Joining live equipment maintenance software demos is an important part of finding the solution that works best for you. But to get the most out of your investment of time and energy, you need to do a bit of legwork. The good news is that the more you put into it, the more value you get out of the experience.
Let's go through the steps to making the most out of your live online demos.
But before we do, let's be clear: your process is your own, and these steps do not apply to everyone. Don't think you have to do a lot of homework before you can sign up for a software demonstration. The only true prerequisite is knowing you need an equipment maintenance software solution. That said, the more you put into getting ready, the more you can get out of live demos.
Make a list of the problems you're looking to solve with equipment maintenance software
You're trying to find the maintenance app that best meets your needs, that best solves your problems. So, your first step is always going to be establishing a solid understanding of the challenges you want to overcome.
And it needs to be more specific than saying things don't run smoothly and there are too many headaches. Both of those are true, but they're a little too high level. To find your best solution, you need to dig a bit deeper.
There are a couple of ways to build out your list. For many organizations, the hunt for equipment maintenance software starts with a specific incident. It could be a missed production date due to a critical asset going down. Or it could be a costly accident that put operators and techs at risk, damaging both the organization's equipment and reputation. In some cases, organizations are motivated by recent regulatory fines. If there's a specific incident that you never want to repeat, add it to your list.
Also include specific recurring problems. It depends on your situation, but a lot of organizations see a lot of overlap, including:
- Missed PMs and falling behind on preventive maintenance
- Inconsistent inspections and maintenance tasks
- Poor inventory control and costly rushed shipping costs
- Unreliable equipment and assets, unscheduled downtime
- Inefficient management of internal and third-party resources
No one likes tempting fate, but you should also make a list of problems that you have not experienced but that are common to your industry. For example, if you're in a heavily regulated industry like food production or health care, you know that organizations without a reliable preventive maintenance software solution often have problems proving maintenance compliance. They've done all the right work, but because they don't have the right documentation, they face costly problems with government or industry bodies. Even if your organization has been lucky so far, it's worth adding any industry-specific problems to your list. It just makes sense to future-proof your operations against Murphy's Law.
Do some online research on equipment maintenance software features and workflows
One you know the problems, you can start to look at related features and workflows. It makes sense to try to connect each problem with a specific feature or workflow, but don't worry if you can't find perfect matches. The maintenance app providers you talk with can help you here. In fact, listening to your current challenges and explaining options for solid solutions is a huge part of their job.
Once you have a working list of the features and workflows you're interested in, start dividing the list into must-haves and nice-to-haves. You can also think of them as wants and needs, whichever works best for you. How do you know which is which, though? If it's related to safety or satisfying a regulation, for example, it's a must-have. If it's going to make your team much more efficient, like a mobile app it's a must-have. But if it's only going to make life slightly more convenient, it could be a nice-to-have.
Keep in mind that there's no one-size-fits-all lists of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Everyone's situation is different. It depends on your facilities, industry, the processes currently in place, and what you're looking to achieve. That means there's even a third list you can create: won't-ever-needs.
For some organizations, it makes sense to think in terms of the maintenance strategies they want to implement, and then work backward to make a list of the features and workflows they need to make them happen. What are the common maintenance strategies?
Run to failure
It tends to get a bad name, but there are lots of assets where it's the best choice. The classic example is light bulbs. They're cheap to carry in inventory, always have a low criticality in facilities, and there's no easy way to set up inspections or maintenance tasks for them.
But this strategy is more than just letting things run until they break, and it does require some planning and control. If you have a lot of run-to-failure assets, you still need inventory management software to make sure you have those spare light bulbs when you need them.
Here you're scheduling inspections and maintenance in advance to catch small issues before they become large problems. Although everything tends to start off based on manufacturers' recommendations, over time the maintenance department fine-tunes the program using historical work order data.
To make it work, you need preventive maintenance software with solid scheduling features and inventory control. It's a question of being able to set up inspections and tasks and make sure you have what you need to get them done, when you need them. On top of that, you need features and workflows for capturing work order and maintenance histories and leveraging that data into good decisions through autogenerated reports.
Condition based and predictive maintenance
For these strategies, you need a bunch of sensors you can attach directly to your assets. There's a ton of data coming in, so you need ways to capture, store, and analyze it. With condition based, you're looking at the data in real time, on the lookout for spikes or dips outside predetermined safe operating ranges. With predictive maintenance, you're pushing that real-time data through complex algorithms, looking for trends that suggest future problems. Basically, you're building an old-school crystal ball out of high-tech math.
In the end, any truly comprehensive system is a hybrid, with each asset type under a different strategy. But if you know which strategies you need, you're often 80% of the way to knowing which features and workflows you need from a maintenance app.
