There are so many preventive maintenance software features that sometimes it's hard to know what they all do and how they help. Here's a quick list of important features to get you started.
In the end, the preventive maintenance software solution that works best for you might not have all these features. Or it might have all of them and a lot more; it all depends on your specific needs and situation. When looking for preventive maintenance software, make sure to think about:
- Cloud computing-back mobile
- Open request portal
- Easy-to-learn, easy-to-use user interface
- Preventive maintenance scheduling
- Automated inventory management
- Interactive floor plans
- Auto-generated reports and KPI tracking
Let's go through and see why each one can be an important part of preventive maintenance success.
Cloud computing-backed mobile
The best way to understand the importance of cloud computing is to think of life without it. If you're working with a paper- or spreadsheet-based system, you've got lots of data, but most of it is inaccessible. Take a paper preventive maintenance work order, for example. Even if you could pack a lot of data onto a piece of paper in a way that kept it easy to read, it would still only exist on that one piece of paper. When you're delegating work orders, the technicians have to run back to the office to get their next assignments. If they forget something or you need to make a change to the work order, they're running back for more paperwork. But when you can generate, delegate, and track PMs through preventive maintenance software, there's no running around. You can do everything from anywhere, at any time.
With spreadsheets, data starts out more accessible but quickly becomes more out of date. When you email a spreadsheet work order as an attachment, you're not sending the spreadsheet. Instead, you're sending a copy. That means there are now two versions of the data. Every time one file is updated, the other one falls a bit more behind. Cloud computing solves this problem because everyone is accessing the same data. All changes are done in real-time, which means no one gets left behind.
Open request portal
Good preventive maintenance software gets used by people across departments, up and down the organizational chart. It's not just the maintenance department. The CEO uses auto-generated reports to understand how the maintenance department is spending its budget. The accounting department uses KPIs to track asset costs and make repair-or-replace decisions. And everyone uses the request portal to let the maintenance department know about issues.
Because everyone in the facility can easily and reliably reach you with a maintenance concern, it's like having an always-on visual inspection that covers the whole facility. Everyone becomes your eyes and ears. And they're sharp eyes and highly trained ears. Maintenance technicians are good at noticing when something is wrong, but they'll never know the equipment as well as the operators do. If a hydraulic press starts making a strange noise or resetting more slowly than usual, the operator is always the first to notice because they're the person standing beside that press all shift long. It's the same regardless of facility or industry. Who would know better than the hotel porter that the second-floor ice machine has a weird new hum?
Not only is everyone able to help your department find maintenance issues early but they're also able to do it in a way that's not frustrating. Instead of having to check rambling voice mails, scroll through confusing emails, and hunt for scraps of paper left on your desk, every maintenance request comes in from the same place. And just as important, they're all in the same format.
Take advantage of operator insights with clean, intuitive request portal
And thanks to the pull-down menus and labeled text field, requesters always include the information you need. And because requesters include their email, you have a quick way to reach out to ask for more details or simply let them know you've seen their request and are acting on it.
Easy-to-learn, easy-to-use user interface
This one gets overlooked because people don't think of ease-of-use as a feature. We know that cloud computing is the feature that makes a lot of the other ones either possible or better. Ease-of-use is the feature that makes all the other ones accessible. When all the other features are trapped behind a clunky, confusing interface, it's the same as not having them at all. You're making payments on a great car loaded with all the top-of-the-line features, but you don't have the keys. You're paying a lot of money for the world's most frustrating lawn ornament.
It's easier to define than quantify ease-of-use. We know what it means, but we don't know how to measure it. One way is to add up the time you spend trying to find stuff. How much time are you spending clicking back and forth between screens? How much time is your finger hovering over the screen of your mobile device as you struggle to figure out what to do next?
Poor user experience design costs you starting at implementation. If the preventive maintenance software is hard to use, you're going to spend a lot more time and money on training. Buy-in is going to be a tough sell. Technicians have enough on their plate already; there's not going to be any enthusiasm for something adds cumbersome steps. Stumbling out of the gate, you can expect low adoption and long-term usage rates. In the end, you're paying for something that no one ever bothers to use.
