Implementing or upgrading your CMMS project

March 3, 2011
David Berger, P.Eng., contributing editor, compiles a list of preparations designed to ease the CMMS implementation.

Wouldn’t it be great if upgrading or purchasing a new CMMS was as easy as removing the shrink wrap, sliding the CD into your main computer drive and printing off work orders for waiting maintenance technicians? Unfortunately, myriad get-ready activities must be accomplished well in advance of actually using or even purchasing a CMMS.

Get-ready activities are one-off action items required for a successful implementation. As soon as you know you’re going to purchase a new CMMS or conduct a major upgrade, start compiling a list of get-ready activities. Determine who is responsible for the activity, which resources are required, and task duration. Examples of get-ready activities are defining equipment hierarchies, developing job plans and scrubbing data to be moved from one system to another.

Of course, you could always wait until you purchase the new system, but this dramatically increases the total project cost, extends the timeline and potentially results in a poor implementation. This is because the vendor will be forced to manage the completion of get-ready activities. A vendor is focused on getting you up and running as quickly as possible to get paid and move on to the next customer. For you, this means risking a sub-optimal solution. If you complete the get-ready activities ahead of time, you have a better sense of your needs when selecting the CMMS package and vendor, and therefore, a greater sense of ownership in the project’s success.

So, if you’re in the market for a new CMMS or major upgrade, start compiling your list of get-ready activities and commit to allocating resources and a schedule as soon as possible. Below are examples of get-ready activities that might be relevant to your situation.

Process definition

One of the most important get-ready activities to accomplish well in advance of implementation is defining optimal maintenance processes. If you’re going through a vendor selection, it’s even more important to think through your workflows. This helps you to stay focused on key requirements, not which package appears to have the best bells and whistles or which vendor has the most impressive sales pitch. If you’re contemplating an upgrade, thinking through optimal process flows helps to determine if the new features and functions make sense for your business and how best to use them.

As you walk through each process with the objective of improvement, you’ll undoubtedly think of numerous get-ready activities. For example, it might become evident that a mobile solution might streamline your maintenance processes, from receiving work assignments electronically throughout the day to scanning each piece of equipment worked on and on to entering time and materials against each job. In turn, this proposed solution might lead to identifying get-ready activities, such as:

  • Assessing the feasibility of mobile devices
  • Determining whether field equipment is barcoded and entered accurately in your current CMMS
  • Considering which coded information, such as problem, cause and action codes, might be useful to ease data entry and subsequent analysis
  • Establishing who will be responsible for scheduling and downloading work assignments.

Work environment

The most often overlooked get-ready activity is determining changes that will be required in the work environment or physical space. This includes ensuring there’s adequate room for new hardware such as computer equipment, workstations, kiosks and printers. To better understand the potential work-environment concerns for a given process, it might be useful to conduct a bit of market research, benchmark other companies in a similar work environment, complete a quick feasibility study or even run a proof-of-concept for a few weeks to test some theories. Following on the example above regarding mobile solutions, this might lead to uncovering work-environment questions.

  • Is telecommunication coverage adequate? Is there wireless reception for those working underground or in the field?
  • Are the mobile devices practical to carry and use? Can they withstand temperatures, humidity, poor lighting and dust?
  • Are the devices intrinsically safe for potentially explosive environments such as refineries?

Organizational structure

Process analysis often points to gaps in the organizational structure. Consequently, there might be a need for get-ready activities such as clarifying roles and responsibilities, balancing workload, addressing a skills gap or filling a need for more resources. Changing an organizational structure can take months or even years, so starting early might prove beneficial.


If a company wants to move to mobile solutions, there might be a change in who is responsible for assigning work. Suppose that field workers currently come to the maintenance shop each morning to pick up paperwork orders and instructions from the supervisor, receive updates throughout the day via telephone and return at the end of the day to drop off completed paperwork orders for a clerk to enter into the CMMS.

Perhaps the new process allows technicians to go directly to the first assignment because work orders are downloaded to mobile device each morning and throughout the day. This might suggest a change in roles and responsibilities. It might be beneficial to hire a planner/scheduler to support the supervisors in assigning work centrally. Technicians will have to take responsibility for entering their own data. Finally, supervisors will need to pay closer attention to what the technicians are doing, as well as the accuracy of data entered.


The vast majority of get-ready activities are related to data. Many can be identified easily when analyzing processes, especially if gaps such as incomplete or inaccurate data are obvious. The more prevalent get-ready activities include the following.

Master data: Many companies have incomplete master data files that are missing or have out-of-date records. Other master files to consider updating include parts master, vendor master and employee master. For some large, asset-intensive companies, it can take years to update master records, which is why it’s essential to ensure there’s a process for maintaining future accuracy.

Hierarchies: Every CMMS requires careful consideration of the hierarchical framework for defining data relationships. It’s critical to determine the best way to structure data to get the most out of your CMMS in terms of ease of use, analysis and reporting.
Some of the key hierarchies to define are:

  • Corporate — companies, divisions, departments
  • Asset —  production line, equipment, system, assembly, components
  • Position — driver side, rear, top
  • Location — United States, Tulsa, Plant #1
  • Chart of accounts.
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Code Tables: Modern CMMS packages are heavily table-driven. This is great for users in that it’s easier to search, filter, sort and analyze tabular data. The downside is that codes must be clearly defined so that users use them properly and the data will be meaningful. For example, problem, cause and action codes should be relevant to the equipment on which work is being performed.

Other: Many other get-ready activities involve thinking through how data will be entered, manipulated and reported. Examples include building accurate job plans, determining integration requirements to other systems such as ERP and shop-floor applications, establishing data security requirements and determining what equipment history should be transferred to the new system.

E-mail Contributing Editor David Berger, P.Eng., partner, Western Management Consultants, at [email protected].