When Hippo implementation specialists Mike Sokulski arrived to set up a new CMMS at the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier turned museum, he assumed maintenance used paper and pen or spreadsheets. But there may have been something even scarier, down below the waterline…

Mike now fears that, away from the sunlight, deep in the bowls of the old warship, there had been someone who had been running the maintenance department ever since the Intrepid had returned from its final voyage. This one person knew every asset inside and out. They adjusted the boiler by placing their hand over a cool pipe and “listening” through their fingertips. When the HVAC was just right, they could smell a burned-out light bulb two levels away. This person loved that ship, and in its own supernaturally possessive way that ship loved them back…

To this day, the whole thing makes Mike shutter. And not just because it sounds like the premise to a middling horror story. As a professional, he knows that keeping all your institutional knowledge locked up in one person’s head is the prelude to a real horror show. As soon as that one person calls in sick, moves on to a new job, or retires, all that knowledge and know-how disappears with them.

Here’s something even scarier: What if that person is… you? What if you’re the person at the museum carrying around this one fragile copy of all this knowledge and know-how? Well, that means you’re just a bit of bad luck away from being the hero of a real-life scary story all your own. Or you might be the hero’s direct or indirect supervisor. That’s bad, too. Nobody does well in a scary story. 

OK. If you were fighting vampires, you’d be looking around for the nearest bottle of holy water and a couple of nice pointy wooden stakes. Werewolves: silver bullets. But in this specific case, the best weapon is going to be a full-featured, cloud-based CMMS. It’s going to help with a bunch of issues on top of solving the problem of locked-up, easily lost knowledge and know-how. But remember, at the start of any scary story, the main characters always have to spend time convincing everyone else the monsters are real. That means before you can get a CMMS, you’ll need to convince people up and down the organizational ladder that you need one.

Reasons museums need a CMMS

The whole reason for museums is to protect and disseminate knowledge. Keeping your government maintenance system locked up in one person’s head, scribbled down on easily misplaced scraps of paper, or trapped in spreadsheets attached to random emails goes against the core goals of museology: curation, preservation, and education. 

A full-featured, cloud-based CMMS like Hippo’s, the system Mike was on the Intrepid to help set up, is specifically designed to meet these goals.

Curation : Accessible, Central Database

A good cloud-based CMMS helps you:

  • Keep all your data together without separate, individual versions so everything is always up to date
  • Make all your data accessible through any Internet-connected desktop or mobile device
  • Present your data in customizable reports

Preservation : Data backed up and secured

A good CMMS software provider patches and updates the software, protects and backs up your data, and it’s all done seamlessly, behind the scenes. You’re never going to lose anything, and everything stays yours.

For museums, ownership can be a bit of a philosophical question. Does the museum really own all those priceless works of art, or is it merely the current custodian, holding them in trust for future generations? Well, for CMMS providers, there’s no question at all. The data is always yours. The provider is simply babysitting it for you. 

Education : Work Orders that inform

A robust work order software provides data-rich work orders which give technicians all they need to cut downtime and boost time on wrench, including:

  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Operation and maintenance manuals
  • Interactive floor plans
  • Best practices checklists
  • Asset work histories

Ok, so we can see museums and a good CMMS share the same principles, but what about at the practical, day-to-day level? How does a CMMS solve the everyday challenges museums face?

Interactive maps make finding assets a breeze

One of the oldest museums on the world, and currently the second largest, the State Hermitage Museum in St Petetrsburg, Russia covers a total of 719,480 square feet across six buildings. The size is hard to imagine, and even in the low season when it’s not choked with crowds, it would take the average visitor days to get through all the buildings. On top of the fact that it’s huge, the museum, like museums around the world, rotates its collections, offering seasonal, yearly, and one-off exhibits throughout the year.

That museums are ever-shifting mazes poses a real challenge for maintenance departments, who need to find assets efficiently. You can’t say, “Check the plug behind the sarcophagus,” in a PM (preventive maintenance work order) if the sarcophagus is only on display a few months each year. But a really good CMMS provides interactive floor maps for both scheduled and on-demand work orders. Technicians can see exactly where they need to go, saving time between tasks and increasing time on wrench.

PMs protect the priceless

The high-security, temperature and humidity-controlled, camera flash-deflecting case around the Mona Lisa is maybe a bit more than the average museum needs, but every museum needs to think about how its facility’s environment prolongs or shortens the life of its collections.

A full-featured CMMS has a preventive maintenance module, which basically means it lets you schedule preventive maintenance work orders, ensuring everything gets checked and small issues get fixed before they develop into major problems.

A good example would be your fire suppression system. It doesn’t even have to be that high-tech non-corrosive, evaporating foam. Maybe you just have regular fire extinguishers positioned throughout the exhibits. You can schedule PMs to check that each is properly charged. Another example would be your HVAC system. By scheduling routine checks and repairs, you can ensure your paintings are never exposed to high humidity.

The preventive maintenance schedule you can build and manage in a CMMS does more than protect collections; it also protects revenue streams, which are “priceless” in their own way. The Louvre hosts more than 9 million visitors a year, and a big chunk of that is during summer. Imagine what would happen if the day before peak season part of a roof caved in. Even if none of the collections were damaged, the museum would see a big dip in attendance. By routinely and systematically checking on the facility, museums can detect problems early and then schedule repairs for when they’re going to cause the least disruption.    

Report module helps you talk with the board

Although many of them started out as private collections, nowadays museums are usually run by governments, non-profits, or some Frankenstein’s monster combination of the two. Generally, money is both tight and tightly controlled, especially for smaller museums. Even when there is money, boards can be more interested in expanding collections than supporting maintenance departments.

The reporting module built into a good CMMS makes it easier to communicate with the board because suddenly you can speak their language: numbers, graphs, and charts. For example, by tracking parts and materials, you can see which assets are costing you the most to run. Now, instead of just asking the board for money to replace something, you can show them the numbers that prove your case.

CMMS puts your fears to rest

Museums and CMMS software are kindred spirits, sharing philosophical principles. At the same time, on a practical, day-to-day level, a CMMS makes running a museum that much easier. You’ll find assets more quickly, protect the collections as well as the revenue streams, and finally share a common language with the board.

If you’re the person in the department carrying all the knowledge and know-how in your head, or you work for this person or they work for you, it’s time to pull yourself out of this storyline and switch to something without so many problems lurking in the dark and edge-of-your-seat tension.    


About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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