10 principles for CMMS implementation and utilization success

Aug. 11, 2020
Follow these 10 steps to bridge the gap from system implementation to utilization.

Arguably, at the cornerstone of any sound asset management, reliability, or maintenance strategy is the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). From selection to setup and utilization through data analysis and continuous improvement, your CMMS plays a major role in your success in maintenance and reliability. As such, a poorly designed CMMS implementation can be a major inhibitor to achieving success. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to gain some experience in this arena. Some of those experiences have gone extremely well. Others have taught me lessons in what not to do a second time.

Let us look at some principles for implementation and utilization success. When you are finished reading this article, I encourage you to drop this article on the desk of others who may need it.

Implementation principle one: Do not be in a hurry when it comes to selection

Manufacturing operations have literally hundreds of CMMS options to choose from. The ultimate decision may have lasting effects, as you will likely be with this system a minimum of five years. Considering the additional work involved in migrating from one system to another, your company is likely to stick with this decision unless it encounters serious issues with the legacy system.

The overall selection process should include a Request for Information (RFI), where you ask general questions regarding functionality to ensure only vendors who can meet your needs move along the selection path.

Questions within the RFI should be written clearly, such as, “Does your solution have out of the box functionality to automatically generate PM work orders based on meter reading inputs that hit an action limit set by user?” For each question within the RFI, the vendor should be directed to expand on the answer. Stay away from vendors who simply provide Yes/No answers. RFI responses should be scored to develop a shortlist of vendors who will provide demonstrations of their systems.

Create a scripted demonstration for your potential vendors to follow as part of their demos. What does this mean? Do not rely on their demos alone. They will likely demonstrate using previously created records, which will not help you truly understand how user friendly the system is.

Below is a sample basic script. Be sure your script touches on areas that you are interested in, which may include reporting capabilities:

  1. Create a location record (if system uses location records).
  2. Create an asset/equipment record assigned to a location from step one.
  3. Create an inventory record.
  4. Create a basic job plan with two tasks and assign the inventory record from step three.
  5. Create a PM record for an asset/equipment from step two and assign the job plan from step four.
  6. Generate the PM work order and show the inventory record reservation.
  7. Assign the work order and walk through to completion with the steps.

Implementation principle two: Know your needs

Management may expect you to use the capabilities that exist within an existing ERP system. Ensure that the functionality meets your needs, helping you to see value and make business decisions. Evaluate the existing ERP’s capability in this space as you would when selecting any other system. Remember, just because you can put a table in a Word document does not mean you can do without Excel. You need a system that can deliver results. A list of user requirements will help ensure results.

A User Requirement Specification (URS) contains the needs of the business – what capabilities must exist or what information should be required on different record types. While this may need some revisions based on the system you ultimately choose, it is recommended to have a URS before final vendor selection. Also, vendors can use the URS to help develop the statement of work and provide a more accurate estimate of costs.

Implementation principle three: Take advantage of the opportunity

An upgrade or change of CMMS provides a great opportunity to improve data quality and processes associated with work execution. Take advantage of this. Ensure your equipment hierarchy is accurate, fix naming and numbering conventions, and standardize value lists. Taking the time to ensure data quality will pay dividends throughout the lifecycle of the new system. 

In addition to data quality, an upgrade or new CMMS implementation is also a great time to assess best practice processes for managing maintenance work. Ensure that the new system contains enough work order statuses to align to your business process.

A good rule of thumb is this: each status should be owned by only one role in the maintenance org chart. The maintenance manager should know exactly who to call by a work order’s status. If in “Planning,” call the planner. If in “Awaiting Materials,” call the storeroom. Each role may have multiple statuses, but each status should belong to only one role. 

Implementation principle four: Standardize what should be standardized

This is particularly important if you have multiple locations. Value lists such as statuses, equipment classes, or priorities should be standardized to ensure clean data reporting. Equally important will be decisions such as using smart numbers or auto numbers for records. My recommendation is to avoid smart numbers wherever possible. Inevitably, they lead to being forced to modify the logic to accommodate what was not thought of before, or due to exceeding character limits.

Implementation principle five: If you want it, require it

Data quality will have a direct impact on your reporting, performance tracking, and deeper data analysis. If you expect downtime to be tracked for breakdown maintenance, require it. If you need failure reporting to be utilized, require it. Assurance of available data will provide greater data points and should improve accuracy.

