In the relentless push to get maximum value from assets, organizations continue to pressure their maintenance departments to do more with less. But the solution is to work smarter, not harder. And it starts with CMMS software.
What is a CMMS?
Because you can use it to reach different goals, there are different ways to describe computerized maintenance management software. On one level, it's sophisticated software that captures and leverages thousands of data points to deliver everything from a broad overview of a facility’s operation to comprehensive insights into individual pieces of equipment. In terms of functionality, CMMS software offers businesses the ability to monitor inventory levels, manage work orders, set up and schedule preventive maintenance programs, and quickly generate accurate reports.
But on another level, it's simply the solution maintenance managers need. Automating processes and streamlining workflows makes your life less stressful by making your workday more predictable.
How does a CMMS work?
The easiest way to understand how it works is to first look at two older maintenance management methods, paper and spreadsheets.
With paper, you always run the risk of losing data or corrupting it. Every time you scribble out a new work order, there's a good chance you're including mistakes. And even if you copy everyone over perfectly, there's then a good chance that someone is going to lose that piece of paper, your one copy of that critical data.
With spreadsheets, it's the opposite problem. The chances of copy and pasting in bad data are still there, but now you often have too many copies of the same data. Why is this a problem? Because as soon as someone updates the information on one copy, all the other disconnected copies are out of sync. In the end, everyone on the team is working from their own version of the truth. Everyone is out of the loop—but no one realizes it.
Modern CMMS solutions solve both problems by making it easy to capture data and then keep it safe, secure, and searchable. You can think of the CMMS as having two closely connected parts, a database and an interface the maintenance department uses to interact with the database. Because all the data is in one spot, everyone is working from the same information. And any time anyone on the team adds or updates the data, everyone can see the changes in real time. Finally, everyone is kept closely in the loop.
Difference between SaaS model, and "on-prem"
An important aspect of modern maintenance management software is how it's sold; basically, you don't buy it at all. Instead, CMMS providers use the SaaS (software as a service) business model where you pay a subscription fee for access to the software. It's almost the same as Netflix.
You're not buying individual movies from Netflix. Instead, you pay for access to the rotating catalog. That means you don't need any special machines at home. All you need is Internet access. It's up to Netflix to take care of all the servers and software. For you, there's nothing to look after and nothing upgrade. And Netflix keeps adding new movies and features. While your subscription is active, you can watch as many movies as you want, but once it ends, you lose access.
Here's the different part. With a CMMS provider, you're adding a lot of your own data into the system. If you decide to end the subscription, that data is still yours. You can take it with you.
Older systems were on-prem, or on-premises, which meant you were responsible for setting up and running the required IT infrastructure. Back to the Netflix analogy, the old systems were just like when you used to buy DVDs. It was up to you to get the player, and if it broke, it was then up to you to repair or replace it. The obvious disadvantage was that the only way to upgrade was by spending more on more technology. When the industry decided to move to Blu-Ray, it was on you to buy the new machine.
What are the differences between a CMMS and an EAM?
Generally, the differences between CMMS and EAM come down to scope. Basically, an EAM has more features and because of that, more people from more departments use it.
You can think of EAM as a way to manage an asset from the cradle to the grave, from the initial planning and design stages all the way to when the organization decommissions and disposes of it.
CMMS software has a more focused scope, and maintenance departments use it to organize and track all aspects of maintenance and repairs for assets and equipment.
For modern EAM solutions, there's usually a complete CMMS inside so that companies can manage assets during their useful life stage.
Which industries use CMMS?
A broad range of organizations of various sizes across industries use CMMS solutions, including:
- Food and beverage
- Facility management
- Health care
- Hotels and resorts
- Retail and restaurants
- Sports and Recreation
- Religious institutions
- Retirement communities
What are the benefits of a CMMS?
There's a long list of benefits, but it's worth trying to narrow it all to one short sentence.
The benefit of CMMS software is that it makes your life less stressful by making your workday more predictable.
How does it help you reach this goal? It's through a combination of inter-related features.
Cut costs and lower stress with preventive maintenance
For many organizations, the preventive maintenance module in CMMS software systems is the main draw.
A properly planned preventive maintenance program ensures optimal conditions for all company assets through regularly scheduled maintenance inspections and tasks, extending the life spans of the equipment while saving time and money. When you can find and fix small issues before they become big problems, you can avoid breakdowns that lower productivity and increase costs.
