So you've decided you're finally done with scribbled paperwork and endless spreadsheets. It's time to put those old-fashioned maintenance methods behind you and get a modern computerized maintenance management system (CMMS software). Now you need to go out and find the best one. But how do you know which one to get?
Follow these concrete steps to find the best CMMS software.
1 Understand that there's more than one "the best" CMMS software
In the end, you're not looking for the number one, all-time best maintenance management software. What you really need is the one that's going to work best for you. What's the difference?
An easy way to think about this is to ask yourself this question: Which one's better, a Ferrari or an SUV?
The answer is not the Ferrari. But it's also not the SUV.
It's a trick question, and the answer is, It depends. If you need to go really fast and look cool doing it, you need a sports car. But what if you need a car to haul around kids and groceries? That SUV is now your best bet. (If you like trick answers to trick questions, you should always say the Ferrari is better. If you need to go fast, it's a lot faster than that SUV. But if you need to move people and things, it's still better. You can sell it and then just pay someone else to do all the shopping and carpooling.)
It's going to be the same as finding the best CMMS software. You need to find the one that's best for you, and to do that, you need to look at a lot of different factors, including your:
- Industry and work environments
- Asset and equipment types
- Current maintenance programs, if any
- Departmental size and number of technicians
- Tolerance for upfront investment and patience for ROI
Let's go through some of them to get a better idea of how they affect the best facility management software for you.
Industry and work environments
Maintenance management software has its roots in manufacturing, but it's a great idea across industries. If you've invested in assets and equipment, it only makes sense to have a solution that makes it easy to schedule and track both repairs and maintenance.
Closely related to industry is the question of work environment. The demands on a maintenance team on an oil rig off the coast are a lot different than those at a hotel or a chain of ice cream shops. In the first two cases, for example, techs are always able to access the Internet. But technicians in the oil and gas industry often find themselves working in remote locations. At the same time, there's more overlap between industries than you might first expect. All three need an easy way to keep accurate records to prove compliance for government and industry organizations. Three very different workplaces can share many of the same challenges.
Asset and equipment types
Different assets require different maintenance strategies. For example, even though the run-to-failure model generally gets a bad rap, but it's the best model for anything with a low criticality that's cheap and easy to carry in inventory. The classic example is light bulbs. For a deeper dive into different maintenance strategies and how to choose the best one for each of your assets and equipment, check out How to Pick the Right Preventive Maintenance Strategy.
Different facility management solutions facilitate these strategies to varying degrees. Some solutions might not be able to support some strategies at all. For example, not every CMMS can support the sensors required for condition based or preventive maintenance. But remember, if you don't need those maintenance strategies, you're wasting money on a platform designed specifically for them.
Tolerance for upfront investment and patience for ROI
Generally speaking, there's usually a tradeoff between how much something can do and how easy it is to learn. Quick example: it's a lot easier to learn how to drive a car than fly a helicopter, but you can go a lot more places with a helicopter. It's generally the same with CMMS platforms. The more they can do, the longer it takes to learn how to use them. It's not a perfect relationship between the two, though, because you have to also look at overall ease-of-use and the quality of the available training. When a provider delivers an intuitive UX experience and offers solid training and support, you can get your team up and running and taking advantage of powerful features quickly.
But again, generally speaking, more robust solutions take more time to implement. That means more upfront costs not only for the software but also the implementation and training services. You need to know how much time and money you're able to invest before seeing a return on your investment.
Looking at the list, you likely feel like these are all things you already know about your organization. It still helps to write them out so you can go through them to make sure you have them thought out. The more you know about yourself, the easier it is to match up your best maintenance management software. It makes sense here and also in most situations in life. It's why even the ancient Greeks encouraged people to "Know thyself."
2 Decide if the best CMMS software for you is actually an EAM
Let's jump back and look a bit more at tolerance for upfront investment and patience for ROI. In some cases, you might decide that there's no best CMMS software for you at all, and that what you really need is an EAM software.
What's EAM software? It allows for more comprehensive tracking of all aspects of an asset from the very start to the absolute end of its life cycle. This includes storing all documents for planning and budgeting, managing every aspect of maintenance and repairs, generating in-depth reports, and generating business intelligence for maximizing use right up until the final repair or replace decisions. Learn more here.
Because these systems are so robust, they tend to have a longer learning curve, and that means they take longer to implement. Organizations see an ROI, but they need to be more patient.
Keep in mind that maintenance management solutions providers tend to offer tiered pricing packages, with more advanced features offered in the higher tiers. It could be the case that simply moving to a different pricing package gives you the CMMS that meets your needs. Let's jump back to our earlier example of choosing the best car, a Ferrari or an SUV. It could be that the SUV is the best choice as long as you get one with the super-powered engine upgrade option.
Don't fall into the trap of trying to find the best solution for your best future self. If you have one facility and three techs, get the system that matches your current situation. Even if you hope to be three facilities and thirty techs in five years. Think of it this way: even if you plan on losing weight, it doesn't make sense to only buy clothes that are too small on you now. Sure, they might be great in the future, but what are you going to wear between now and then?
3 Make a list of the problems you want the best CMMS software to solve
Treat "problem" as the broadest term possible, and include on your list everything from catastrophic breakdowns that throw the company's entire future into question all the way down to time-killers like techs arriving on-site only to realize they forgot to bring the right parts or materials.
- Every organization has a different list, but there will be a lot of overlap, including:
- Dealing with unscheduled downtime delays that throttle production
- Running behind the curve with endless on-demand work orders
- Missing scheduled preventive maintenance inspections and tasks
- Lacking transparency and the accountability that comes with it
- Wasting money on rush orders because of poor inventory control
- Failing to understand the maintenance big picture because of poor reporting
When making your list, it's also often helpful to think in terms of categories of problems. You can have a list of things that waste time, ones that waste money, and then things that try your patience. You can also create sub-lists based on positions, including facility manager, maintenance lead, and technician.
You can also work backward. Imagine everything working smoothly, perfectly according to schedule. Work gets done long before problems arise, and the right parts are always there in the right place, and at the right time. Now start making a list of all the things standing between you and the ways things could be.
It's important to also think about what you like but would like to improve. If you have a preventive maintenance schedule that's currently working OK, what you want to do is make it better. No more missed preventive maintenance tasks and better consistency across scheduled inspections and tasks. Everything gets done on time and the right way.
4 Start matching your problems with the best CMMS software features
Take the list from the previous step, and start doing some research. As you read about different software platforms, try to look at each feature as a possible solution to a specific or group of problems.
- For example, across industries, maintenance is generally looking to improve:
- Communication between the maintenance lead and techs
- Scheduling and tracking for preventive maintenance
- Inventory control, focusing on costs and availability
- Budget control through accurate and easy reporting
For a quick introduction to some of the more common features, check out 7 Important Preventive Maintenance Software Features.
5 Reach out and start talking with providers about the best CMMS software for you
Now that you know what you want and have a general idea of what each provider claims they provide, it's time to start talking with them directly. The benefit for you is getting to fine-tune your list of problems and solutions. Generally, no one knows the software better than the people who build and sell it, so when you're talking with providers, it's your chance to learn about new features and hear about use cases. Ask them to tell you stories about their customers.
Remember that it's not just the software you need to evaluate. Look at the onboarding and ongoing support. A good provider is not interested in a one-time sale. Instead, they're hoping to develop a long-term relationship with you. They're as invested in your success as you are.