There have been many lessons learned over the years by companies implementing new or upgraded CMMS software. One of the most important learnings is that your CMMS is but a tool used to support the most efficient and effective processes.
If this sounds obvious, it may surprise you how few companies have been able to make it happen. Think of the hundreds of thousands of CMMS implementations that have taken place in North America over the past decade or more. Implementation usually looks something like this: develop system requirements, then select a system, then implement the new CMMS with whatever changes to processes are required.
The problem with this approach is that it is system-focused. We need to first change the way people work (i.e., processes) and the way they think about work (i.e., attitude or change management). To be successful in bringing about meaningful change, such as improved asset reliability and performance while lowering maintenance costs, we should implement as follows:
- Develop improved processes and supporting system requirements that address key issues;
- Upgrade your software or select a new system that supports the improved processes; and,
- Implement the updated processes and configure the new software according to system requirements.
For example, suppose there is a high percentage of emergency work orders that makes it difficult to prioritize and schedule work. Now bring on the new CMMS software and see what happens.
The new system considers the criticality of the equipment requiring maintenance, the impact on safety, and the nature and location of work to be done. The CMMS automatically generates a schedule in MS Project based on a complex algorithm that considers all of these factors.
You can even run what-if scenarios and play with the workload balancing and availability of various crews. You can look at history and see that we have done some of this emergency work before so that we can re-use some of the standard work order tasks. However, this scenario ignores the root cause of having so many emergency work orders in the first place.
Instead of simply implementing a CMMS to better handle the volume of emergency work, you need to first redesign the processes to eliminate the root cause. By identifying the non-value-added activities, you realize say, in the example above, that the condition of a few of the assets needs to be carefully monitored with condition-based maintenance, some require more extensive and consistent preventive maintenance, and operations needs to allow scheduled downtime on a regular basis for key equipment. Now look for a CMMS that properly supports these improved processes, rather than a CMMS that supports the perpetuation of the underlying problem.
The example above demonstrates just how dumb the system per se is without you. You are needed to determine how best to configure and use the CMMS through process design, and to obtain the stakeholder buy-in necessary for adopting all changes. These steps are required to achieve performance targets previously agreed to by all levels and departments.
Process engineering steps are usually conducted in multi-disciplinary teams involving key stakeholders. Many companies prefer to use an outside facilitator to provide a proven methodology, and to present a fresh outlook on their processes. Automated tools such as flowcharting software or process mapping packages can be used to assist the teams.
In general, the following steps are involved in designing new processes for the management of assets:
1. Map existing processes. A flow diagram can be constructed showing the existing activities involved in key processes such as handling work requests, job planning, preventive maintenance, and procurement. Flowcharting software packages can be used to assist with this rather tedious exercise. Flow diagrams can become quite busy and confusing; therefore, it is important to develop a summary level flow first, with progressively more detailed flows for each high-level task.
2. Determine inputs/outputs. Each activity requires some input to each expected output. Inputs and outputs should be documented for each activity. For example, one activity may be entering labor data into the CMMS. The input could be daily time sheets entered manually or automatically via a “running clock” feature on mobile devices. An example of a corresponding output is an updated work order status report.
3. Document existing job profiles. In this step, job descriptions are written that identify activities relevant for each job title (e.g., senior mechanic, purchasing agent). Of primary importance is that the activities in the job profiles are the same activities as those identified in the process flow diagrams. Thus, the end result is a flow of activities by process, and a listing of these same activities by job title.
4. Determine volumes/frequencies. For each activity performed by a given job title, appropriate volumes and frequencies are determined. For example, two storeroom clerks may spend 35% of their time physically searching for parts, for a total of 0.7 person-years. Three purchasing agents may place an average of 20 orders per day. Activity-based costing software and some process engineering packages are helpful for logging this information. Ultimately, volumes and frequencies are useful for proper manpower balancing and organizational design in light of any changes to procedures.
5. Prioritize and categorize activities. Activities must be prioritized (e.g., high, medium, and low) as to their importance in meeting the goals and objectives of the department. Additionally, activities can be classified as to the nature of the work performed, thereby giving a sense of value-add. Categories such as material handling, inspection, authorization, and data input can be used.
6. Identify opportunities for improvement. This step is clearly at the heart of the redesign process. The goal is to eliminate non-value-added activities, simplify the work, and improve the effectiveness of the process. Teams must dig deep and determine the root cause of any problems identified. For example, if it is determined that too much time is spent on material handling, do not assume that purchasing $1 million worth of conveyors and new material handling equipment will solve the problem. It could be that the stores and maintenance shop are not located centrally and layouts may be sub-optimal. Kitting parts ahead of time, moving to decentralized tool cribs and parts storage, and better planning of major overhauls may be a more cost-effective response to the problem.
7. Map proposed processes. Flow diagrams reflecting proposed changes are prepared in this step. When compared to existing flows, the proposed processes should be less complicated, more streamlined, and have fewer activities. Some process engineering software packages allow simulation of proposed processes to test different assumptions.
8. Document proposed job profiles. Job profiles are prepared corresponding to the proposed processes. In some cases, jobs are combined or eliminated entirely as a result of streamlining activities, minimizing redundancies, and removing non-value-added activities.
9. Determine CMMS changes required. Inevitably, changes to processes imply changes to the CMMS will be required. Sometimes this suggests moving to a new CMMS; however, often the vendor can assist in making better use of the existing system, or the user can (re-)configure the package to fit the need.
10. Perform cost/benefit analysis. Any improvements to the process must be quantified in terms of savings and costs in light of established performance measures and targets. In order to better manage the expectations of top management, only promise the minimum required to get approval, just in case actual savings fall short of original estimates. Once again process engineering or activity-based costing software can help in performing the analysis.
11. Develop an implementation plan. The final step before delivering on promises is to develop a detailed implementation plan. Start with a low-cost conference room pilot to test the new processes and support systems, using the best resources available.
This story originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.
This article is part of our monthly Asset Manager column. Read more from David Berger.