CMMS-EAM-software-review

CMMS/EAM Software Review: Trends in features and functions

Nov. 8, 2011
CMMS and EAM expand their features to meet ever-changing maintenance needs.

Modern CMMS/EAM software packages are fairly flexible and adaptable. Regardless of a company’s size, industry, location and technical requirements, there should be at least one CMMS solution out there that meets your needs, in whole or in part. That’s the theory, but, of course, it assumes users know what to do with the software once in their possession.

Simply purchasing and installing software doesn’t automatically translate into realizing its benefits. For example, a long-term partnership with a CMMS vendor is critical to ensure the software is configured to best meet your needs. As well, your choice of technology should fit well with your current architecture and your long-term strategic plan. Finally, the features and functions of your selected CMMS should be sufficient to meet your requirements today and long into the future. As your business grows, and as you continue to demand more advanced functionality, your CMMS vendor partner and its software solution must continue to flex with your ever-changing needs.

The customer

Many CMMS users, when planning to purchase a new CMMS package, upgrade an existing CMMS or get more out of the existing package, demand seamless connectivity, realize that businesses are unique, need tools that are easy to use and want a price tag that fits their budget.

Find a better mousetrap at www.PlantServices.com/CMMS_Review
The Plant Services CMMS/EAM Software Review is designed to allow you to compare packages across a comprehensive range of capabilities. It offers the option of weighting capabilities to reflect their importance in your application and receiving a calculated ranking of the software offerings according to your specifications.

As the “Introduction” screen explains, you can use the review to simply browse the results of our verified vendor survey data, compare products and find further information on particular packages and vendors. Or, you can have the system rank packages according your customized and advanced criteria. Clicking on “Software Aspects” lets you weight them individually so the comparison engine can calculate scores and present packages according to how well their strengths match your weightings.

Clicking on an individual software aspect in the “Introduction” screen brings you to a “Priorities” screen, which shows the exact survey questions used to establish the package score for that aspect. Exercising your option to rank a question less than “very important” factors its score so it has less weight in the calculated comparison.

You can hand-pick packages and compare them for various aspects, or enter weightings and priorities and click “Calculate” to bring you to the comparison screen. Here, you’ll see a side-by-side comparison detailing the level of functionality for each capability.

The site also offers articles, white papers and resources to help you increase your familiarity with CMMS/EAM software, solve problems and get the most from your existing or future implementation.

Seamless connectivity: A key trend in the CMMS industry is the increasing degree to which integration takes place along multiple dimensions. Seamless connectivity is required at the facility level both horizontally across departments and vertically from shop floor to plant management. It’s also required at the enterprise level, where information is shared across multiple plants. Another dimension is integration along the supply chain, which brings in suppliers, third-party contractors, partners and customers. Technology integration is yet another dimension, especially for the best-of-breed CMMS applications that must integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and factory automation software. For all CMMS packages, there are numerous points of integration from a technology perspective. Examples are e-business applications, GIS, spreadsheets, project management software, human-machine interfaces (HMIs), programmable logic controllers (PLCs), wireless and handheld-based applications, workflow and many other applications that might be running externally to the CMMS.

Probably the most important, but by far the most difficult dimension for the customer, is using the CMMS as a tool to better integrate process, people and technology. Implementing a CMMS package brings minimal return on investment, unless it’s used to support substantial improvements to processes and a real change in personnel behavior.

Unique businesses: As software functionality and user needs become more sophisticated, CMMS vendors have developed niche features, modules or whole product lines that cater to a given industry. For some industries such as nuclear and pharmaceutical, the driver is compliance with more stringent regulatory requirements. For others such as transportation, municipalities or contract maintenance providers, it’s the unique requirements of the business.

Most CMMS vendors began by servicing a given industry or asset classification such as plant, facility, fleet, IT assets or infrastructure such as roads, pipelines or bridges. Growth was achieved by broadening into related industries and classifications until most CMMS vendors claimed their packages were relevant to all five maintenance classifications and most industries. Today, increased competition and regulatory pressures are driving the vendors to return to industry specialization as a means of differentiating their products.

This is sometimes more of a marketing tool for the vendors than true uniqueness in a given industry. For example, to sell to the pharmaceutical industry, CMMS vendors must be compliant with FDA requirements by offering such features as enhanced audit trail and electronic signatures. However, these features can be used by many other industries. Similarly, GIS functionality that described the location of linear assets in the utility industry can be valuable to many other industries.

Furthermore, adding or deleting some fields or changing field labels and templates to incorporate the lingo of a specific industry, are fairly superficial ways of achieving industry specialization. If you’re looking for a CMMS vendor with true industry specialization, look more for industry experts within the company and a track record of successful installations in your industry.

