How a shift in CMMS/EAM can impact nearly all business functions

Aug. 25, 2014
An Ohio plant overcomes challenges in implementing new software.

As part of the enterprise asset management (EAM) conversion by the Commodity Chemicals division of PPG Industries to SAP in 2012, the group was required to convert from the established system of Maximo to the SAP Plant Maintenance (PM) module. The conversion experienced by the maintenance department at the PPG facility in Barberton, Ohio, also impacted nearly all business functions of multiple facilities in the PPG organization.

SMRP Conference

Eric Edmisten, CMRP, reliability engineer at PPG Industries, will present “Overcoming Challenges in Implementing a New CMMS/EAM” at the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 22 at 11 A.M. The presentation will cover the CMMS conversion experienced by the maintenance department of the PPG Barberton, Ohio facility in April 2012 and includes the events of the preparation, changeover, and adaptation to the SAP PM Module after years of using Maximo. Learn more about the SMRP Conference at www.plantservices.com/smrp2014.

Facility background

The PPG Barberton facility, located in northeast Ohio, has been in operation since 1900, when it was established primarily to produce soda ash for glassmaking operations. Today, the products produced at the plant are optical casting resins for eyewear applications, Teslin Synthetic Printing Sheets, and designed silicas used in the manufacture of paints, tires, and rubber products. The maintenance department at the facility consists of 24 skilled tradesmen, two supervisors, two planners, and a reliability engineer. I began employment at PPG Barberton in October 2010 as the reliability engineer, approximately six months prior to the commencement of the SAP conversion project. I was chosen as a subject matter expert (SME) and later as the lead trainer for the PM module at the facility, primarily due to my prior experience with other CMMS systems at previous employers.

Prior to the implementation of SAP, the maintenance group utilized Maximo as the CMMS. All equipment, inspections, and spare parts had been defined in the system. Work requests were entered into the system by department supervision, which would be planned, converted to work orders, and distributed to the maintenance tradesmen. Completed work orders would be returned to the maintenance supervisors for sign-off and then routed to the planners to close in the system. The tradesmen would keep a record of hours spent on work orders, which would be manually entered by the planners on a weekly basis. Spare parts were checked out of the on-site storeroom using a wireless barcode scanner.

In early 2011, PPG’s corporate management announced that the Commodity Chemicals division would be converting to the SAP software for most business processes. The scope of this project included seven separate facilities in three countries and approximately 15 different software packages used for the separate business functions of the company. An extremely aggressive timeframe of 12 months was proposed for the conversion.

Project background

A centralized group called the SAP Core Team was formed to work with a systems integrator to manage the conversion effort. Additionally, each plant assigned a facility lead person, along with several SMEs to assist in the specific conversion details for the individual facilities. These individuals were first required to “blueprint,” or define, the existing processes in order to tailor the SAP application to accommodate the needs of each facility. This process was accomplished primarily through conference calls and Web meetings.

After the blueprinting process was completed, the realization phase of the project began. During this phase, the blueprinted processes were translated into the functionality of the SAP software package. Due to the number of facilities and processes involved, as well as the short timeframe, many compromises had to be made. Despite the compromises, care was taken to preserve existing processes as much as possible. For example, although several plants were previously using Maximo as their CMMS software, each plant’s specific Maximo configurations were unique. The data selected for capture and the fields where it was assigned were not standardized. This necessitated unique translation protocols for each plant and subsequent errors. SMEs were in regular contact with their corresponding Core Team representatives to ensure data from legacy systems would be accurately transferred into SAP. SMEs were also involved in testing the imported data in development environments.

At the end of the realization phase, facilities assigned trainers to attend functional specific training for their respective areas. This event was titled “Train the Trainer” and was held in two different locations to accommodate the geographical disparity of the audience. Separate sessions were held for each functional area and were 2-5 days long. During these sessions, the assigned trainers were given presentations and performed exercises designed by the core team to simulate the expected usage of the end users. These exercises were performed in a testing environment with fabricated data to simulate the information that would be used in the live environment. At the conclusion of the training, the trainers received all of the presentation materials and exercises from the training, as well as additional resources to assist the training effort at the plant level.

