In 2020, the word "unprecedented" took on a whole new meaning. In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic completely rewrote all the rules. But at the same time, maintenance management fundamentals didn't really change. Successful asset management still comes down to getting the right data to the right people as smoothly as possible. CMMS software is still the best way to get control of your maintenance programs.
It was a tough year across many industries. For example, according to a recent survey by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, "65% of respondents had had a decreased level of output during the pandemic" because of drops in both domestic and foreign demand.
Let's see what we can learn from 2020's top Hippo blog posts to make sure we're ready for everything 2021 has in store for us.
We can start by looking at what's still true about mastering maintenance management.
Start at the beginning to build efficient on-demand work orders with CMMS software
Work order management still means having the right steps in the right order, especially when it comes to what you do first.
Back in February of 2020, in Get Your Workflows Flowing with Maintenance Management Software, we looked at the importance of the open request portal for capturing data associated with on-demand maintenance tasks.
One of the key benefits of the open portal is the required fields. When people are sending in a maintenance request, they can see what information the department wants, ensuring they include it.
"...And when maintenance requests are incomplete or confusing, maintenance departments waste time figuring out what they need to do. When techs don't know what they're dealing with until they get there, it's impossible to come fully prepared with the right parts and materials. Time on wrench suffers."
With the open request portal, everyone starts on the right foot.
Ask yourself the right questions to build efficient preventive maintenance workflows with CMMS software
Then in September, we dove deeper into the how's and why's of preventive maintenance management with A Complete, Simple Guide to World-Class Work Orders.
Setting up an efficient program often starts by asking the right questions, both inside and outside the maintenance department.
"Does your current work order software help make preventive maintenance possible? Ask yourself these questions:
- Is there an efficient way to look at historical asset data to determine maintenance tasks and cadence?
- Even if I know what to do and when to do it, is it easy to generate and assign PMs? How much of this process is manual versus automatic?
- Once the program is up and running, how do I know if it's successful or not? Is there an easy way to take the number of generated and missed PMs to calculate close-out rates?
When it comes to work orders, the maintenance department is not the only one affected, so you need to talk with other departments, find out their specific goals, and see if the current work order process is getting in their way, too. Remember, the goal is not to collect grievances from different departments, so make sure your questions focus on goals and roadblocks. It's best to avoid questions about how the process makes them feel and which parts they like or don't. Instead, ask them what their department wants to accomplish and how the work order process makes it easier or harder for them to make progress."
Armed with those answers, you can start to fix your processes. You need a set of systems for working with data, roughly broken into three task types:
Again, you start by asking yourself the right questions.
"Basically, how good is [the preventive maintenance program] at collecting good data, how well does it make that data available to the people who need it, and finally, what does it let you do with the data? Now that you have it, how many different ways can you squeeze value out of it?"
With many of these questions, the right answer is, "We could do better with the right CMMS solution."
Take these step for an efficient preventive maintenance program with CMMS software
The bad news is that setting up a preventive maintenance program takes more than just running through a quick list of questions. The good news is that there is a well-defined process, and that we covered it in August, with the 6 Items Your Preventive Maintenance Checklist Should Include.
Interestingly, the first step is unrelated to assets, equipment, or data.
It's about people.
"One of the most important thing to consider while developing a preventive maintenance checklist is getting the right people on the maintenance team. Just as computers will not produce useful information without knowledgeable people to run them, it is also true that a preventative maintenance program will not be effective without the right people to oversee and do the work.
When it comes to operating a CMMS run preventive maintenance program, selecting individuals from top management, maintenance managers, maintenance technicians, and any other staff who understands the way the system operates is essential."
Safeguard tribal knowledge with CMMS software
CMMS software benefits is a favorite topic for the blog, so it's no surprise we published How CMMS Software Protects Value and Cuts Costs.
But what might be surprising is the CMMS "tribal knowledge" benefit and the process of transferring knowledge.
"For a lot of departments, their most valuable possession is the hard-won knowledge of the assets they maintain. No one knows a machine or piece of equipment better than the technicians who have been keeping it running. When someone can diagnose a problem simply by listening to an asset or just placing a hand on it to feel for vibrations, it's impressive. And very dangerous.
That's because as soon as you lose the techs, you also lose all that know-how. This is not a new problem, and there's even a great urban legend about it. In the story, a maintenance tech retires after many years on the job. Within the first month, he's called back by his desperate boss. One of the machines is down, and none of the newer techs know to get it back up and running. The retired tech comes, walks around the machine a few times, and then marks a spot with chalk. That's the part that needs to be replaced, he explains. Then he presents his old boss with the invoice. The chalk mark? A penny. Knowing where to put the chalk mark? Ten thousand dollars.
CMMS software safeguards all your techs' experience and know-how by making it easy to include lots of information in work orders. Remember, the work orders are not scribbled on pieces of paper or stuck in spreadsheets. They're inside the CMMS, making it easy to add everything technicians need to do the work properly and close out efficiently."
We like this idea so much Hippo created an infographic explaining the value of knowledge transfer and some quick steps to help make it happen.
Don't get a CAFM when you need a CMMS
Some of our most popular blogposts are breakdowns of common terms, theories, and practices for maintenance and facility maintenance, which isn't at all surprising. When people are in the market for maintenance management software, they want to learn as much about the industry as possible.
In What are the Key Differences Between CAFM and CMMS Solutions?, we covered some of the main use cases for CAFM.