Easy-to-use tools: Users are tired of plowing through screen after screen to enter data or extract the information they need. The expectation is that the package is designed around the user needs, not that users must conform to the package’s design. Thus, the better packages are easy to learn, simple to navigate and flexible enough to accommodate the specific requirements of each user for data entry, analysis or reporting. Often referred to as “user friendliness” or “usability,” user-centered design always has been and continues to be a critical differentiator among the CMMS packages.

One of the most exciting developments across the CMMS world has been improved analysis and reporting tools. After all, management and workers can’t be expected to meet performance targets without timely and accurate feedback on results. Business intelligence brings an effective means of presenting and probing results, fully configurable by each user.

A user’s personalized home page can display, on a real-time basis, such things as key performance indicators, balanced scorecard results, trends in conditions being monitored, alerts or alarms, a summary of costs and status statistics such as number of missed PMs. The data dashboard can be displayed as dials, stoplights, graphs, charts, meters, tables or ticker tape. By double-clicking on any object, users can drill down continuously to greater detail. With the more sophisticated packages, users can even define the refresh rate, from seconds to days.

Price tag: Although recent economic conditions ensure there remains a healthy level of competition at every price point, from under $1,000 to more than $1 million, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for users to shop prices. This is, in part, because of the many components to the price, each of which is interpreted differently by each stakeholder. Terms such as site assessment, customization, configuration, installation, training, consulting, hosting, implementation, license, maintenance and support are defined and bundled differently by each vendor.

Some vendors set a different price for each user type — for example, work requestor, maintenance technician, planner, administrator — while others price by module or functionality — GIS, mobile solution and calibration. Still others base pricing on usage — for example, software as a service (SaaS), where the vendor typically charges a fixed amount for a block of hours used or pricing based on utility usage such as kiloWatt hours (kWh) consumed.

Vendor partners

Important transformations within the vendor world, such as long-term strategic partnerships, strategic service offerings and industry consolidation, have allowed users to get more than just software from CMMS vendors.

Long-term strategic partnerships: One of the most positive trends in the CMMS industry, albeit at a snail’s pace, is a shift from users looking for the most feature-rich package to finding the best strategic partner — that is, emphasis is slowly shifting to how well a vendor can help implement strategic goals and objectives, rather than more tactical and departmental thinking around specific functionality required. From the vendor’s perspective, there’s a slow realization that it’s not just about getting the customer up and running to free up resources for the next software installation. At the better reference sites, endors form strategic partnerships with their customers, and a successful implementation produces jointly-owned, quantitative benefits.

Strategic service offerings, from software to outsourcing: One of the general trends that spawned whole new industries is the recognition that a given company can’t be great at everything. When you’re ready to outsource parts of your business that aren’t considered core, CMMS vendors are willing and able to help. For example, many CMMS vendors offer a hosted or application-service-provider (ASP) solution for their applications. In other cases, you might want to contract out your entire maintenance function and not just the technology. At the other extreme, some companies are simply looking to the CMMS vendor for specialized knowledge and assistance such as standard industry data, maintenance best practices for a given industry and implementation assistance.

Industry consolidation: The ERP market continues to mature, and, compared to the glory days leading up to the year 2000, there are fewer companies replacing well-entrenched ERP applications. Thus, ERP vendors try to fill the void through new or renewed focus on selling software that can provide pay back much more quickly than the huge multinational accounting, HR and manufacturing software implementations of the ’90s. The push so far in this century has been around supply chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM) and product lifecycle management (PLM). For asset-intensive industries, there’s CMMS.

This increased interest ERP vendors show in CMMS has been welcome relief for the user community. Maintenance departments have been complaining for years about the shortcomings of ERP packages regarding their CMMS modules, and corporate executives weren’t seeing a payback in their CMMS investments. ERP vendors are slowly moving to meet the high standards set for years by the best-of-breed CMMS vendors, by adding more functionality, catering to specialized industry needs, improving the user interface and leveraging the advantage of being a fully integrated, enterprise-wide solution.

Meanwhile, down on the shop floor, software giants selling factory automation, predictive maintenance, instrumentation and process control applications have discovered CMMS rounds out the current focus on managing product, process and environment by integrating the management of assets. Welcoming asset management into the product offering simply reflects an increasing cooperation among operations, engineering and maintenance departments anxious to leverage integrated technology for greater plant performance. As well, an improved interface with shop-floor data collection allows the maintenance organization to react more quickly and with better information when assets break down or begin to behave less than optimally.

The top-down and bottom-up pressure from ERP and plant automation behemoths are clearly putting the squeeze on best-of-breed CMMS vendors. This, coupled with a poor economy in recent years, has put a damper on the 20-plus years of functional superiority of best-of-breed packages and steady growth in the industry. Users will be the real winners over the short to medium term, as the increased competition will surely spell more aggressive pricing and raise the bar on CMMS functionality for every vendor.

