Software Integration 633466c0e8ed5

Better integration drives CMMS solutions

Sept. 28, 2022
David Berger says modern CMMS systems are scalable and flexible and focused on condition monitoring and reliability.

Now more than ever, given supply chain woes, rising inflation and ongoing political instability, management teams are searching for improved ways to radically lower costs and increase sales. Today’s sophisticated CMMS/EAM system solutions can provide just that through innovative ways to collect and analyze data, in order to help make or even execute better decisions. Modern management tools can connect and integrate enterprise-wide information systems anywhere in the world. The ability to drill down to base data provides managers with visibility throughout the supply chain.

The search for such a management tool is a result of two distinct trends emerging in the software marketplace as described below. They are greater integration, as well as deeper analytics and data mining capability.

Greater integration

Greater integration for CMMS vendors means partnering, aligning, or merging with complementary software vendors, such as those providing smart assets and sensors in every asset class (e.g., plant equipment, mobile assets, facilities, infrastructure, technology). Examples of smart assets include robots, driverless cars, facility door locks, and 3D printing.

Smart sensors are ubiquitous with providing tracking and control capability when coupled with programmable controllers, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). The common thread with smart devices is the internet, allowing the transport of data from anywhere to anywhere. Intermediary devices abound such as data storage locally (decentralized) and on the cloud (centralized), as well as best of both (distributed) via technology such as edge computing.

Other integrated software products include virtual or augmented reality, digital twins and simulation, cybersecurity, and reliability-centred maintenance. The greatest alignment is with the ERP vendors—in fact, they can be the same vendor often referred to as “best of breed” CMMS/EAM systems. However, CMMS vendors that do form some sort of alliance, must still maintain the flexibility to integrate with other popular software packages such as SAP, Oracle, or Microsoft.

The evolution to more extensive integration is paralleled by a greater integration of the key departments/people responsible for managing assets, namely, maintenance, operations, and engineering. Modern day “asset management” puts maintenance on par with operations and underlines the importance of partnership between the two functions. The maintenance department manages the assets to ensure availability and reliability. This is so that the operations department can better run the assets, in order to achieve maximum productivity, quality, and service. Engineering plays a vital role as asset owners, or at a minimum, seamless support of the operations and maintenance functions.

Another critical area of integration is across a given enterprise, whether a single facility with multiple departments, or a complex multi-national organization. Huge gains can be made by consolidating, standardizing, and streamlining the processes and supporting systems related to managing assets. This can be done across multiple geographies, product lines, asset classes, asset lifecycle, and all along the supply chain. It is precisely the existence of these numerous complex dimensions that leads to the substantial savings potential achieved through better integration.


The second key trend in the software industry is better analytics. In some circles, for example, analytics centers around data warehousing and data-marts that can store huge volumes of data (often referred to as “Big Data”) for extracting trends, correlations, even behavior patterns of individual consumers, so that marketing can more accurately target them. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are useful tools to facilitate pattern recognition (e.g., predicting failures, diagnosing problems more accurately). This beats the shotgun approach of the past.

Analysis tools are no strangers to shop-floor data collection system vendors. For more than a decade, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) have been collecting reams of data that help monitor and control shop-floor activity for highly automated manufacturers such as the process manufacturing industry.

For companies with a large asset base, the CMMS today can deliver substantial reductions in cost and even increased sales potential over CMMS predecessors. The increased sales are made possible by increasing the availability of production equipment and eliminating or minimizing the cause of poor quality product, such as improperly maintained equipment. This is relevant for companies producing at capacity, i.e., companies that can sell whatever they produce.

So what’s the catch, you ask? The analysis capability built into the modern CMMS/EAM is only as good as the people using the tool. That means companies must take a strategic approach by setting goals and objectives for what the technology and processes are to accomplish, and using the tool to track against key performance targets. For example, what is a reasonable target reduction of asset downtime or spare parts inventory level? 

Use the sophisticated features and functions of the CMMS/EAM system, like activity-based costing, workflow, and reliability-centred maintenance, to change the way the business is managed. This is not a project you undertake every few years. There must be a culture of continuous improvement. Shared performance targets can be used to ensure close alignment of operations and maintenance, for example, a target to decrease maintenance cost per unit of production.

Described below are five key criteria that differentiate a modern CMMS/EAM system from the CMMS of the past.  How does your current package stack up?

1. Scalability—The “E” in EAM stands for enterprise, which implies scalability. A simple CMMS is adequate for a centralized, single plant operation. However, large multi-nationals have struggled for years with each of their plants choosing separate packages based on their size, product mix, location, or management style. Even if the corporation decided on a single CMMS, standards such as numbering conventions were rarely set or adhered to, and data was minimally shared. Today, the scalability of EAM systems means acting like one big virtual plant operation, so that more cost-effective decisions can be made.

2. Flexibility—Companies that can change rapidly have a huge competitive advantage in today’s fast-paced global marketplace. An EAM system gives you the ability to reconfigure the system quickly to meet new business requirements by employing user-definable business rules embedded in the software. A simple CMMS on the other hand, uses hard-coded, parameter-driven technology that forces businesses to adapt to the system, rather than the reverse.

3. Condition Monitoring—A CMMS emphasizes prevention, clearly an improvement over fire-fighting or reactive maintenance. But the modern EAM system takes it one step further by balancing the advantages and disadvantages of failure-based, use-based, or condition-based maintenance – the only three ways maintenance is triggered for any given asset or component. For example, replacing a high-wear component of an expensive asset when it first shows signs of breaking down (condition-based maintenance), is clearly superior to replacing it every six months during shutdown (use-based maintenance) or whenever it breaks (failure-based maintenance).

An EAM system with superior analysis tools also gives you what-if capability to determine the best course of action.  For example, an EAM system could help you predict the effects of moving from two 8-hour shifts to two 12-hour shifts in order to accommodate a plant shutdown.

4. Decision Support—An EAM system has the ability to make “decisions” or present alternatives to management, based on pre-defined business rules and the analysis of data.  For example, you may set up a business rule that if a work order of value greater than $100,000 for parts and $10,000 for labor goes more than 10% over-budget, the system will take action. Possible actions are to automatically send an email to the supervisor with a warning, queue the work order for senior management approval, disallow any further charges to the work order, and/or simply print an exception report showing over-budget work orders.

5. Reliability Focus—Another key differentiation of modern EAM systems is the focus on reliability. This includes analysis of data such as problem, cause, and action codes to minimize trial-and-error-based corrective maintenance. Furthermore, equipment history from across the enterprise can be used to build a troubleshooting database, determine which parts and components provide maximum reliability, and improve repair/replace decisions through analysis of total cost of ownership.

This story originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of Plant Services. Subscribe to Plant Services here.

About the Author: David Berger

David Berger, P.Eng. (AB), MBA, is president of The Lamus Group Inc., a consulting firm that provides advice and training to extract maximum performance, quality and value from your physical assets, processes, information systems and organizational design. Based in Toronto, Berger has held senior positions in industry, including for two large manufacturers, and senior roles in consulting. He has written more than 450 articles on a variety of topics such as asset management, operations management, information technology, e-commerce, organizational design, and strategy. Contact him at [email protected].

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