You can establish preventive maintenance schedules for all your assets and equipment based on the manufacturer’s recommendations, inspection schedules, and equipment performance histories. Best of all, you can schedule work for when it works for you. For example, in a manufacturing plant, you can have the team perform routine inspections and tasks when the line is already scheduled to be offline. And you never have to worry about missing PMs because the software sends alerts related to upcoming work.
Boost time on wrench with mobile maintenance app
A growing trend is mobile maintenance apps, allowing maintenance staff to access data and features from any connected device, from any location. Techs can check on new assignments, access open work orders and PMs, and capture and upload critical data, including images and work order and task notes.
Instead of having to run back to the office to pick up and drop off paperwork, techs can access everything while staying on the move, making them both more efficient and self-sufficient.
Get techs right where they need to be with site maps and floor plans
Modern maintenance management software provides different ways to see and understand your data. In some cases, you need to see your inventory costs in list form. In others, it's easier to understand your PM schedule plotted out on a calendar.
Site maps and floor plans are another way to visualize your assets and operation.
For new techs, they're an invaluable resource as they learn their way around the facilities. Instead of having to assign them to shadow more experienced techs, they can complete work orders independently. And for maintenance managers, site maps and floor plans can help them schedule work more efficiently. For example, if you already know your tech is going to be performing a PM on an asset beside the rooftop pool, you can also assign them some inspections and tasks for the poolside bar.
Access data instantly with barcode scanning
With CMMS software’s mobile app, techs can use the device's built-in camera to scan barcodes on assets to instantly access critical information, everything from serial numbers to open PMs and work orders.
In many industries, technicians need to work on assets that look all the same. Think of the AC units on the roof of an apartment building or the conveyor belts in a manufacturing plant. There's also the beds in a healthcare facility, the pressure washers in a car wash, and the TVs and projectors in a school's classrooms.
In every case, it can be hard for the tech to know which asset to work on. A quick scan tells them exactly what to do and where to do it.
Fine-tune processes and prove compliance with automated reports
The central database makes it easy to capture data, keeping everyone up to date and in the loop.
But you can do more with your new reliable data, including using the CMMS to leverage it into actionable, data-driven decision-making. With the reporting module, you can generate automated reports packed with easy-to-read graphs and insightful maintenance metrics and KPIs. Once you can clearly see where your budget is going, you can properly pivot to find new efficiencies. Also, being able to really see and understand the overall maintenance picture helps you make the right decisions on specific assets and equipment, including when it makes more sense to replace than repair.
And those reports have more than simply internal uses. When it comes to compliance, there's always two parts: being compliant and proving you're compliant. With easy-to-access records of all your maintenance activities, including an activity log for every work order, you can quickly, thoroughly prove compliance with government and industry association regulations, guidelines, and best practices. You get a safer facility and avoid costly fines.
Is there a CMMS buyer's guide, or how can I find the CMMS that's right for me?
Everyone's process is a bit different, but there are some steps you can follow when choosing a CMMS.
First, think about the challenges you're currently facing. What about your maintenance processes do you want to change? What's giving you the most trouble? For a lot of maintenance departments, the main problem is the reliance on reactive maintenance, where the team only fixes assets and equipment after they've failed. For other departments, the issues might be more related to inefficient tracking of resources and inventory.
Once you have your list of headaches, you can look for specific remedies. Some quick online research can give you a sense of the main CMMS features and how each can be a cure for your specific problems. From there, it's time to reach out to providers to get a fuller understanding.
Remember, though, that there's more to a CMMS than a basic list of features. You need to also look at the complete user experience, which is a lot broader than many people first assume. In fact, the user experience covers all your interactions with the CMMS provider. You need to think about the people and processes they offer to help you implement the system and train your techs. Then, once the CMMS is up and running, what types of support are available.
The best way to decide is to talk with something from the industry. All you need to do is find the right provider.
CMMS software solutions help maintenance departments keep critical assets online for less money by streamlining processes and capturing and leveraging reliable data. Unlike older management systems, a modern CMMS lives in the cloud, ensuring everyone has access to up-to-date data. Organizations across industries can see concrete benefits from the systems, including more uptime and less wasted time and money. When choosing a CMMS, it's important to consider not only the features but also the complete user experience, including implementation, training, and ongoing support.