Technology

A third area that encompasses key trends relates to the technology that enables many innovations and advancements in CMMS functionality. Furthermore, technology provides a platform, architecture and delivery mechanism for the CMMS software.

Web-based technology: One of the most important influences on the CMMS industry, or on any software industry for that matter, has been the changing technology underlying the application. It all started in the 1970s, when the CMMS industry consisted mostly of custom applications. With the microcomputer emerging in the early 1980s, more reasonably priced off-the-shelf packages, basically data repositories, became available. Then came the Windows operating system, bringing welcomed improvements to the user interface, followed by report and graphic generators to help users extract management information from the CMMS.

When client-server technology emerged in the ’90s, CMMS vendors again scrambled to rewrite their packages to accommodate more enterprise-wide thinking. This big-picture mentality was expanded more recently, as several CMMS vendors developed a Web-architected product in response to the rising popularity of the Internet. This pattern of renewal will continue during the next decade, with mobile solutions and wireless telecommunications as the next likely technology enablers.

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Open architecture: Much of the improvement in CMMS and other software applications resulted from not only improved data processing and storage capability each year, but a transformation in how hardware and software are architected. Today, one of the key factors driving change to CMMS software is the Internet. CMMS vendors are responding to the demands of users for a more open architecture. This enables users to access the CMMS application and data from any type of computer or handheld device running any operating system and using only a browser — any browser, from any location in the world. The user’s expectation is that access to the CMMS should be equivalent, whether running the application as a stand-alone on a desktop, working on a tablet or laptop in the field, or using a mobile device. Wherever possible, users expect the same performance, functionality, look and feel. This constitutes a cost-effective, enterprise-wide solution for users.

Hosting options: In some cases, companies opt to have the CMMS vendor or a third-party ASP host the application. Some large companies developed a business case for outsourcing the management of the CMMS application in this manner. For smaller companies, hosting provides access to top-ranked software while avoiding a large outlay of cash upfront.

Features and functions

CMMS functionality has seen a variety of new trends in the way of features. The Plant Services CMMS/EAM Software Review (www.plantservices.com/cmms_review) provides a more complete list of advanced features and functions CMMS vendors offer today.

Automating a best-practice workflow: We often forget that CMMS software is but a tool in support of maintenance processes, from handling a work request to ordering parts or performing a PM routine. The software should, therefore, facilitate your best-practice workflow at each step in the process. A workflow engine captures the process flow on computer using customizable business rules, allowing users to see graphically what the flow looks like, and determine the current status of items moving through the flow. Workflow also enables some parts of the process such as approvals and notification to be automated. The latter refers to the routing of critical data to a person’s email, pager, telephone or handheld device.

Monitoring asset condition to predict failure: One of the most visible improvements during the past few years is the increased emphasis on reliability. In an effort to move to a more planned environment, operations, maintenance and engineering organizations are working together to minimize the variability in the product, process, environment and equipment operation, through use of tools such as condition monitoring. The more sophisticated CMMS packages allow trend analysis for a variety of meters and combinations of triggers, as well as alarming users, scheduling a PM routine or taking corrective action automatically when a condition is reached. Some CMMS vendors offer advanced graphics capabilities similar to what is available with plant automation systems, thereby providing a real-time display of asset conditions.

Spare-parts management: CMMS vendors have been quietly building their software’s e-functionality. This is in anticipation of rising user demand for e-commerce, e-procurement and e-marketplaces. Users are looking to reduce costs tremendously by automating many of the supply chain functions.

Advanced features include standardized electronic catalogues, portals into MRO part supplier websites, electronic quotations and purchase orders, electronic payment upon receipt of parts and used equipment sold through an electronic marketplace. Moreover, some CMMS vendors offer sophisticated features to better manage spare-parts inventory, including conducting ABC analysis, determining an EOQ, correlating service level to inventory costs, automatic correction of lead times and reorder points, handling consignment and tracking supplier performance.

Physical asset management: There has been a steady improvement in features and functions that deal with asset management ever since CMMS software came on the market. This is no surprise given that a CMMS is a tool that’s supposed to help improve the reliability, utilization, performance and operability of assets, while minimizing the cost of labor and materials.

Modern CMMS packages have features such as the ability to record reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) data, track warranty information for each component of an asset, build a troubleshooting database, manage contract labor and material, and drag and drop work orders from one day to another on a graphical work schedule while in simulation mode. More sophisticated packages have features for tracking assets throughout their lifecycles — from engineering design to operation, maintenance and disposal — and for locating and tracking the asset’s physical movement.

Finally, in today’s green world, users look for CMMS packages that tie in sustainability features and functions, such as a thermal mapping of operations or carbon footprint calculators.

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