Build your team and let them help you prep before the equipment maintenance software demo
The process of finding equipment maintenance software might involve people from different departments, up and down the organizational chart, including:
- Maintenance Manager
- Facility Manager
- Maintenance Technician
- IT Technician
- IT Manager
- Property Manager
- Office Administrator
- Operations Manager
- Director of Operations
- Plant Manager
But remember, it's not like in the military where ranks are strictly standardized with clearly defined titles and responsibilities. There might be a maintenance manager at your organization that does the exact same job as the maintenance lead at another. The plant manager at Company A might have basically the same role as the facility manager at Company B.
When deciding who to bring into the process, first think about who's going to use the software. It might be everyone from the CEO down to the junior technicians. You might also have people who never use the software but are still part of the process of choosing a preventive maintenance software provider. It could be that your head of IT never uses the software, but they need to give their blessing before anyone signs any contracts.
Involving people in the process doesn't mean everyone has to come to all the demos. That's just not practical. Instead, try to talk with the people on your list to get a feel for what they're looking for in a maintenance app. What are the problems they're looking to solve? What are their must-haves and nice-to-haves?
But at the same time, don't be surprised when other people don't have much to add and don't want to attend demos. It might be the case they're waiting for a second, smaller round. Instead of coming to demos for the first three providers, they want to come when the options have been narrowed to two. It might also be that they're never going to attend any demos at all. That's perfectly fine, too. Things can move in shorter, straighter lines when there are fewer people trying to steer a project.
Aim for strategic diplomacy. You want to give people the opportunity to be involved. It's basic human nature: people want to be invited to the party even when they have no intention of going. Then later on during the implementation stage, it's easier to build buy-in when people feel like they've been a part of the process from the start.
Tell the provider about yourself before the equipment maintenance software demo
Not every company runs their demos the same way, so it's a good idea to ask some questions and get a feel for what to expect. You want to be in the right headspace from the start.
If nothing else, knowing what to expect puts you in a better position to compare different platforms. For example, the first provider's demo is 10 minutes long and only covers the main features. It feels like you're flying over the software, seeing all the big pieces from 30 thousand feet. But the second provider's demo is 30 minutes long and goes in depth on workflows specifically related to your industry. Here, it feels like you're getting a guided walking tour through the software. You see less, but it's more focused.
After the demos, you might feel like you prefer the second platform. But did you like the demo more or the software? It can be tricky because you're not really comparing apples to apples. The best way to avoid this problem is to talk with the provider before the demo and let them know about your organization and what you want covered. The more they know about you, the more specific they can make the demo. Let them know as much about yourself as you can, including:
- Organization size and asset types
- Maintenance team size
- Specific challenges for your industry and organization
- Features or workflows you want to see
- Previous experience with CMMS platforms, if any
- Current maintenance management system and strategies
A good provider is also thinking ahead to implementation and how they can help you get up and running. For that, they want to know:
- Implementation timeline
- Procurement process involved (upper management, board members, etc.)
- IT requirements, if any
- Existing CMMS data or spreadsheets
Also, let them know who is going to be there at the demo, so they can be sure to hit the right points. Chances are the CEO wants to know more about ROI and how the system tracks costs while the maintenance lead is interested in features related to reducing downtime through managing work orders, tracking inventory, and automating purchase orders.
Set up the time and date that works best for you for the equipment maintenance software demo
The more people who want to come to the demo, the harder it is to schedule a time that works for everyone. In some cases, it impossible to line up everyone, but that's usually not a big problem. The provider can easily record the demo and send you a copy so anyone who couldn't make it can watch it when they have time.
Try to schedule the demo for when you're unlikely to get interrupted. Are things usually slower just before or after lunch? Schedule the demo for then. End of the week tend to be a little less hectic? Set up the demo for Friday, then. It's also important to block off some time before and after the demo. Give yourself ten minutes to review any notes you might have before things get started and then ten minutes after the demo to add to them. The last thing you want is to finish the demo and then run out the door to work on a completely unrelated task. Give your brain a chance to process and reflect.
Double-check the online meeting platform before the equipment maintenance software demo
Nowadays, it feels like Zoom is about to become the next Kleenex or Xerox, where the company is so closely associated with a product people just use the brand name. It would be like if we stopped using the word car and called every car a "ford." But even though Zoom is a popular option, it's not the only one, and before arriving at the demo, it's important to make sure the meeting software is going to work.
In most cases, you only need to click a link to open up the demo, but it sometimes can be a more involved process. If you have any questions, reach out to the provider. It can also make sense to double-check with your IT department. Some organizations have strict rules about which meeting software can be used, and the last thing you want is to try to log into a demo only to discover your IT department is blocking the connection.
If there are any restrictions, make sure to let the provider know. They can find workarounds for you. It's also a good idea to make sure the camera, mic, and headphones are working on your computer. Most online meeting software let you log in beforehand and use their built-in speaker and mic tests. You don't want to waste the start of the demo calling back and forth, "Can you hear me? How about now? Hello?"
Now that you know how to make the most of them, it's time to sign up for some demos. Follow the steps outlined above to properly prepare, or you can always skip the ones that don't apply to you, focusing instead on the steps that make the most sense for your situation.