There are two methods for data requirements: system enforced required fields, and process enforced required fields. Clearly, system enforced required fields ensure the data will exist. However, some systems lack the ability to do this conditionally. For instance, if you want only corrective orders to have failure codes, but the CMMS you have chosen does not provide that capability, you may be forced to acquire the data through process. While less accurate, you can use reporting methods to monitor this behavior until it is instilled in the organization. Develop a report to track the percentage of corrective orders with failure codes and a detailed report by technicians, so you can coach those who may need to improve.

Utilization principle one: Training, training, training

Probably the most critical step in ensuring CMMS success will be training. Carefully consider several factors here, such as the length of training for each user role, how training will be delivered, and what additional resources should be available to users after training. 

In-person or virtual live training should be role-based to ensure users are not required to sit through functional learnings they will not use. Training, where possible, should allow users to do live training in a replicated environment. Watching the instructor use the system will have limited success. 

Online training modules where users must enter information and follow along are effective for step-by-step instruction but do not allow for questions or deeper dives into functional capabilities. It is recommended to use online training modules as refresher or online help. 

Utilization principle two: Listen to the users

Feedback on functional capabilities, points of frustration, and/or system glitches should be considered critical. Although you may not be able to deliver all of the functional capabilities users may request, getting a handle on their needs will provide the basis for either business process changes, system changes, or even tickets back to the CMMS vendor if the system is not performing as designed. When users provide feedback be sure to communicate the status and where the request sits in the priority list. If requests are seemingly ignored, users will stop providing feedback. While this may lighten the load, it will not continually improve your CMMS utilization.

Utilization principle three: Do not skimp on system administration

Another huge point of failure in CMMS utilization is a fundamental lack of understanding when considering the volume of administrative work to keep the system clean. From work orders, inventory, PMs, task lists, and equipment records, someone needs to keep it all together. Consider this scenario: if, when replacing a pump, the equipment record is not decommissioned and a new equipment record created, all of the costs associated with the replaced pump will be included in the new pump’s lifecycle cost. 

From cycle counting to equipment replacements, it’s important to ensure that the system you have spent a significant amount of money on stays clean. Over time, an unmanaged system will become frustrating for users as they weed through records that should no longer exist or cannot find records that should exist. A disorganized system is one that will lack utilization.

Utilization principle four: All work must be a work order

Let’s face it, this is probably one of the more difficult principles to achieve. It’s also the most important. The CMMS should be much more than a filing cabinet. It doesn’t exist only to remind us to do PMs or issue parts. At its core, the CMMS is designed to provide information to help manage assets. This includes an understanding of costs, reliability, MTTR, and many other points of data for analysis. Unless all work is accounted for, the data is skewed. If technicians are tapped on the shoulder to perform work and a work order is not generated, the data is lost. In my estimation and based on years of teaching both planning and scheduling and CMMS utilization, the average organization accounts for about 40% of technician time within the CMMS. If this is true, the data used for analysis is lacking substantially. 

Let’s consider a common analysis within the CMMS, such as top 10 lists for cost and reactivity. You pull the data and see which assets are costing the most and which are the most reactive on-site. You take this information to the engineering department and ask to have these assets put on the capital plan for replacement. Sounds like a good strategy – except the data could be significantly different if all the work was accounted for.

I recall working for a previous employer who expanded the cafeteria, and added 27 drains to an existing system without increasing the grease trap size or main drain size. We went from spending minimal time maintaining the system yearly to literally having to chop up grease in the lift station because it was passing the trap. We were able to prove a yearly cost increase of $25,000, go back to engineering with this information, and justify the spend to increase the trap to adequate sizing. We would not have been able to win the battle if we did not account for our work.

All other data in the CMMS is inaccurate if you are not accounting for all work.

Utilization principle five: Track all costs

A step further than just accounting for the work is accounting for all costs. Costs associated with a technician’s time is common. Parts costs are also common, but sometimes lacking if the use of P-Cards is allowed or too frequent. Less common is capturing service related PM and repair work, equipment rentals, and vendor costs associated with collecting condition monitoring points.

Learn how your CMMS can help track these costs. Commonly, a service requisition (similar to a parts requisition) can be generated with a PO issued and assigned to one or more assets. Work orders generated against the PO, when closed, act like parts receipts allowing invoicing to go against the PO and costs to be assigned to the equipment. This works for many CMMS solutions and for service contracts as well. 

Tracking all costs will allow for more accurate lifecycle costing models and help integrate cost into your capital replacement strategy. Getting to this level will allow you to flex your CMMS muscle and have a more respected seat at the table when it comes to capital planning.

Hopefully, these principles for CMMS implementation and utilization help guide you as you continue your journey toward reliability sustainability.

About the Auhtor: George Williams

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