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How to make the most of your CMMS/EAM

Sept. 29, 2014
Determining requirements will drive CMMS software title selection.

The decision to buy a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a milestone in the path toward maintenance excellence. So which title should you purchase? Whatever the decision is, do not make this decision in a vacuum. It will be a very expensive mistake if you choose the wrong program. A core group of internal stakeholders — sponsors, project team members, subject matter experts, and possibly super-users — helps to create a vested interest in the project’s success from the leadership in your organization. More specifically, stakeholders will consist of folks from operations, maintenance, engineering, information technology, purchasing, materials management, accounting and finance. Why? Because CMMS will affect how these groups will conduct their day-to-day business processes. They will have to live with the decision they make. Accounting and finance are the two groups, above all others, that must see the value a CMMS brings to an organization. And the senior members of those two organizations may be the most difficult to convince.

“Live with the decision they make” implies that the selection of a CMMS is extremely significant and influences corporate culture ad infinitum, so be ready to manage the onset of a mandatory paradigm shift for those who still live their maintenance lives documenting work with a writing tablet and mechanical pencil. What is CMMS? It is a computerized system that houses a database of information pertaining to asset management. It contains information about which maintenance to do, when to do it, how to do it, who’s to do it, how long it should take, what the plant condition should be, which parts to use, where the spare parts are and in what quantity. A CMMS archives maintenance history and provides every detail of work, even including costs both internal and external. It should also provide direction on whom to purchase the spare parts from in many cases. Ultimately, A CMMS is a tool used by the maintenance department to efficiently maintain a facility and do so cost-effectively and safely.

Read Ed Espinosa’s previous articles about PdM and CMMS implementation at Puget Sound Energy at http://www.plantservices.com/articles/2013/08-why-pdm-programs-fail/ and http://www.plantservices.com/articles/2014/pdm-after-cmms/.

Determining requirements will drive CMMS software title selection. The requirements are determined by the participating stakeholders. Examples of requirements are factors such as whether or not the company’s facility is a single entity or many facilities spread out over a geographic area. Is the software easy for the end user to use? In other words, will a technically skilled, highly paid journeyworker be spending most of the day navigating through the product trying to document his findings, rather than turning wrenches, or will this aspect of work-order closure be handled by a software-savvy maintenance planner? Will spare parts be shared across the enterprise? How will maintenance costs be tallied up and accounted for, and to what granularity? How much is budgeted for the procurement of this software product?

Besides requirements, what objective is expected to be achieved by using CMMS? And do the stated requirements complement or interfere with the objective? Will key performance indicators (KPIs) be heavily relied upon for meeting the objective? Understanding and agreeing upon the system requirements and corporate objective for the maintenance reliability organization will allow the best choice to be made from all the product offers on the market. No single CMMS software product does everything for everybody; understand this, and know that compromises between stakeholders will play into this decision. A weighted-average system should be devised, weighing each requirement; and the most heavily weighed requirement will help to decide which CMMS to purchase.

Drawing upon the knowledge and technical know-how of stakeholders will make it possible to plan the most intelligent and efficient way of organizing the system. Before designing the system, folks should have an idea of plant layout and equipment to be included in the functional location — equipment hierarchy, how they want to track costs, if outside labor is expected to be heavily utilized, and how important is it to have parts in the storeroom associated with operating equipment in the facility. You have many things to consider. One of the most important decisions to make prior to considering which CMMS to purchase is whether or not your organization will implement a work management process. This is a system of doing work separate from a CMMS, but it relies heavily on CMMS functionalities to provide information that promotes work identification, planning, scheduling, execution, completion, and continuous improvement. Some CMMS programs adapt to this process better than others, so make sure you ask the vendor plenty of questions in this area.


After the CMMS program is procured, implementing this software is the next order of business. Keep in mind that the cost and effort of implementation far exceeds the cost of procurement by threefold or fourfold. Make sure your accounting and finance organization understands this well ahead of time. And choose your project team members wisely. Your team must be thick-skinned, tolerant, and committed to work, and they must even befriend implementation consultants, whose project management acumen might not be palatable and agreeable with your corporate culture.

CMMS software implementation could be a painful and tedious process. But it doesn’t have to be. Allow one year for this phase to take place from start to finish. Discuss, plan, agree, and create an implementation schedule with the consultant project manager. Convey this schedule to your in-house team members and adjust their normal work schedules to accommodate this implementation. Be ready for conflicts, both personal and operational; they just happen and can’t be avoided, so make sure there’s plenty of project contingency built into the schedule before finalizing. Set aside time for periodic meetings without implementation consultants. Keep it informal and inclusive. Maintain an atmosphere of openness by encouraging folks to tell you what they think of this project. If problems are observed with the way things are going, ask for input to remedy these problems. Keep track of progress and the end goal.

Use this expensive implementation as a training opportunity for your team members without making it too obvious that the implementation is not just to install software, but to train the trainers, as well; many of them will become super-users in the near future. Consultants will likely approach this implementation as a massive data gathering effort not to be taken lightly or haphazardly. Remember it’s your data and you want it to be accurate and clean. Remember that “trash in” equals “trash out.” Take the time to do this right. Refer to your piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs) and OEM training manuals for proper equipment nomenclature and identification.

