Q. My boss wants to purchase a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) for our maintenance department. What are the most important considerations when selecting a system?
A. A CMMS can be a very powerful tool for moving your maintenance function forward. That being said, it is not a “silver bullet” that will resolve all your existing maintenance problems. Unless the installation is replacing an existing CMMS, it requires a change in current practices, and individuals often resist change. When inventory reductions and other desirable outcomes of an installation are not realized, the root cause more often than not is a result of personnel pushback and not necessarily technological failure.
A CMMS will automatically generate analytical reports, parts inventory data and productivity reports, in addition to work orders. With the aid of tablets, electronic readers and voice recognition technology, the need for manual data entry will be greatly reduced. The primary benefit of CMMS is speed and its ability to quickly analyze, consolidate and manipulate data.
There are three general areas you should investigate before purchasing and installing a system. They are:
- Prerequisite processes
- Assessment of existing processes
- Assessment of your needs
CMMS implementation has its own challenges. There are some processes you should have in place before you install a system. At a minimum, you need to have a functioning work order system, a documented parts inventory, an established work planning process and a workforce that sees this change as helping them become more successful. If you do not have these in place already, make sure that they are before you purchase your system. Trying to develop these processes and attitudes while you install a system will jeopardize its success.
Next, you need to assess your facility's business network(s). If you have an enterprise resource planning system (ERP), you may want to purchase a software system that is compatible and capable of supplying/pulling data to/from other modules. If an ERP is not in your future, you may be better off buying a stand-alone CMMS. That approach also has the virtue of being considerably less expensive. If there are multiple stand-alone systems throughout your facility, you may need to get direction on the longevity of each before determining which discreet system is the right solution.
Finally, consider defining what your needs are. These systems are powerful and can perform a myriad of functions. With that functionality comes additional cost. In order to make sure you get a system that does what you want and will have the capabilities you will need in the future, it would be worthwhile to list all of the functions required and, next to each entry, write “today,” “within 3 years” or “within 5 years”. This will not only help you in the selection process but also in developing a long-term strategy for the department and all involved in its success. Most maintenance systems come with standard-form formats and fields that can be customized to a certain extent. However, the logic each system uses cannot be customized, so make sure you fully understand from the outset how it does what it does.
You are purchasing a process that will become part of your infrastructure, so be very conscious about what your future needs will look like. Making changes after a system is in place can be very expensive.