By Jane Alexander, Managing Editor
The capabilities of computerized maintenance management software systems (CMMSs)—and how plants use them—are a hot topic across industry. This month, we encouraged our MT Reader Panelists to discuss the state of such systems and level of usage at their sites (or, if consultants or suppliers to industry, at their client/customer sites). We started with three questions:
- Did the responding panelists’ organizations (or those of their clients/customers) use a CMMS and to what degree?
- What benefits have the organizations seen from such systems?
- Had the reasons or cost of these CMMS implementations been justified?
- We received a number of very detailed answers and present them here (edited somewhat, as always, for brevity and clarity).
Industry Consultant, West…
All of my clients use a CMMS, at this time (SAP PM). [The degree of deployment] ranges from one group using it for every maintenance activity, to another that uses it less than half of the time, i.e., limiting use to only activities that help metrics generated from work-order reporting. (More time is spent skewing the metrics than would normally be spent on actual maintenance, but the metrics do look awesome!)
According to my clients, one of the most notable benefits is the improved communication between operations and maintenance. Both sides find value in this. The CMMS users don’t usually see the justification of the cost and are vocal about that. But the company [client] bean counters insist there are significant cost benefits.
Maintenance Leader, Discrete Manufacturing, Midwest…
At our facility, we use a Maximo CMMS as part of our toolbox. When an operator has a problem, the job is put into the system. All PM [preventive maintenance] planning goes into it. The system is fully utilized to generate problem areas. We input as much information as possible.
We are currently building a database that includes what parts are used on which machines. This allows us to see part usage, which we can use for PM work. All of our uptime and downtime reports are taken from this information. This has also allowed us to adjust PM frequency changes.
One of the things I personally did when I worked on the floor was to include as much information as possible. I can’t tell you how many times I helped myself with this information. I put in parts used and even what I did to fix the problem. Like I said, I treated it [the CMMS] as a tool, in my toolbox. A lot of the people on the floor were reluctant to use it. I feel now that they are finally seeing how the system is an asset.
[In the past] my biggest complaint was always “garbage in is garbage out.” [But], we’ve seen a cultural change, and I am ecstatic that the system is finally being used properly.
Retired Industry Consultant, Northeast…
About 30% [of my former clients] used their CMMS properly, but in a limited manner: tracking and assigning work, parts, labor, patterns of failure, and costs. Several attempted to use just parts of the process, i.e. scheduling of maintenance and tracking costs of parts and time, and about 40% tried and dropped the process as being too complex, or not showing the expected returns. (Plants with fewer than four mechanics typically didn’t bother; those with 10 or more dabbled with several types.)
Only one major client identified real benefits per advertised claims, and saved time and money, but it [had] made significant changes to its communication infrastructure, i.e. adding PDAs (personal digital assistant devices] with bar-code readers, bar-coding all machine parts, having assignments downloaded (via wifi) to local machine-control centers, uploading [equipment] life info and wear activity to a central controller, and assigning work to mechanics’ PDAs. The rest of our clients claimed some benefits, but the CMMS system was not used fully, [meaning that it was] not much better than a simple scheduler.
Most users claimed the effort to enter initial data was too intensive. Very few CMMS programs allowed easy transfer of existing data sources, especially paper- or card-based methods. Also, few companies had a real tracking system, being inventory-of-parts-based rather than actual trouble or need based. Getting to a reliability-initiated process also requires a cognitive shift for most maintenance managers, who are still locked into failure mode.
Plant Engineer, Institutional Facilities, Midwest…
Our university has CMMS for about 70% to 80% of our buildings, and any time we remodel one, we try to add it to the system. We use it as much as we can, including for trend logs; tracking alarms; making adjustment; scheduling on/off times and occupied/unoccupied modes; troubleshooting equipment; monitoring labs that have limited access, yet are critical areas; and to save as much energy as possible.
The cost of our CMMS can vary with each project. The university has standards for each type of remodel, be it housing, labs, hospital, or classrooms. Most of the time, we don’t get all options a CMMS system could provide, but we learn to deal with whatever we do get.
Our major problems arise when a sensor fails, power is interrupted, etc. Since all of our computerized maintenance management isn’t part of the same system, our staff must learn several different CMMSs. Other issues that seem to take a lot of time are checking alarms in about 80 buildings and hundreds of pieces of equipment with limited access to computers.
Sr. Maintenance Engineer, Process Industries, Midwest…
We use an EAM (Maximo) and are on the latest version. It is ingrained in all of our plants’ practices for maintenance, purchasing, inventory management, and workflow of business processes for approval of CAPEX, engineering requests, EHS reports, process improvement ideas, etc. We have been on the system since 2007.
We’re now utilizing a third-party mobile software that integrates directly with Maximo, and are expanding to bar-coding and mobile work practices. Reporting has been the biggest hurdle, since the out-of-the-box reports leave something to be desired. In-house report developers help get customized reports written.
Typical expected benefits include tracking asset management, costs, etc. They lead to sound business decisions for improving maintenance practices, inventory management, vendor leverage, and improved work efficiency. We’re always trying to get more from the CMMS, but we’ve definitely been able to use the data from all parts of the system to help drive business decisions.
Maintenance Supervisor, Process Industries, Canada…
We’re currently working with Synergen (an Oracle-based CMMS product). It’s used extensively in our pulp mills and, to some degree in the solid-woods side [of our business]. We use it for our maintenance planning and scheduling, accounting, and stores-inventory management.
There are huge benefits from having a coordinated system. It still needs to be developed (it’s a work in progress), but the BOMs [bill of materials], shutdown, and daily maintenance scheduling [capabilities] are invaluable. We don’t currently track our failure codes (not entered at the source), but work-order history and costs do allow for some analysis.
Costs are completely justified. We would be in the dark without it [our CMMS]. Having access to the purchase-order system, stores inventory, bill of materials, and work-order requests all work toward having a leaner system with the required information available to the right employees.
College Electrical Laboratory Manager/Instructor, West…
We have two CMMS systems: one old and one newer. They’re set up among five processes, each with its own maintenance team. Both systems are used, but not to their full extent. The main problem seems to be the time required for data input. Our maintenance staff’s hourly wage is approximately $30, and if each person takes one hour a day to input data, the cost becomes high.
For the use we get out of our CMMSs, the benefits are great: reduced downtime and parts costs, improved staff management, etc. A side benefit is associated with honesty in doing PMs and paperwork. I think the newer system takes too much administrative time compared to overall benefits.
I’m not sure about the cost justification. People filling out the information are mechanics, not secretaries. If you hire one extra person per shift to input data, the program cost increases. We really use the systems for tracking PMs, predictive maintenance, parts inventory, and developing equipment history. MT