At the plant level, adaptations were made to the pre-developed training to accommodate the specific function of the local operations. For example, at the PPG Barberton facility, the storeroom materials were barcoded to allow easier checkout by end users. Additional hardware was purchased and interfaces developed to allow this functionality to continue with the new system. Furthermore, training specific to the new barcode scanners and process had to be developed and executed in order to ensure the integrity of the storeroom checkout process. Many of these adaptations had to be developed in the short period between Train the Trainer and the scheduled go-live date.

In addition to training, the Core Team also worked quickly to ensure that data from the legacy systems would be transferred to SAP in a usable format. For the Barberton plant, master data from the Maximo legacy system was converted to SAP, which included equipment, materials, and PM inspections. However, transactional data such as work orders and storeroom transactions were not converted. The loss of this historical data diminished the ability to establish trends until transactional data was created in the new SAP system. A few users were identified to continue access to the Maximo legacy system in the interim transition period in order to retrieve necessary information after the conversion.

The go-live event, when the new SAP system would officially take over for the legacy systems, was originally scheduled for Feb. 1, 2012. However, due to delays in data conversion and training, this date was postponed until April 1, 2012. A “cutover plan” was developed to ensure both master data and active transactional data were converted from legacy systems and loaded into SAP for the go-live event. Despite the considerable preparation, the go-live event was marked with considerable confusion and frustration. Many sites experienced difficulty in performing basic functions in the new system and operations were hindered as a result. At the Barberton facility, access to the legacy system was utilized continuously to “translate” work orders and other information between the Maximo legacy system and SAP. Despite the difficulties encountered at the Barberton facility, the problems experienced were considered relatively minor compared to the complications that most of the other affected sites endured.


Challenge 1: Terminology in SAP differs from legacy systems
Details: Plant personnel were familiar with terms such as “equipment number” and “work request” and “job plan.” These terms and many others changed with the introduction of the new system and created confusion.
Resolution: Training prior to the go-live date included terms used in SAP and the relation of the new terminology to the existing information. Despite the preparation, considerable confusion was experienced at the go-live date due to unfamiliarity with the new terminology, as well as the system structure. Fluency was developed only through repeated use of the system with the established workflow.

Challenge 2: Loss of ability to run “live” reports from CMMS for metric reporting
Details: Metrics from the legacy system (Maximo) were generated using a live, continuous connection to the data in the system. Restrictions to this level of access in the new system made the compilation of standard metrics much more labor-intensive.
Resolution: Since the live access to data tables was not possible with SAP, three tables have to be exported to Excel spreadsheets and then imported into an Access database in order to generate the same metrics that were established prior to the conversion. This time-consuming process still only offers a snapshot of the existing data instead of the up-to-date status the former system allowed. A more efficient alternative is still under investigation two years after the go-live date.

Challenge 3: Inability to utilize attachments for job plans    
Details: Due to the inability to convert existing job plan attachments in MS Word format, the text of the attachment was copied and pasted into a large text field with inconsistent results.
Resolution: In some cases, the conversion returned an acceptable printout of the instructions for the inspection. However, in cases where the job plan included a significant degree of formatting, such as a data table, the converted text was erased and replaced with an instruction to print the job plan from a shared network drive.

Challenge 4: Several description text fields in SAP truncated longer descriptions from Maximo
Details: Many of the description fields for equipment, inspections, and spare parts contained relatively lengthy descriptions in Maximo but needed to be converted to shorter field lengths in SAP. This typically resulted in the descriptions being truncated to fit the shorter field, often resulting in the loss of important information.
Resolution: Some reports were reconfigured with additional fields to include information that may have been lost due to the truncations. In the case of storeroom material description, a customized report was developed that reconstructed the descriptions from two SAP fields that have been populated from legacy systems. In some cases, descriptions were modified to conform to the shortened field length.