Consultants will be picking your team members’ brains in nearly all cases because they may not be familiar with your industry and associated processes and assets when gathering and adding information onto back-end data-loading templates, especially if they are new to consulting (Figure 1). Your team members will learn and understand table structure and the relationships between fields. This will become very valuable information when the time arrives to build homegrown data-driven KPIs later.

Figure 1. Team members will learn and understand table structure and the relationships between fields, which will become valuable information when the time arrives to build homegrown data-driven KPIs.

Data that will be used to populate these templates will consist of equipment segregated into “functional locations” — the lowest of these in the hierarchy will point to the systems where the equipment resides. The functional location hierarchy is the foundation of the CMMS. Build it so it’s robust enough to be able to use it, but not so much that end users will have trouble finding equipment. Preventive maintenance tasks, with detailed steps on how to perform the task, frequencies, crafts or journeyworkers working on the tasks, spare parts, storerooms, tooling, safety and environmental, are among the other data; but that data and more will be used to populate loading templates.

Functionality feel

You should also have a good feel for what kind of functionalities your team wants to use to make performing work more streamlined and easier. Functionalities can include creating routes on a PM for a logical and ordered approach to maintaining like equipment with the same maintenance requirements. Sequenced or strategy-based PMs offer the flexibility to expand upon task scope with each succeeding task while at the same time keeping the interval between tasks rigid:

  • counter-based PMs call when a certain number of discrete quantifiable units of time or events occur
  • condition-based PMs call when equipment changes condition
  • percentage tolerance and early/late shift factors are used to move the PM call dates up or back depending on when the previous work order was accomplished
  • journeyworker capacity loading and scheduling are used to effectively utilize work hours in a day
  • damage, cause, and remedy codes
  • software resident KPIs are “canned” KPIs either lagging or leading, most likely used to measure work performance

All are to be considered and agreed upon and written into the contract before the implementation commences.

All data templates will be loaded into the software in a non-production environment. There may be up to four of these — training, testing, quality assurance, and sandbox. These environments have their own purposes for use. Consult with your CMMS IT support administrator for the specifics of each environment. After a set of templates is loaded, log onto the environment where the plant data now exist and see how the software operates by taking the software for a test drive through the user-defined and out-of-the-box functionalities.

Ed Espinosa, CMRP, CAPM, is program manager, CMMS, at Puget Sound Energy in Bellingham, Washington. Contact him at [email protected].

CMMS software implementation consultants shall provide a test script which mirrors the data and functionality under which the data will be used. A test script is a series of scenarios using the CMMS software by certain users whose roles are defined by the administrator encompassing security settings providing rights and privileges; this too will influence the work management process that will be rolled out later. Run the software though the gauntlet by allowing battle-hardened craftspeople to try to break it before moving on to the acceptance testing phase. Test the interfaces between different modules looking at data integrity and process execution issues. Is the software working the way it was described in the sales pitch? Is the data that you see the same as what you submitted to the consultants for loading? Is the storeroom spare parts inventory exactly what you have on the shelf in the proper quantity and storage location? Don’t be afraid to push the limits to find the bugs and exterminate them while consultants are on-site and under contract. After all, this is what testing is for.

Prior to going live in production, end-user acceptance training should take place in a classroom setting with an overhead projector, individual workstations, comfortable chairs, and catered lunches. The end users are the maintenance technicians of every trade, planners, schedulers, business managers, operations and maintenance supervisors, and sometimes, depending on ambition, plant managers who will be using the product in its final form. This is an opportunity to see if the software glitches and bugs previously identified have been fixed, as well as a chance to get the rest of the staff up to speed on the new software. The trainer will be either a consultant who has, over the course of a year, become familiar with your process or a super-user who has become a CMMS subject matter expert and knows the software functionalities and capabilities well. One important aspect to consider is that end users will be using your own data populated in the training environment. This adds a measure of familiarity to the training and reinforces ownership of the data by those who help to populate the loading templates during the first phase. They now recognize the fruits of their efforts in making this product possible.

Repetition is the key to success. As time permits, repeat executing the creation of PMs and work orders and the processing of work orders through the succeeding system. Practice creating procedures and affiliating spare parts to operating equipment. Become so familiar with the CMMS that you will be able to predict the outcome of a process from the onset. And while end-user acceptance training is progressing along identify go-to people in-house who have developed an affinity for CMMS and have a natural ability to work with others after the consultants leave.

Ready for production

Figure 2. When the go-live date is here and the proverbial switch is flipped and the software product you see after logon is the real deal, the production environment is where all transactions and work-order executions matter and impact costs, equipment, and overall plant performance.

After end-user acceptance training is finished and all issues are resolved to the satisfaction of the customer — you — then permission is given by corporate leadership to load the templates to production. This process may take several days, depending on the platform and architecture in which the operating system will live, preferably multiple servers backing each other up in separate physical locations. A word of warning: Have your CMMS IT administrator keep pristine password-protected copies of the original production loading templates for all modules. You never know when you’ll need to refer to them again.

When the go-live date is here and the proverbial switch is flipped and the software product you see after logon is the real deal, the production environment is where all transactions and work-order executions matter and impact costs, equipment, and overall plant performance (Figure 2). Be as ready as you can be, but know that your crews are still novices and the learning curve is just starting. Know that that there will be mistakes made, but none that you can’t recover from. Use these as learning opportunities. Celebrate as a team, consultants included, by hosting a dinner party or some informal get-together at a local establishment. And thank all participants for doing their shares to see this project through to fruition.

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