Classify more assets

Oct. 4, 2005
Asset-specific features help a CMMS reach beyond manufacturing machinery, tools and equipment.

The vast array of assets found in most plants generally need to be classified in some way for the purposes of fixed asset accounting, business valuation and other reasons. The typically useful asset classifications are plant, facilities, infrastructure, vehicle and technology. Although these five classifications share many common traits and functions, a more sophisticated CMMS can have features specific to a given asset classification.

The majority of CMMS packages available in North America have strong ties to this asset classification. Regardless of the industry, plant assets include the machinery, tools and equipment for manufacturing the finished products a company sells. When CMMS packages first became popular, demand was strongest for functionality that suited this asset type.

Much of the basic functionality of a CMMS stems from the plant world. This includes, for example, preventive maintenance and corrective work orders tied to an equipment hierarchy, from plant to production line, to equipment, to components, and eventually to an inventory of spare parts. Thus, almost every feature relevant to plant assets also is useful in one or more of the other asset classifications.

For example, serialized parts or component tracking became a popular feature in many plant environments. This allows users to track individual parts or components through the entire repair/move history, including tracking associated costs, from receipt into inventory, to placement in equipment, to vendor repair, to receipt upon return, to replacement in inventory valued at actual repair cost or depreciated/appreciated value, to placement in new parent equipment. Although this is useful functionality for a plant environment, it’s also important for vehicle and technology assets.

The other four asset classifications, however, have some unique requirements that build on the base functionality provided by the plant asset classification.

Most companies, big or small, have facilities that need to be maintained. That’s why the demand for facilities-specific features and functions is so high. Consider these examples of CMMS functionality that are relevant to facilities.

Tombstone data: A facilities-friendly CMMS provides tombstone data templates for different types of building equipment. Each template uses specific facilities-oriented fields, such as for doors (size, type, lockset) and windows (location, type, manufacturer, last clean date, last replace date). Although this information can theoretically be shoe-horned into many existing plant-based CMMS packages, facilities maintenance people find it much easier to use a package that comes with the proper fields and descriptors already established.

Area master: CMMS packages have an equipment hierarchy that allows users to build parent-child relationships, from location down to spare parts, on a given piece of equipment. For facilities maintenance, the needs aren’t just for an equipment hierarchy, but for an area hierarchy because of the types of assets being maintained. An asset such as walls can’t be inventoried in the same manner as a pump. It requires an area-based hierarchy such as building, floor, wing and room.

CAD link: Some of the more sophisticated facilities-based CMMS packages provide a link to commercial CAD packages, which provides a visual complement to the area master described above. Thus, you can access detailed drawings for any inventoried asset at any level of the hierarchy. Some CMMS packages restrict users to viewing the drawings, while more comprehensive packages allow users to annotate and edit the drawings from within the CMMS, drill down on “hot spots,” and toggle between the CAD drawing and the CMMS area master.

Subsystem overlays: In a facilities environment, a number of subsystems overlay onto the building, each of which may have specific maintenance requirements. This includes electrical, mechanical, air, water and gas. An example of specific maintenance requirements for a given subsystem would be allowing users to trace electrical feeders from equipment back to the main electrical entry point. Recording this information in most plant-specific CMMS packages would only be possible using descriptive fields.

Tenant management: This refers to a separate module for tracking facilities maintenance performed for tenants. Some packages initiate an invoice report for chargebacks to tenants. Variations on the theme exist for various types of retail, commercial and residential facilities.

Condition-based preventive maintenance: One of the notable differences between plant and facilities-based environments is the ratio of preventive to breakdown maintenance work performed. Maintenance shops in a plant environment tend to default to more of a fire fighting approach, as production capacity requirements produce constant pressure to keep the equipment operational. This leads to a CMMS that must accommodate a high percentage of breakdown maintenance.

Although the PM module of plant-based CMMS packages is highly functional, it might not meet the demands of a facility. For example, PM for facilities requires a higher percentage of condition-based PM, not just the more popular time or meter-based PM. Thus, PM is triggered by the condition of a roof, ceiling, etc. Sometimes this is the result of a human inspection, while in other cases, it can be captured via online sensory devices.

This asset classification covers maintenance of roads, bridges, pipelines and related items. Although much of the facilities-based functionality discussed previously is relevant to infrastructure maintenance, other critical features should be considered. The most important of these relate to the geographic information system (GIS). Recognizing that infrastructure is typically spread over a large area, companies are looking for a CMMS that can reference assets on the basis of a GIS locator.

Also important to this asset type is functionality for inspection of infrastructure assets and risk assessment including:

  • Multiple inspection capability at multiple points on an infrastructure asset.
  • Recording results of a risk-based assessment defining risk and criticality of failure.
  • Ability to define a “confidence rating” on the risk.
  • Defining a formula to determine the critical value for inspection readings.
  • Using regression analysis to predict the next date for reaching the critical value.

Vehicle or fleet maintenance is an extension of plant equipment maintenance. To satisfy needs for this asset classification, CMMS vendors have added functionality such as:

  • VMRS standard codes built into the system.
  • Tracking of fuel consumption, consumable usage and vehicle mileage.
  • Analysis of fleet utilization.
  • Determination of environmental correlations such as weather.
  • Analysis of wear history for tires, brakes, etc.
  • Reservation of vehicles.
  • Real-time operational status reporting of vehicles.

Technology assets include computer hardware such as laptops and PCs and the software running on them. Although specific software packages specialize in technology asset management, some CMMS vendors have realized the close similarity in features a CMMS provides and those provided by technology asset management systems. Some of the special features of this asset classification are:

  • Computer device and license tracking.
  • Asset lease and contract management.
  • Auto-polling of networked IT assets for maintaining a complete software/hardware demographics database.
  • Asset depreciation management.
  • Asset failure and repair management.
  • Asset utilization reporting.
  •  Help desk management.
Five asset-specific CMMS capabilities help organize the maintenance effort

Plant: This feature tracks the maintenance work orders tied to equipment hierarchy, from whole production areas down to component piece parts.

Facilities: This feature tracks tombstone date, building assets, links to CAD drawings, utility distribution and tenant management.

Infrastructure: This feature tracks roads, bridges, pipelines and assets spread out over large areas.

Vehicles: This feature tracks fleet utilization, vehicle KPIs and maintenance history.

Technology: This feature tracks hardware and software licenses, lease management and help desk management.

E-mail Contributing Editor David Berger at [email protected]

About the Author

David Berger | P.Eng. (AB), MBA, president of The Lamus Group Inc.

David Berger, P.Eng. (AB), MBA, is president of The Lamus Group Inc., a consulting firm that provides advice and training to extract maximum performance, quality and value from your physical assets, processes, information systems and organizational design. Based in Toronto, Berger has held senior positions in industry, including for two large manufacturers, and senior roles in consulting. He has written more than 450 articles on a variety of topics such as asset management, operations management, information technology, e-commerce, organizational design, and strategy. Contact him at [email protected].

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