintenance team had spent about 15 years working within and mastering that system. Technicians had become “very disciplined in checking out parts to work orders and also in written descriptions of the problems and solutions,” but without a simple and effective way to work-order reports, it was difficult to tell what was working and what wasn’t.

Monson wanted big changes: “We had to try to flip the ratio of planned work to corrective work,” he says. That change would start with a more-disciplined and analytical approach to goal-setting – and a new CMMS.

PCC Structurals chose a CMMS solution from eMaint (a Fluke company, as of 2016). The new CMMS offered plenty of capabilities in terms of navigating lists of work orders and running detailed work-order analyses, plus strong user support, Monson says. But beyond enhancing the maintenance department’s technical capabilities, he notes, switching to a new CMMS did something else.
“It allowed us to draw a line in the sand and say, we’re going to put in a new CMMS system and try to do things differently,” Monson says. “That was important because otherwise we would have had to fight through a lot of legacy procedures.”

Monson also homed in on determining the metrics that would be the best indicators of the maintenance team’s success or failure. “For me the most important thing was defining one goal and then associating some metrics that would drive that goal,” he says. “Where we’ve landed now is that our goal is to maximize equipment availability to production.”

A year ago, when the new CMMS was ready to roll, Monson thought he and the maintenance team were as ready as they could be to make this concerted push to become a more-proactive, better-planned department. “We did training, we made modules, we did an audit of the system,” he says. Still, maintenance technicians cautioned that they weren’t going to really be able to tell how everything worked  until they worked for real within the system.

Rollout of the new CMMS and associated initiatives designed to shift maintenance practices came and went, and...cue sad trombone. “We tried to accomplish a lot of changes in terms of how we wanted to change the maintenance department, and I would say about 98% of those desired changes or desired initiatives failed” at the outset, Monson says. “It was too much, too fast.”

In the 20/20 view of hindsight, Monson offers this reflection: “If I could go back in time and do it again, what I would have done is recreated extremely closely the system that we had before eMaint so that from a maintenance technician perspective, the shock or the difference between the two from a practical standpoint, from a day-to-day standpoint, was as small as possible.” The full eMaint CMMS offered flexibility such that dashboards and functionalities could have been tailored to allow for a more-seamless transition from the system the PCC Structurals team was familiar with – that just hadn’t been part of the plan for Monson and the implementation team.

“If we had just made the program easy to switch from one to the other on Day 1 and then let six months go by, we wouldn’t have had to deal with all the frustration of, ‘Oh, this is different, and I don’t know how to do this or that,’ ” Monson says. “And then we could have just let the program speak for itself over the next six months.”

A year later, things are going decidedly more smoothly. “Now being a year into it, the maintenance leadership team, our leads, and our supervisors, who use the full accounts, are thinking of it very favorably,” Monson says of the full CMMS. “They’re seeing the ease of use and that it’s very powerful and they can do a lot. And they’re seeing that we can work with eMaint and make changes.”

As the plant looked to improve labor efficiency – some 18,000 work orders are completed a year – it set its sights on reducing PM frequency.

“We started to look at the yield on our PMs – how often did we get a pass?” Monson says. “And we used that as an indicator of, do I need to do this PM more often or less often? We created a Pareto chart of our top PM procedures in terms of cost, and then we looked at the yields of each of those procedures’ steps, and what we found was there was a great deal of PMs that we could reduce the frequency on. So we said, this was a weekly PM, but it passed for six months in a row, so we changed it to a biweekly or a monthly.”

To ensure that these PM reductions don’t “come back to haunt us,” says Monson, the team put in place control charts to monitor maintenance costs on a given asset. If costs and corrective work orders spike, PMs on that asset will be re-evaluated.

Capturing what Monson calls “low-hanging fruit” such as reducing PM frequency where appropriate led to quick results. “We took about 900 manhours out of the year,” he says. Rather than reduce headcount in response, the plant created improvement teams to analyze persistent and problematic corrective actions. “We’ve freed up some time for maintenance technicians to contribute,” he says. “We’ve got...some people who say: ‘You know what? I’ve always thought that (a given practice) was a waste of time, and it’s been driving me nuts forever, and I’m glad it’s going away, and hey, let’s look over here.’ To me, that looks to be the start of a trend in terms of ‘Hey, we can take charge.’ ”

This all is in service of Monson’s ultimate goal of maximum equipment availability, which previously had been a challenge to assess. “What we’ve determined now is that...parts charges to a given asset and (technicians’) labor hours on a given asset” – which technicians were already accustomed to entering before the CMMS switch – “got us about 95% of the way there in terms of having a reliable needle to look at and to move,” he says. In other words: Maintenance spending and labor now are used as a proxy for assessing equipment availability. “If we’re not spending any money on  it, then we’re not working on it, and it’s probably available,” Monson says.

The new CMMS, as part of a broader push to analyze maintenance  performance and look for improvement opportunities, is helping the PCC Structurals team “go back to our maintenance data and look at where we were working the most, where we were putting in all of our effort, and how do we reduce that,” says Monson. “Because if we have more labor available, then we’ll be able to address more problems.” The shift to more planned and less reactive work is still a work in progress, but, Monson offers, “I think that we’re on the right track, for the first time.”