Easy-to-implement CMMS modules for improved equipment reliability and performance

July 7, 2022
David Berger says these two simple modules will move you toward planned maintenance and maximize equipment uptime.

Although management is well aware that spending thousands if not millions of dollars on a CMMS does not in and of itself guarantee a return on the investment, it is rather surprising how few companies can boast full benefits realization. Even years after implementation, many companies struggle to get the most out of their CMMS.

Asset Manager

This article is part of our monthly Asset Manager column. Read more from David Berger.

There is so much pressure on North American industry to reduce costs, through better planning and less fire-fighting. This must translate into higher efficiency and utilization of maintainers and operators, as well as lower equipment downtime from greater reliability and performance of equipment. The CMMS is an essential tool used in support of this objective.

In this column we turn to two of the simplest and most fundamental CMMS modules, Work Management and Equipment History, to get at the low hanging fruit.

Work Management module

Moving to 100% planned maintenance of assets through the Work Management module is an easy sell-conceptually-yet so few companies fully embrace it. There are only three ways maintenance of assets can be triggered, namely maintenance policies as follows:

  1. failure-based maintenance or run-to-fail
  2. use-based maintenance where maintenance is done on a regular basis whether it needs it or not (e.g., changing the filter each month)
  3. condition-based maintenance where maintenance is triggered upon regular inspection by reaching an upper or lower control limit (e.g., changing bearings upon inspecting vibration on rotating equipment every quarter when levels exceed a given value). 

To understand the resistance to establishing a work program that embraces an optimal mix of these three maintenance policies for each asset, one need not look farther than your family car. Most of us agree that, when done on a regular basis, changing the oil, inspecting the belts, and ensuring proper tire pressure can significantly extend the life of your car.

Why then do so few people do these very simple routines even though they know it is good for them? Instead, the default is allowing systems and components to run to failure rather than planning what maintenance policy should be implemented for which asset. One problem is that there are no immediate consequences, therefore planning appropriate maintenance policies becomes low priority. It is not surprising to find top management espousing the virtues of planned maintenance. However, the demands of production, and the expense in time and money in establishing and maintaining a work program, cause an indefinite delay in the implementation of streamlined work management.

Because of its simplicity, the work management module of CMMS packages are fairly similar. All of them give you the option of triggering work orders based on calendar and meter readings (i.e., use-based maintenance policy). Most CMMS packages allow users to trigger maintenance based on events or condition readings taken directly from equipment on the shop floor on an online, real-time basis (i.e., condition-based maintenance policy). These readings are compared to the allowable upper and lower control limits and can even spot an alarming trend before downtime occurs. Herein lies the power of the work management module to achieve the objective of minimizing downtime.

The calendar feature differs slightly from one software package to another, in terms of ease of use and level of detail. High-end packages use graphics to display calendars showing holidays, vacations, shift hours, and scheduled overtime for an individual maintainer. Low-end packages dispense with the fancy graphics and may only provide calendars by crew or plant, not by individual. The calendar feature is important to achieve the objective of maximum maintainer utilization.

Another significant difference between CMMS packages with respect to their work management modules lies not within the module itself, but the ability of the package to interface with other software such as document imaging, workflow, predictive maintenance, ERP, shutdown maintenance, and project management software.

With the purchase of an optical scanner, and/or using CAD software, document imaging allows users to attach either scanned or CAD images to a piece of equipment, work order, or inspection record. These images can then be retrieved within the work management module or other maintenance management modules for viewing, printing or editing. Thus, a maintenance worker can prepare a free-hand sketch of lubrication points on a piece of equipment, scan it, and the system will automatically print it each time the appropriate use-based or condition-based work order is printed. This translates into greater efficiency and effectiveness of maintainers when performing maintenance.

The interface with ERP (i.e., production planning software), shutdown maintenance and project management software provides a means of coordinating equipment downtime with production, and managing the planned overhaul of equipment. This interface can dramatically reduce the amount of unplanned downtime experienced, as well as the length of downtime required for conducting maintenance.

Equipment History module

The Equipment History module, if it is properly designed and used, provides the greatest source of savings and benefits to the maintenance department in terms of minimizing downtime and maximizing maintainer utilization. Let us examine why this is so, and how CMMS packages differ in their treatment of this important module.

First and foremost, maintenance is responsible for maximization of equipment uptime. That is why downtime reporting is an essential part of Equipment History. Vendors offer a variety of analysis tools to help understand the nature and cause of downtime, as well as optimal solutions. Advanced features include reliability-centred maintenance, activity-based management, troubleshooting database, asset performance and reliability (e.g., mean time between failure), total cost of asset ownership, and so on.

Many vendors are improving their budgeting capability and variance reporting. Also, some CMMS vendors offer serialized component tracking including detailed repair history. This is an important feature for companies that have considerable repair/replace activity, and where repaired components are not necessarily replaced into the original equipment.

Maintainer utilization answers the question, “What is the company paying for the current level of service to production?” If the number of maintainers was cut by say 25%, how would it affect the level of equipment downtime in the short to long term? In my experience, the average maintainer utilization in North America is approximately at least 45%.  This can be calculated for your company through Industrial Engineering work measurement techniques such as work sampling.

Maintainer utilization can also be derived through the CMMS by analyzing time sheet data. By maintainers reporting each day on the breakdown of hours spent on each activity, the Equipment History module can summarize by day, week, month, and year for each person, crew, trade, cost center, or the entire maintenance department.

The types of activities include failure-based maintenance, use-based maintenance, condition-based inspections, condition-based maintenance, emergency reactive maintenance, capital projects, standing work orders, administration, and training. As well, the breakdown can be in terms of regular hours, overtime hours, contracted hours, and percentage, and can then be compared to same time last year or to budget. 

These reports, used in conjunction with the work backlog report, are essential for measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of a maintenance department. Suppose the mechanical tradespeople booked for last year, 40% of their payroll hours on emergency reactive maintenance, 10% on failure-based maintenance, 40% on standing work orders (e.g., minor lubrications and inspections, and jobs under 30 minutes), and 10% on capital projects, including a 20% overtime premium. If the backlog of work for the mechanical trade is estimated at one person-year, and there are only six mechanics in the department, then certain conclusions may be drawn. 

First, too much time is spent fighting fires. This is not a feeling—there are figures to support your claim. Second, little use-based and condition-based maintenance are done. Third, overtime is a chronic problem. Fourth, more people or contract maintenance is required to eliminate the overtime and clear the backlog of planned work, since only 10% of six people are available to do one person-year of backlogged work.

Finally, 40% spent on small jobs is very high, and could be caused by workers charging idle time (e.g., waiting for parts, waiting for instructions, excessive walking, extra time spent on jobs) to the standing work order “slush account”. Once corrective action has been taken, further reports are generated to highlight whether problems have been addressed. 

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

About the Author: David Berger
About the Author

David Berger | P.Eng. (AB), MBA, president of The Lamus Group Inc.

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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