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.

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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.”

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