"...because the term has become a bit of an umbrella for a number of different types of facilities management software, we can almost just as easily ask, What's not a feature of a CAFM? Let's narrow the list to two really important ones.
CAFM and space planning
It starts with detailed floor plans of the office space, including desks, assets, and equipment. Facility managers can ensure space is being used efficiently and workers are being properly accommodated. For example, if there's a new hire in the engineering department, the facility manager can make sure there's room for a new desk. They can also use the software to facilitate moving a desk out of storage into the office. For existing workers, space planning covers the management and tracking of flexible spaces, like meeting and breakout rooms. The software collects valuable data on who's using what, what's being effectively leveraged, and what's going to waste.
CAFM and physical distancing
Facility managers now face challenges related to fighting the spread of COVID-19, and one way is through ensuring social distancing between employees in the workplace. Because the software already has data on office layouts and where people are sitting, facility managers can use it to ensure safe distances by instantly reassigning desks. Managers can also control access with visitor management and stagger employee arrival times. They can also create and manage wellness checks and collect data for contact tracing."
The post ends with some of our most common and best advice: choosing the right solution starts by looking at the problems you want to solve. Once you know what you want to accomplish, you can pretty easily choose the right tool. On a very basic level, it's the same as choosing the right screwdriver. Step One is looking at the top of the screw.
For all the things that stayed the same in maintenance management, there were lots of big changes. The COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of new challenges for maintenance and facility managers. At the Hippo blog, we covered some of the different ways the right CMMS solution helps fight the coronavirus.
Standardize agile processes with CMMS software
In April, we published Passing COVID-19 Tests: Educational Facilities and CMMS School Software, which covers some of the ways educational facilities can use CMMS to help fight COVID-19.
One of the important ideas is using CMMS software to adjust your preventive maintenance program.
"Generally, preventive maintenance delivers:
- Increased uptime
- Longer asset life
- Easier inventory management
- Improved efficiency
- Increased safety
All of these are important, but with COVID-19, they've become critical.
Turn up some PMs
Organizations across industries are being forced to cut every possible cost. And that means maintenance departments are being asked to do more with less, getting by with a smaller number of technicians and a closer eye on costs. The last thing you need right now is unscheduled downtime on an important asset. Now is not the time for the boiler to stop working. To ensure everything you need stays online, increase the frequency and amount of preventive maintenance on critical assets.
Pause some PMs
At the same time, there are some PMs you might want to think about stopping altogether. For an elementary school, for example, there's no need to periodically check the outdoor play structures. In most areas, they're off-limits. On a large college campus, departments can pause scheduled maintenance on some of the assets in the cafeterias' kitchens. Most idle assets don't need the same level of attention.
Pausing PMs can also help with reports. At the end of the month, you don't have to wade through a bunch of missed PMs you should never have done anyway. It can make more sense to pause them for now, freeing you up to use your department's time in ways that better match the current situation. Think of it this way: you might have a schedule to water your lawn every Sunday evening during the summer, but it doesn't make sense to follow the schedule when there was a thunderstorm Sunday afternoon."
Here we see how a good CMMS makes it possible to create consistency while also helping organizations be agile.
Stay connected from a safe distance with CMMS software
In May, we published Maintain Social Distancing with CMMS Software, a look at all the ways CMMS makes social distancing possible.
Prior to COVID-19, there were many blog posts explaining the benefits of using a CMMS database accessible from any mobile device. When techs can instantly access work orders, PMs, and detailed asset and equipment maintenance and repair histories from anywhere, at any time, it boosts time on wrench. No more running back to the office to collect the next work assignment or to grab a manual for a tricky repair.
But with COVID, the ability to work independently takes on new importance. For their safety, techs should avoid coming into close contact. CMMS software makes this easier. For example:
"Depending on the size of the facility, the complexity of the task, and the seniority of the tech, a lot of managers will visually inspect work before closing out the work order. CMMS software allows these inspections to take place from a safe distance.
When the tech is finished, using any Internet-connected mobile device, they can take pictures of their work, which are then reviewed by the manager. Satisfied the work has been done completely, they can close out the work order themselves using the work order management software."
"Depending on the size and layout of your facility, it could be a good idea to move work orders around so technicians aren't bumping into one another. For example, for the maintenance department at a hotel, it likely doesn't matter if you have two technicians working in adjoining rooms at the same time. But in a manufacturing plant, you wouldn't want two technicians working at the same time on assets that are side by side.
Likely the easiest way to do this is to stagger PMs for nearby assets. Using the calendar view in the CMMS software, you can drag and drop PMs. In most cases, especially with floating PMs, there's no real difference between doing the work a day early or a day late. With metered PMs and on-demand work orders, there's less leeway, but moving those work orders around is still often feasible."
From the same blog post:
"The process for finding and adopting a CMMS solution has not changed.
Do research online, reading about the software in general and the various providers specifically. Then reach out and start setting up some quick meetings and live demonstrations. It's the only way to get a sense of how the software works and how it can work for you. Always think in terms of the problems you're facing and how they connect with specific features in the software. This step is crucial because the last thing you want is a CMMS jammed full of features you don't need and don't use. It would be like ordering every dish on the menu, eating a few, and throwing the rest out.
But there's something about getting a CMMS that has changed. It's the urgency. Now more than ever, facility and maintenance managers need procedures and workflows that can stand up to the pressures of COVID-19. You need a CMMS solution."