Challenge 5: Recording of time on work orders by wage employees
Details: Under the former system, the maintenance techs were required to manually record hours worked on jobs on a weekly log sheet and turn it in at the conclusion of the week. Maintenance planners would then enter the data into the system for use in various metrics.
Resolution: Responsibility for recording time on jobs was shifted from maintenance planners to the wage technicians. This required a considerable amount of extra training but shifted a significant amount of clerical hours from the planning staff to the techs performing the work. After some initial trials, the recording of hours by the techs has become more efficient than the previous system. Techs are now entering hours worked on jobs at the end of every day. A clerical review is made once per week to monitor for errors.

Challenge 6: Difficulties in training internal customers on new system
Details: Production departments were accustomed to reporting problems and receiving operator-performed inspections through the legacy system (Maximo) and needed to adapt to several changes.
Resolution: Training was performed to introduce the new system and concentrate on the differences between Maximo and SAP. Provisions were made to adjust the maintenance workflow process to accommodate these differences. One example is the fact that a notification (work request) will not have the same number as the corresponding work order. Off-shift supervisors were granted the ability to directly generate work orders to provide usable numbers for maintenance techs to charge hours against.

Challenge 7: Procedure for checkout of storeroom items is more complex
Details: The legacy systems (Oracle and Maximo) allowed the use of a simple interface for techs to login, scan barcoded parts and work orders, and easily sign out materials to designated jobs. Use of this equipment was not possible with the conversion to SAP.
Resolution: New handheld scanners were purchased to interface with SAP, which required the development of a new user interface. Due to time constraints with the go-live date, the interface was not constructed to be user-friendly. Use of the new scanners requires access to a separate RF system and requires a full login with the constraints of network password requirements. Use of the barcode system to sign out parts has greatly diminished, with most people opting to fill out cards manually to have the storeroom manager sign out the materials in SAP.

Challenge 8: Coordination of conversion with other systems/plants
Details: Since the SAP conversion involved many other systems and locations within the PPG business, many compromises were necessary to accommodate all the affected processes within the extremely tight timeframe that was allowed. Additionally, business restructuring altered the ownership of some of the affected locations, as well as the central support group for SAP.
Resolution: Prior to the go-live event, many compromises were made to fit all the affected processes at the different locations to meet the aggressive conversion timeline. After the divesture of PPG’s commodity chemical business, the central technical support group known as the Core Team left PPG with the affected companies. This resulted in the formation of a new, smaller central support staff. Consequently, the end users at the plant level were eventually given more authority to solve problems and become more independent.


After nearly two-and-a-half years of utilizing the SAP system, the PPG Barberton personnel have developed a significant amount of proficiency with the system. We continue to discover and work through issues such as confusing formatting from data transfers and quirks in default settings with the newer system, as well as making necessary adjustments to the workflow process to accommodate the functionality of SAP. The new central support group has worked with our team to make necessary changes to improve our efficiency including multiple changes on the work order printout form, an improved storeroom search tool that combines previously truncated information, and an inspection search tool that includes information previously not available in the standard searches in SAP.

Numerous plans are in place for continued improvement with the new system. Additional training for the maintenance techs is scheduled for late 2014. The purpose of this training will be to introduce additional capabilities to them such as storeroom parts lookup, bill of materials references for equipment, and details on inspections. Techs will also be further trained on time entry and given the resources to identify and fix mistakes in time entry.

 Eric Edmisten is reliability engineer at PPG Industries. Contact him at [email protected].

Additional improvements are also in progress with the central support group. An additional tool is under development that will eliminate the need to download the three tables every day to provide a snapshot of the maintenance metrics. In addition to improving efficiency and accuracy, this should also provide the flexibility to look at other data to use in making business-related decisions. Also, plans are in place to improve the ease of use of the storeroom checkout process to improve accuracy of material charges to production units.

In summary, the conversion to SAP required a tremendous amount of preparation by many people. The impact described here focuses on only the small maintenance group of one plant that was involved in the conversion. Through the continued use of and adaptation to the new system, workflow has been established at an efficiency comparable to that experienced using the previous Maximo system. Maintenance staff at the plant is optimistic that continued planned improvement initiatives with the system will yield further efficiency increases that would not have been possible with the previous system.

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