Preventive maintenance scheduling
The request portal is good because your on-demand work orders are coming in when problems are still small. With preventive maintenance scheduling and tracking, you're doing even better than that, finding and fixing little issues before they even have a chance to develop into problems.
It all starts with the ability to create time- and meter-based preventive maintenance work orders with lots of explanation and information. PMs have everything techs need to close out efficiently, including:
- Step-by-step instructions
- Customizable checklists
- Digital images, schematics, and O&M manuals
- Associated parts and materials
- Interactive floor plans
Once you've created your PMs, you can start to schedule them.
Knowing your work schedule in advance helps you manage time, resources, and inventory
Here, the equipment maintenance software helps you again by making it quick and easy to search back through old on-demand work orders. If a timing belt slipped roughly once a month over the previous three months, you set up a PM to check and adjust it once every three weeks. Now that recurring issue is addressed before it has a chance to become a problem.
Before each time-based preventive maintenance work order, the software sends out a reminder. And the calendar view makes sure you can see all your upcoming PMs coming. With all these reminders, nothing falls through the cracks.
Automated inventory management
Here's a perfect example of features working together. Both the on-demand and preventive maintenance work orders include associated parts and materials. When technicians close out a work order, the software automatically updates your inventory levels. Everything is kept up to date in real-time.
With customizable par levels, your preventive maintenance software alerts you as soon as you're running low on any part or material. For example, over the winter, you always keep between ten and five back-up spark plugs in inventory for the snowblowers. As soon as the preventive maintenance system knows there's only four left, it sends you an email warning. And because vendor information is kept in the software, too, including contact details, prices, and lead times, reordering is a breeze.
Inventory is also associated with preventive maintenance work orders. As PMs approach, the software makes sure you have the right parts and materials on hand.
Inventory management is a big topic all on its own. To learn more, check out 3 Steps toward Inventory Tracking with Inventory Management Software.
Interactive floor plans
What's the difference between a good preventive maintenance work order and a bad one? What makes one helpful and the other sort of confusing? On the most basic level, PMs must communicate two facts: where to go and what to do once you get there. And when judging how well a work order shows location, interactive floor plans are the gold standard. Nothing helps techs find assets more efficiently.
Get to the right spot, right away
Remember the days before your car and phone had GPS, and you had to ask strangers for directions? Even when someone who knew the area well and was trying their best to be helpful, the directions were at best confusing, at worst useless. "Take a left then three rights then left at the first corner." The phrase "You can't miss it" always turned out to be untrue. That's why when navigation systems became available in cars, we all got them as soon as we could. Interactive maps are just better. Faster and easier.
Interactive floor plans benefit all technicians, but they're especially useful for new technicians still learning where things are in the facility. Instead of having a senior technician waste time hand-holding them because they don't know where to go, a junior tech simply checks the digital floor plan, boosting everyone's time on wrench.
Auto-generated reports and KPI tracking
Preventive maintenance software is great at grabbing data, including everything you could ever want to know about your assets, inventory, work orders, and PMs. But in a lot of ways, so are paper- and spreadsheet-based systems. But the problem with these older systems is there's no easy way for you to efficiently leverage that data. It's trapped on scraps of paper and inside endless spreadsheet rows and columns.
KPIs help you track your whole operation, including your preventive maintenance program
Preventive maintenance software, a vital component of current day CMMS software (Computerized Maintenance Management System), puts your data to work. With graphic-rich auto-generated reports, you can finally see the maintenance big picture. Being able to see what's going on now helps you make the right decisions about the future. For example, when you know which asset is costing you the most in time, parts and materials, and effort, you can decide to rework the preventive maintenance scheduling or replace the asset altogether. Another example is resource tracking. Once you know who's doing what and how long it's taking them, you can start to enforce accountability.
Tracking maintenance performance is a big topic all on its own. To learn more, check out What are MTBF, MTTR, and MTTF Metrics?